Downtown Morgantown Walking Tour
This short walking tour includes a number of historic buildings and museums that offer an introduction to Morgantown's history.
This building was constructed in 1919 in the Neoclassical Revival style, which was popular for public buildings in the early 1900s. The idea behind the community center was to create a place that could provide a recreation alternative to saloons and could offer educational programs to alleviate the conditions that drove people to drink. Several notable West Virginians were involved in the temperance and women's suffrage movements, including suffragist Lenna Lowe Yost. An extraordinarily intelligent organizer, Yost dedicated her adult life to pursuing a variety of causes including a successful campaign that led West Virginia to be among the states that ratified the 19th Amendment. In addition to promoting equal political rights for women, she labored on behalf of temperance. Her activist work extended past the borders of the state of West Virginia; she worked in the nation's capital and even served as a delegate in international temperance conventions.
Dedicated in 2016, this statue commemorates the life and career of Don Knotts, an actor and comedian from Morgantown. Knotts is best known for his portrayal of Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show from 1960-1968. Knotts also starred in films like "The Ghost" and "Mr. Chicken and The Shakiest Gun in the West." His career and legacy influenced many other comedians and he was a beloved figure among his fellow West Virginians for both his success in Hollywood and the way that success did not change the kind and open person who was raised here.
The Metropolitan Theater is a stage theater located on High Street. Founded in 1924, it is one of West Virginia's foremost centers for the dramatic arts, hosting stage plays and other presentations several times a year. Featured on the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail, the Metropolitan Theatre is a cornerstone of Morgantown history and culture and introduces local youth to the dramatic arts through its junior theater programs. Outside the theatre, a statue of Morgantown native Jesse 'Don' Knotts has been installed. Knotts frequently performed at the Metropolitan.
The southeastern corner of the intersection between High Street and Wall Street (formerly known as Maiden Alley) in downtown Morgantown, West Virginia has been a focus of community activity since the town’s inception in the eighteenth century. Originally listed as Lot 71 when Zackquill Morgan laid out his plan for the town between 1783 and 1785, the area has since served in a number of capacities, most notably as the site of the Jarrett Tavern, then the Wallace House, and later the Wiles Block Building. Over the course of this history, Lot 71 has played host to a number of prominent individuals and events, most notably welcoming Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone during their brief visit to Morgantown in 1921 and serving as the backdrop of a 1926 murder that received nationwide attention. Through its association with these events and others Lot 71 represents a connection between the town and much broader processes, among them the histories of travel, technology, crime, and suburbanization. The site is currently occupied by a number of local businesses, all of which are open to the public.
A branch of the Morgantown Public Library established in 2004 and dedicated to local history and genealogy, the Aull Center is located in the historic Garlow House. The house was built in 1907 and was home to the family of Aaron J. Garlow, president of the Second National Bank. Researchers at the Aull Center are welcome to explore collections of books, photo albums, yearbooks, and a plethora of family histories. The Aull Center is also home to the J. D. Rechter Holocaust Memorial Library and a portion of the Appalachian Prison Book Project collection. The building serves the public as a research center and forum for discussing the past.
The Colonel Zackquill Morgan statue erected on Spruce Street in Morgantown in 2016 was cast by Vandalia Bronze after five years of planning, design, and construction. Founded by Jamie Lester, Vandalia Bronze created the piece in part from Greek bronze dated to 7,000 B.C. The statue commemorates the role of Colonel Morgan in the foundation of his namesake town after receiving a charter from the Virginia Assembly in 1785. Morgan was influential in regional affairs long before that, however, and in fact played a pivotal role in the events of the American War for Independence in the area. The statue is accessible at all hours, every day of the year.
The Appalachian Gallery is an art gallery, gift shop, and framing studio that promotes the work of West Virginia artists. Opened in 1987, the Appalachian Gallery features a variety of arts, crafts, and gift items. The gallery is located in the historic W.E. Price house, designed by famed Morgantown architect Elmer Jacobs.
The Berman Building was a double story building with a basement that would hold prisoners during the Civil War. The building was Union occupied and used with the purpose of holding Confederate soldiers captive.Today the building is a restaurant that is located in the historic district. The restaurant is called The Dirty Bird, and they specialize in chicken wings and sandwiches. Upon entering the restaurant there are no markers to show the history that happened in the basement.
Just outside of the Monongalia County Courthouse lies the Monongalia Courthouse Plaza which features memorial plaques, a glass outline of the Monongahela River, and other features design to showcase the local history and beauty of the area in an outdoor and accessible location. It also fountains a restored historic fountain, Planned by Mills Group, a West Virginia based architecture, planning, and preservation firm, after the Monongalia County Commission sought to improve the existing courthouse square, this site was rededicated in May of 2018 after approval in 2016. The site is open to the public and is ADA accessible.
The Monongalia County Courthouse was built in 1890 and is the fourth courthouse to occupy this space. The first three were built in 1784, 1804, and 1848. The construction of the extant building was a somewhat clandestine affair, as opposition from local residents necessitated the destruction of the prior courthouse during the night. The courthouse is built in a Victorian Romanesque style drafted by Pittsburgh architect James P. Bailey. The building itself has changed relatively little since being constructed in 1890, though the courtyard in front of it was heavily renovated in 2016. The courthouse is a hub of Monongalia County and Morgantown, hosting civic, political, and social events.
Arts Monongahela is a nonprofit arts organization serving the greater Morgantown area. Developed by the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce in 1999, Arts Monongahela has since become the city’s first official Arts Council. The organization engages local citizens with the visual, literary, and performing arts, actively promotes the work of local professional and amateur artists, and encourages economic and community development. In addition to programs across the area, Arts Monongahela hosts events and exhibits at their gallery located in Morgantown’s downtown business district.
The Hotel Morgan made its debut on October 16, 1925, as one of the most opulent hotels of its time. Its offerings included a grand ballroom and panoramic view of the downtown Morgantown area. Upon completion, the Monongalia Historical Society insisted that the new luxurious hotel be named after Zackquill Morgan, the founder of Morgantown. The Hotel Morgan has hosted many notable names, including Eleanor Roosevelt in 1934, former President Harry Truman in 1954, and was a campaign stop for John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential election. Hotel Morgan was renovated in 1999 by replacing the outdated 1970s decor and restoring the hotel to its former 1920s glory. A more recent renovation in 2020 has attempted to modernize the hotel. Despite numerous changes, the exterior of the Hotel Morgan has changed extremely little over the years and is an iconic fixture of the Morgantown skyline.
The Monongalia Arts Center, or MAC, is located in Morgantown, West Virginia near the campus of West Virginia University. The MAC opened to the public in 1978 as a non-profit arts and culture center to showcase local artists and performers. The MAC's mission is to provide the materials needed to build interest in the arts through ongoing educational programs. Located in a former post office building, the MAC has two galleries, a theatre for the performing arts, and is undergoing production on other projects including an internet radio station and the establishment of the Tanner Theatre as a regular venue for touring bands.
The Morgantown History Museum is a city-sponsored museum of history that collects, preserves, and interprets the history of the city and region. The museum offers a permanent exhibit which includes historic artifacts and displays about prominent residents and institutions within Morgantown and the surrounding area. The museum also sponsors a variety of traveling and temporary exhibits dedicated to a more in-depth look at certain topics related to local history. Although they are not affiliated, the Morgantown History Museum is located directly behind the Morgantown Arts Center.
Located in downtown Morgantown, West Virginia, 76 High Street is a Queen Anne Revival that was built in 1895 as a home for the West Virginia University dean of the School of Engineering. With the exception of an addition on the back of the building, it has retained its original facade. The building is currently home to Bel-Cross Properties, a property management and real estate firm. Beginning in the fall of 2001 and lasting through June 30, 2016 the building was the location of Cafe Bacchus, a local restaurant that was known to host a Titanic dinner in honor of former resident, Lucian Philip Smith, who died during the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Before that, it was home to the Demanielis—descendants of Greek immigrants to Morgantown—who had decided to transform their home into The Flame Steakhouse, a restaurant that operated for over 30 years.