The City of Weston Historic Walking Tour
Downtown historic Weston, WV
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA), was a psychiatric facility that operated from 1864-1994 and served patients exhibiting atypical behaviors. Over the years, the institution was also known as West Virginia Hospital for the Insane/Weston State Hospital. The main building, which was constructed from 1858-1881, was designed by Richard Andrews and features an eclectic blending of revival styles. The general layout and furnishing of the hospital was guided by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, who felt mental health patients needed housing that provided therapeutic features such as many windows for sunlight and access to fresh air. Moreover, this hospital was designed to be self-sustained by those working at the asylum and patients alike; working in the garden would be a positive mental and physical stimulator for the patients. Despite the lofty goals of the institution, it was plagued by overcrowding and underfunding. Conditions quickly deteriorated and by the middle of the twentieth century the environment for patients was deplorable. Experimental therapies and brutal medical procedures exacerbated issues. Due to the shift in mental health care from the asylum to more community-based efforts and because of the overall deterioration of the building, the hospital was closed in the 90’s. Today, a new owner has reopened the hospital, advertising a living historical monument where heritage tours and even haunted ghost tours are offered to the public.
Weston’s current municipal building at 102 West Second Street was originally the depot for the West Virginia & Pittsburgh Railroad, and also, on the upper floor, the company’s corporate offices. Upon completion in March 1892, at a cost of $10,000, it was celebrated as the finest train passenger station in West Virginia, boasting steam heat and electric lights throughout. When the W. Va. & P. was absorbed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at the end of the 19th century, the building became that company’s Weston depot and, later, headquarters for its Charleston division.
The substantial, three-story building that used to sit at the west end of the Second Street bridge, north side, specifically at 200 North River Avenue, and that in more recent times was known as the Westoner Hotel, was originally the Monticello Hotel, built in 1903-04 by John Riley. The current location is home to Ember Arts Studio and active retail art studio in downtown Weston.
Since the founding of Weston, four different bridges have spanned the West Fork River on Second Street. Before there was any bridge, and also after when an existing one was closed for repairs, the river just a short distance upstream from Second Street was more often than not shallow enough to ford. The first span, an open one washed away by the July 22-23, 1846 flood, was described in the Weston Sentinel’s account of that event as being “new”. In fact, it had been constructed of timbers on stone supports many years earlier (1829-30) at the expense of Lewis County, and by the early 1840s was in a bad state of repair. In 1845, the state (of Virginia), as a part of the Staunton & Parkersburg Turnpike project, provided money to substantially update the structure, apparently leading the paper’s editor, newcomer Benjamin Owen, to think it was new. Within two years, a second bridge, a covered one, was built by William Hamilton, and in 1858 was repaired by Lemuel Chenoweth (West Virginia’s acclaimed master bridge-builder (1811-1887)). It came to weather, but only barely, another terrible flood, that of July 9-10, 1888. Almost three years later in April 1891, to all appearance in a ramshackle, dangerous state (though its foundation turned out to be in fairly good condition), the old covered bridge was razed, and by late June of that year the erection of a third, a then-modern iron bridge, was completed. (It was to be the site of a dreadful and shameful lynching on July 6, 1892.) A single-lane span, it was outmoded by the introduction and proliferation of the automobile in the first two decades of the 20th century. In 1922, the fourth and present concrete bridge took its place. That span initially boasted a new feature — pillar-supported, multiple-unit electric lights, which heralded, beginning two years later in June, the erection of such lights throughout the rest of Weston’s business section, turning it into a much lauded “Great White Way”. On Main Avenue and Second Street, a total of 41 street lamps were installed, each of a thousand watts. Unfortunately, the Depression and the city’s then threadbare budget forced the reduction of their numbers and power to just nine units dimmed to 650 watts each. Poorly maintained, the metal poles supporting the lights gradually rusted away. The power company removed them in October 1940, replacing them with the present wooden poles — to the detriment of the business section’s overall appearance.
One of the "must see '' buildings in Weston is the second quarters of the Citizens Bank, a world-class example of Art Deco architecture and décor. The construction of this building took place from 1928-30 with additions in 1968 and 1979. "Imposing" and Magnificent" describes the exterior and interior appointments: Indiana limestone, Vermont granite, unique Samuel Wellen wrought iron, Pyrenees marble, French burl walnut, furniture crafted from the world's rarest woods, a huge wall tapestry and on the south wing ceiling, a breathtaking rendition of West Virginia's Great Seal rendered in plaster covered by rare metals. The nationally famous Bailey House hotel occupied this site from 1852 until 1927 when it was closed. This building was constructed when the Great Depression hit and officially opened for business on May 31, 1930. The bank was closed on October 13, 1931 by its board of directors to prevent a run on its cash assets. It was reopened three years later to the day without any of its customers losing any of their savings. In its nearly 200-year history, Weston has been famous for several things: its relationship to Stonewall Jackson and Jackson’s Mill; the gigantic Asylum building; the glassware, oil and gas, lumber and railroad industries; the J. M. Bennett mansion and other imposing Victorian houses; and the Citizens Bank building. However, it is not likely that anything, including the State Hospital, impressed a visitor to the town any more than did the Bailey House, if he or she was ever its guest, even once. For close to three-quarters of a century, the hotel, on the northwest corner of Main Avenue and Second Street, had a national reputation and, possibly, a limited international one — a dream home away from home, something to write home about! It was the ideal country inn, famed for seasoned management and unsurpassed, old-time hospitality, the ambiance gracious, sociable, congenial, comfortable, making it the much-preferred address for the traveler who, after 1896, had the option to stay in newer, more modern hotels like the R. P. Camden across the street. Service to patrons was impeccable, beginning with the moment of their arrival; while hostlers attended to the travelers’ horses and conveyances, if any, other Black retainers met the guests at the front door with large whiskbrooms to brush away the journey’s dust. The cleanliness of the lobby, of the public rooms, the halls and bedrooms was fastidious. Starched bed linens were spotless, pillows and mattresses restful. Woolen carpet slippers, boiled in a lye soap solution between uses, were under every bed for guests’ use; boots and shoes placed outside the room door were polished by a bellboy during the night. The food in the dining room, served boardinghouse-style on trestle tables, was memorable; the rye and bourbon poured at the bar were of the best quality and generous in measure. For many Westonians, the Bailey House was the center of community life, a place for dances, parties and holiday revelry, for ladies to have teas and show off their newest hats and other finery created by Weston’s several modistes, and to gossip while they played whist. Weston’s business and professional men looked upon the hotel as a welcoming resort, a treasured place of fellowship, a retreat where one could smoke cigars, drink a little whiskey, and wager a few coins on euchre or poker or pinochle. For intellectuals — there were a few — the game was chess; for the rustics — there were many — checkers. Those sojourners with a taste for politics and debate, and that was most of them, had a name for themselves: the Weston Senate and Every Evening Club. The Senate met nightly, in the roomy lobby in cold weather, within earshot of the barkeep; summer weather took them outside, where they seated themselves under cooling maple shade trees that fronted the chewing tobacco-stained, flagstone sidewalk, the high-back chairs of the “discussers and cussers” leaning against the hotel’s red brick wall. The original genius of the inn’s management was its namesake, “hail fellow, well met”, backslapping, portly Major Minter Bailey, born in Fauquier County, Virginia, in 1799. When he was nine, the Bailey family moved to Broad Run, yet in Harrison County, not to become part of Lewis until 1816. In 1832, newly married. By 1850, the Weston Hotel had become too small to accommodate the growing numbers of patrons. The following year, construction was completed on a new hotel that would be named the Bailey House, a plain Jane, three-story brick, where is now the Citizens Bank. (A spread-winged American eagle of great size, painted high on the south wall and visible at some distance, was the hotel’s only outside identification at that time.) In just a few years, this building could not meet the still greater demand for overnight and longer stays, and, in 1858, a two-story extension was added on the west end. As well as more guest rooms, it included a larger dining room capable of seating forty, and an adjacent, new kitchen. In or around 1900, most likely because the up-to-date-in-every-way Camden Hotel had opened four years earlier
The Traction building was built as a passenger terminal for the Clarksburg-Weston trolley line. This three story brick building was constructed in 1916 by Monongahela West Penn Traction Company as a terminal for the streetcars coming to Weston from Clarksburg and other locations from the North.
At the Holt Park property once stood a home that was built in 1844. This home remained until 2004 when it was torn down. The home was acquired by Dr. Matthew S. Holt in 1899. Dr. Holt was a local physician and publisher of the Weston Republican. This was the child hood home of U. S. Senator Rush D. Holt. His wife Helen Holt was the first woman to hold a statewide-office in West Virginia. Helen Holt married the former U.S. Senator Rush Holt Sr. on June 19, 1941. Rush Holt was the youngest person ever elected to the Senate at the age of 29 in 1934. Helen remained married to him until his death from cancer on February 8, 1955. At the time of his death, Rush was serving in the first month of a term in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Helen and her husband had three children, including the Congressman from New Jersey's 12th congressional district, Rush Holt Jr. Helen Holt never remarried and in 2013, she was a resident of Washington, D.C. She received an honorary degree from West Virginia University in 2013 and turned 100 in August of that year. Helen Holt died in Boca Raton, Florida of heart failure on July 12, 2015, aged 101, a month short of her 102nd birthday.
West Virginia is well known for its glass manufacturing on a small artisan scale and also a large factory scale. The Museum of American Glass is a non-profit museum that was founded in 1993 with a goal of preserving any component of the glass industry in West Virginia as well as the United States. The Museum of American Glass focuses on the whole history behind glass work in West Virginia and gives insight to the people, factories, and products that made glass such a valuable piece to West Virginia's history. The WVMAG also contains an archive of oral histories from the glass blowers and archives from the American Flint Glass Workers Union, which is one of the oldest unions in the United States. From 1777 until 1795, this site was occupied by a log building used by the Indian Spy Service of the Virginia Melita. Two buildings have succeeded it: The original Bailey House hotel, where the future Stonewall Jackson took the examination for admission to West Point. The building burned in 1877 and was replaced by the current structure build in 1885 by PM Hale and the home of the Lewis County Bank in the first quarter of the 20th century. It is now occupied by the West Virginia Museum of American Glass. The side of the West Virginia Museum of American Glass has a mural which illustrates the community’s rich history in the glass industry. Each piece of glass painted on the side of the building is available to view at the museum. This mural was completed in 2020 by West Virginia artist, Jesse Corlis.
Weston’s largest commercial structure, on the northeast corner of Main Avenue and Second Street (202-214 Main), now occupied on its first and in part, second floors by the United Bank, was erected in 1896. The three-story, steel frame building, faced with Milwaukee, yellow-orange, and terra cotta brick and trimmed with Cleveland stone, featured a flagpole-topped, conical turret towering above all else on the street intersection corner. (A flag is no longer flown.) Inside, it boasted natural gas-fired steam heat, electric lights, wired in accord with the latest rules and regulations of the Chicago Fire Department, hot and cold running water, and modern, flushing toilets throughout. These Innovations seldom found in small town America at the end of the 19th century. The original occupants were the National Exchange Bank, immediately on the corner; the 40-room R. P. (for Richard Pindall) Camden Hotel, its main entrance and lobby centering the building on the Main Avenue side ground floor (206-208 Main), its bedrooms on the second and third stories; and the Camden Opera House, whose entry was on Second Street (115 East Second).
The Tracy block was built in 1891 by Father Tracy. The building is a well preserved example of iron storefronts and details supplied by Geo. L. Mesker & Co. out of Indiana. The building still boasts the metal plates signifying the Mesker mark. This building is two stories, consist of five bays and made of red brick.
The St. Patrick's Catholic Church was constructed between 1914 and 1915 located at 212 Center Ave. The church has 110 foot towers which cost $45,000 to build. The inside of the church is constructed using eight columns with Corinthian capitals, handcrafted plaster and wood throughout. The church also boast significant stain glass windows throughout.
Weston's Episcopalian organized a congregation in 1848 and in 1850 built their frame church across from where the current Baptist Church now stands.
Weston's Baptist, organized in 1867, were without a church building of their own until 1895, At that time they traded their then vacant lot across the street, where the Episcopal Church now stands, the old 1850 Episcopal Church on this corner which they wanted to replace. In 1915, the old church was razed and replaced by the present Gothic revival style edifice.
In the far left wing of the 133 Center Ave was a branch of the Exchange Bank of Virginia, the first bank in Weston and only the fifth in western Virginia form 1853-1875. The banks cashier Robert J. McCandlish, lived in the upstairs quarters. During the civil war federal troops took money from the bank intended to be used to pay construction workers who were building the State Hospital.
The Weston Federal Post Office was built in 1933-34. It was built in the classic 20th century federal building style that pulls from many classic revival periods. The building includes several ornamental features with a brick on steel frame and cement foundation. The building has a high first floor and a low second floor. The arched entrance is inset with marble and Corinthian columns. Center stage of the structure is an American Eagle of high relief. In 1962 the pitched roof was removed and a flat roof was completed.
In 1903, Lewis County Circuit Clerk George Woofter built the now painted-brick house, which is currently occupied by the Lewis County Health Department. When he was not an elected official, Woofter was a right-of-way agent for the Monongahela Valley Traction Company, the builder of the trolley line that connected Weston with Clarksburg and Fairmount from 1913 to 1947.
One story brick church building constructed 1876 immediately below site of first Catholic Church in Weston. Remodeled between 1914-1929 when catholic church moved into new quarters. Front has been extended with brick addition, now covered with stucco, and steeple has been removed. Remainder of building reasonably intact, with arched windows on either side and circular opening at rear where a stained glass window has been removed or covered over. Entire building now painted white. Catholic population in Weston and Lewis County originally established in 1840's with the construction of the turnpike when the county saw a large influx of Irish immigrants, and enjoyed further growth in the 1860's when Italian stonemasons came in to work on the building of the Lunatic Asylum.
The Louis Bennett Public Library is located within a historic home in Weston, West Virginia. The seventeen-room Victorian mansion was built in 1875 by Jonathan M. Bennett, one of the most prominent politicians and businessmen in Lewis County. His son Louis was also a noted civic leader, serving as Speaker of the House of Delegates and unsuccessfully running for Governor in 1908. Louis' son Louis Jr. became famous as West Virginia's only ace pilot in World War I. He flew over twenty missions and made twelve confirmed kills before dying in 1918. His mother, Sallie Maxwell Bennett, decided to honor her husband and son by donating their house to the Lewis County Commission to operate as a war memorial and library in 1922. Today the home continues to house a library while the property includes a war memorial. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Virginia State senator and later circuit judge John A. Brannon built this fine home in 1853. During renovations by owners, Robert Piersons, a trapdoor was discovered in the first floor hallway leading to a hidden room under the house. It is believed to have been a Civil War hideaway used to escape capture by Union troops, when they occupied Weston. Brannon's household slaved lived in the 2-story painted brick behind the main house; It is likely the only former slave quarters in central West Virginia.
The heart of this home, built in 1887 by George Jackson Arnold, is a smaller ante-bellum house with a hidden trapdoor leading to a cellar room. The union-loyal Arnold family took refuge there whenever Confederate troops occupied the town. Prior to its acquisition by Lewis County and lease to WVU Extension Services, James Hoffman Edwards and his descendants owned the house.
In 1820, only two years after the founding of Weston as the governmental seat of Lewis County, the town’s first true cemetery, a one-acre plot, was established on the hillside above the south end of Center Avenue, 15 South Center Ave.
In 1906, John McGuire extensively remodeled an 1892-93 house built by attorney William W. Brannon and created this grand home of neo-classical design. Its longest owner-occupant (1914-1966) was Thomas A. Whelan, cashier and principal owner of Citizens Bank.
The Weston Steam Laundry, organized in 1899, was located north of the "Y" at 9 South Main Avenue in a frame building 34' x 60' in size, with an attached boiler room. Located at the vacant lot at 1st and Main Ave in Weston once stood The Dawson "Tidal Wave" Saloon.
The town of Weston’s first city office building was located at 118-120 Main Avenue, where is now the furniture department of Bennett’s Firestone store.
This store building at 126-128 Main Avenue, now a part of the Bennett Firestone complex, was constructed in 1895, following the late December 1894 fire that destroyed its only-13-month-old predecessor, a retail business structure with a 700-seat, electrically lighted theatre, the Bismarck, on its second floor. (The fire, well under way when first discovered, started in a next-door bakery.)
This imposing yellow brick business and (now) apartment building at 132-134 Main Avenue replaced an almost equally impressive three-story brick building that burned in a great business section fire in late December 1894.
The Citizens Bank, the second such financial institution in Weston, opened for business on Monday, February 8, 1892, located in a rented room in Michael W. Dougherty’s recently constructed brick building on the site of 132-134 Main Avenue. But in 1893, needing more space, the bank erected next door this presently standing three-story brick building at 138 Main Avenue (on the southeast corner of Main and Bank Alley), and moved its operations there on December 30th. The new building incorporated a firewall on its south side, most wisely as it turned out, for about a year later, on a frigid night in late December 1894, one of Weston’s greatest fires broke out within the block. The blaze raced in two directions, south towards First Street and north towards the bank. The firewall did its job, however; the bank was saved. Except for a few outer brick walls, all other buildings between the bank and First Street (including Dougherty’s Shanty and the bank’s original home) were destroyed.
Patrick J. Dyer replaced his destroyed frame hotel and Shadyside Saloon with the current brick structure, at 144 Main Avenue at the corner of Bank Alley and Main Ave.
Where is now open space and an extended parking area on the east side of Main Avenue (152-158 Main) was the Edmiston Block, a three-story, red brick business building erected in 1893 by brothers Matthew and Theodoric Edmiston. Its upper two floors were occupied at different times by offices, clubs and apartments. Ground floor space provided for three separate storerooms over the years.
One of Weston’s most popular and well-patronized businesses for over half a century, the G. C. Murphy store opened in Weston on August 23, 1913, originally in a narrow storeroom at 164 Main Avenue (located where is now the southern-most part of the modern store building that the Murphy store came to build and occupy in its later years).
The several two-story brick business buildings on the west side of Main Avenue, address numbers (most recently or currently) 139 through 155, were all constructed in the period 1896-97, their predecessors having been destroyed in the terrible March 29, 1896 fire. But before and after, stretching for many years from the 19th into the 20th centuries, the site at 143 Main (where today’s Roshell’s Antiques store resides) comprised, in turn, the A. A. Lewis store (a dry goods emporium) and The HUB Department Store.
The extraordinarily historic Ralston-Edmiston building, erected in 1879 at 165-173 Main Avenue, was the joint venture of jeweler Er Ralston, I, and the Judge Matthew Edmiston family. It replaced in part a number of large and small frame buildings (including Ralston’s home) on and near the southwest corner of Main Avenue and Second Street that were destroyed by fire on November 1, 1877. Now the oldest business-professional building in Weston, it originally incorporated four separate storerooms, each of which has its own interesting story to tell. Needless to say, their facades and interiors have been renovated or redesigned over their many years.
Some of Weston’s most popular business addresses for the last part of the 19th century and almost three-quarters of the 20th century were store rooms in what was collectively called the Edwards Block, being most of the site (with the exception of the corner space itself) where is now the onetime G. C. Murphy building and comprising a range of addresses (most now defunct) — 160 through 176 Main Avenue and 108 through 112 East Second Street.
Weston’s first store of any type — in this case a general store, one selling merchandise of a hundred kinds — was established where is now 161-163 Main Avenue. Its owner was Weeden Hoffman, who previously, and perhaps concurrently for a short time, had a store at Westfield.
Located at 116 Main Avenue, where have been the law offices of Robert M. Morris and the late John S. Holy, was located Weston’s first 5 & 10 cent store.
Fairyland Nickelodeon painted wall advertisement located at 139 Main Avenue is home to a 90 year old painted advertisement on the brick wall of Bank Alley. This signage is painted on the upper wall of the 1896-built Morrison Building. This mural stands as a quite reminder of the silent movies first shown here in 1907 by Weston's second nickelodeon owner, James Ferry. The alley is home to other painted advertisements including two Coca-Cola murals below the fairyland mural.
The stately Tierney Building was erected in 1910-11 by Sally Tierney Bennett, whose Irish-Immigrant father, Patrick, operated here the Tierney House hotel and saloon that were destroyed in the great business section fire of March 1896. The building is situated on the corner of Bank Alley and Main.
At 125 Main Avenue were located two of Weston’s best known businesses: in the late 19th century, Egan Hardware; and for much of the 20th century, E. J. Kane Hardware. The building that housed Egan’s was destroyed in the great business section fire of March 29, 1896.
The economy of Lewis County, dating from its creation in 1816 until after the Civil War, was almost exclusively a self-sufficient, agricultural one. Unmilled wheat and corn were of considerable bulk and somewhat heavy, costly in time and money to transport any distance. Therefore, mills had to be near farms where grains were grown. Of at least a dozen mills scattered about the county in the 19th century, one was in Weston, on the east bank of the West Fork River, at the west end of what is today First Street. The original Weston Flour Mill was built by John Brunisdie & Daniel Stringer. Burnside later sold his interest after a few years of being in business. It then became Bland Property for many years and was adjoining the Bland House Property which was located in what would now be the middle of Main Avenue.
The first footbridge to span the West Fork River in Weston at this location. The first bridge erected was a suspension bridge in 1886-87. This bridge was put in place for a shortcut to downtown by the State Hospital employees and Weston Residence.