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West Virginia, United States of America
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Charleston, Kanawha County
West Virginia Capital, Charleston (2003) West Virginia Capital at Night, Charleston (2003)

West Virginia State Capital:
(Left) I was quite surprised to find such a beautiful and massive capital dome in West Virginia. The dome is the largest of all the state capitals and is actually higher than the US Capital building in Washington, DC.

West Virginia Capital At Night:
(Right)  The capital occupies a stately spot along the Kanawha River, perfectly placed for any number of photographs.

Downtown Charleston, West Virginia  (2003) Building Detail, Charleston, West Virginia  (2003) Downtown Charleston:
(Left)  The downtown of this sleepy capital has been revitalized and contains many elegant structures. I was surprised by the lack of tourists, however, as I seemingly had the city to myself.

Charleston Building Details:
(Right)  Having dodged many urban renewal bulldozers, dozens of turn-of-the-century buildings stoically guard over the city.
Pocahontas County
Green Bank Observatory, Green Bank, West Virginia   (2003) Green Bank:
Nestled in the mountains near the Virginia-West Virginia border, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank uses radio signals to explore the outer depths of the universe. The area around the telescope is designated as a national quiet zone which essentially forbids cell phones, radios, and other "noisy" gadgets.
Grote Reber Telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia  Robert C. Byrd Telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia  Grote Reber's Radio Telescope:
(Left)  The original radio telescope was invented and built by Grote Reber in 1937. Originally stationed in his back yard, today it is used to show the power of one man's vision.

Robert C. Byrd Telescope:
(Right)  The main telescope at the facility is the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope. The dish alone is over two acres large.
Green Bank Church, West Virginia  (2003) Cass Railyards, West Virginia   (2003)

Green Bank Church:
(Left)  The old roads in West Virginia's Appalachia pass through many antiquated towns with a charm lost in today's world. Many of the towns have beautiful churches like this one in Green Bank which dates back to the early 1800's.

Cass Scenic Railroad:

(Right)  Once a thriving mill town, Cass is now a state park with a scenic railroad.

Cass Sawmill, West Virginia  (2003) Cass Sawmill:
The forests of West Virginia were of great importance to the development of the region. The old-growth forests provided timber for sawmills throughout the east coast until these magnificent woods were depleted. Now the mills stand abandoned and the new hope is that tourism will take their place economically.
Locomotive and decomposing train, Cass, West Virginia Train Graveyard:
We came across Cass during the off-season so we were able to take a nice log walk along the tracks. We came across this old abandoned train which was decomposing at a rapid rate and turned out to be a photographer's paradise.
"Almost Heaven" , Cass, West Virginia (2003) Cass Boxcar (2003)

"Almost Heaven":
(Left)  Abandoned Train Locomotive at Cass Scenic Railway

Boxcar Detail:
(Right)  Dilapidated trains with the perfect light are an amateur photographer's true delight!

Cass Railroad Tracks, West Virginia Cass Railroad Tracks:
Perhaps my favorite part of the entire trip was the time my father and I spent wandering along the old train tracks in Cass. There is a certain romanticism involved with old trains and to be able to walk quietly among them as they crumble is quite a memorable experience.
Helvetia, Randolph County
Helvetia, West Virginia Helvetia:
Our only planned destination was the small Swiss village of Helvetia. The sign reads: "and so... in October 1869 this handful of Swiss Craftsmen found themselves in a wilderness of vast beauty, with unfamiliar tools and skills they hewed and plowed this unyielding land, and they called their village Helvetia."
Original Settlers Buildings In Helvetia, West Virginia (2003) Helvetia Coat Of Arms, West Virginia (2003)

Settlers Buildings in Helvetia:
(Left)  Helvetia was founded by Swiss immigrants who created a community which did its best to replicate Swiss life in the heart of the Appalachia. Being Swiss citizens ourselves, my father and I found a little nationalistic pride seeing what our countrymen had accomplished.

Helvetia Coat of Arms:
(Right)  Swiss heritage and traditions are very much the focal point of Helvetia.

Cabel County
Amelia Earhart,  Blenko Glass Museum, West Virginia (2003) I'll have one "Big Tator, please.", Tudor's Biscuit World, West Virginia  (2003)

Glass Factories:
(Left)  One of my favorite things about traveling is that you can learn something new around each corner. For example, we saw a sign on the side of the road for a glass museum and leaned that West Virginia was one of the largest glass producers in America. Who knew?

Tudor's Biscuit World:
(Right)  It's not every day that you come across a chain of restaurants solely dedicated to biscuits!

Cabel County Courthouse, Huntington, West Virginia (2003) Historic Huntington, West Virginia (2003)

Cabel County Courthouse:
(Left) Often the most impressive buildings in Appalachian towns are the county courthouses. Huntington, with its beautiful Cabel County Courthouse, is no exception.

Huntington Streets:
(Right)  While strolling down the streets of Huntington it is very easy to see that it once was a very wealthy city.

Marshall University Fraternity House, Huntington, West Virginia  (2003) Marshall University :
.Once a thriving industrial city, Huntington is now seemingly a quintessential college town. Many of the old mansions which once housed coal magnates are now fraternity and sorority houses. The rest of the city seems to bleed "Marshall green" and overwhelmingly identifies itself with the university.
Marshall Football Memorial, Huntington, West Virginia  (2003) Martinsburg Apple, Huntington, West Virginia  (2003)

Marshall Football:
(Left)  Marshall University will forever be known in conjunction with the tragic plane crash in 1970 in which the entire football team perished. There are many memorials throughout town, including this one on the football stadium.

Martinsburg Apple:
(Right)  The northern city of Martinsburg,100 miles from Washington, DC, is famous for its apples and bills itself as the "Apple Capital."

Berkeley County
Martinsburg B&O Train Station, West Virginia  (2003) B&O Train Station:
During the Civil War Stonewall Jackson and his troops burned the Martinsburg train station to the ground. The station was rebuilt shortly thereafter and was the home to another important event in 1877, the first national railroad strike. Today it stands empty as a reminder of both historic events.
Ironton, Ohio
Iron City Hardware, Downtown Ironton, Ohio (2003) Ironton Downtown:
Across the river from Huntington in Ohio is the old "Iron City" named Ironton. We did now know what to expect with this town but with the name "Ironton" it must be interesting. We were correct in our assumptions as we found a once-prosperous rust belt city that has fallen on severely hard times.
Ironton Cannon, Ohio (2003) Ironton's Neglected Past:
It was very sobering to walk around Ironton. Everything in the town seemed to be in a general state of disrepair. Even one of the cannons in front of City Hall had a flat tire. Normally when you visit old rust belt cities you usually see some signs of a good future, but sadly my cursory look at this city showed nothing but tough times ahead.
United Parts Center, Theater, Ironton, Ohio  (2003) Statue of Liberty, Ironton, Ohio  (2003)

Old Theater, Downtown Ironton:
(Left)  Often you hear about preservation efforts in cities to try to revitalize their old theaters. Ironton is in desperate need of such a community focus, as the old theater is now an auto parts store.

Lady Liberty:
(Right)  To me this photograph of Lady Liberty looking on with a bent crown best describes the sad city of Ironton.

West Virginia

West Virginia Travel Resources

Encarta Map of West Virginia: See an interactive map of West Virginia.

Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike: Learn about the old road that originates in my home town of Staunton and is largely responsible for the settlement of West Virginia and was the home of many bloody Civil War battles.

Van Slider's Images of West Virginia:
Beautiful landscape photos from a West Virginian photographer.

West Virginia.gov: West Virginia's official website, where the "mountaineers are always free."

Green Bank Telescope: The official website for the world's largest fully-steerable telescope

West Virginia Tourism: Learn about West Virginia's biggest draw, outdoor tourism.

West Virginia University: Visit the largest university in West Virginia and the home of the Mountaineers.

West Virginia Division of Culture and History:
A very good site filled with West Virginia historical and cultural information.

West Virginia in the Civil War: Learn about the only state created as part of the Civil War.

WV Culture: John Brown's Raid: An important moment in American history, John Brown's Raid was a significant antislavery event which helped set the stage for the Civil War.

Wonderful West Virginia:
See the best of West Virginia from the state magazine.

Civil War Battles in WVA:
See a map and view information about the fifteen Civil War battles held in West Virginia.

Village of Helvetia: Visit the small village of Helvetia using this cute site created by one of the few residents.

Jeff Miller's West Virginia Home Page:
See a homepage of West Virginia with a good history section, compiled by one of its former residents

Cass Scenic Railroad: Visit one of the most interesting old railroad towns still in existence.

Marc Harwitz's "Nearly Heaven
:" Read my friend's account of a trip to WV to see a college football game in Morgantown.

West Virginia State Parks: West Virginia, with its rugged topography and sparse population, is a perfect area for establishing state parks.

West Virginia Glass:
West Virginia is home to a outstanding array of glass and pottery makers. Learn about them here.

Homer Laughlin China: Home of Fiestaware, Homer Laughlin is West Virginia's most famous pottery company.

City of Huntington: Visit the capital of the tri-state region, which is an area which includes tips of West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Marshall University: Read about Marshall as the university continues down the path towards National Prominence.

ESPN: Marshall Plane Crash: Learn about the most destructive sports-related airline crash in history.

Huntington Herald-Dispatch: Read the hometown newspaper for the tri-state region.

Official Charleston Home Page: See what is happening in the state capital with the tallest dome in America.

History of Charleston:
Read an upbeat history of the capital city.

West Virginia Firsts: 25 interesting "firsts" to help you at your next Trivial Pursuit game.

West Virginia History: Come here for an index of links for more information on West Virginia's history.

Martinsburg Journal: See what is happening in West Virginia's "Apple Capital."

Martinsburg Train Station: View interesting photographs along with a written history of this beautiful old train station.

New River Gorge Bridge: Read about this impressive bridge which has become an emblem for the state.

Monongahela National Forest: Learn about this important national forest and how it got its interesting name.

West Virginia Jokes: I tried not to do it, but I couldn't. No west Virginia page is complete without a link to West Virginia jokes!

Logging in West Virginia's Forests: Sadly, the old grown forests of West Virginia were almost completely destroyed. Read about their history here.

Robert C. Byrd:
I have never seen a public figure more associated with his state. The influences and political gifts of Senator Byrd are everywhere.

Byrd Droppings: Read about the "King of Pork" from this citizens watch group.

West Virginia State Flag: Information about and history of West Virginia's flag.

Travel Comments
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Questions and Answers

Time Visited: December 2003 (and various times over the years)

Main Cities Visited: Charleston, Huntington, Cass, Green Bank, Martinsburg, Ironton (Ohio), Ashland (Kentucky)

Modes of Transportation: 4x4 Pickup

How I Ended Up There: Having traveled around the world, visiting the far reaches of the globe, my father and I realized we've never really explored our neighboring state, so over winter break we went to see what was in our wild, wonderful neighbor.

Memorable Foods: Sauerbraten, biscuits & gravy, rice cake

What I Liked: The small towns in the Appalachian mountains are really special and just to drive through the towns is an experience to remember. The small Swiss town of Helvetia was quaint while the historic districts of Charleston are impressive.

What I Disliked: If I listened to public opinion I should have expected a bunch of backwoods rubes in mobile homes, but of course in reality I found a fun little state with a very poor reputation. So, I guess I dislike negative image the state has throughout the country.

Where I Stayed: Hotels

West Virginia in Five Words: unexpected, rural, historic, largesse, maligned

My Thoughts: When my father and I decided to go on a short trip after Christmas in 2003, we were looking for a place which was close to our home in Virginia but was somewhere new. It occurred to us that we had never really explored West Virginia and decided it would be a good place to visit.

Unfortunately West Virginia has a poor reputation in the United States. It is usually the butt of many jokes and overall is not held in high regard. We were curious to see if this reputation held true and much to our anticipation it did not. The state is very different from region to region, ranging from the rolling hills of the eastern Appalachia to the historic capital city of Charleston. After our short trip had concluded, we both agreed that we would certainly return in the future to better explore the captivating State of West Virginia.

© David Metraux 1996-2006

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