Returning to Charleston, we took the “short” route east on US-60, saving more than 60 tortious miles we put on yesterday. Along the way, we passed several large working coal mine facilities located along the Kanawha River … massive complexes, some loading coal onto up to 100 or more rail cars.
Prior to the American Civil War, the counties that would ultimately form West Virginia were a part of the state of Virginia; the state capitol was in Richmond, Virginia. After Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, the northwest counties of Virginia loyal to the United States started the process which would ultimately create the State of West Virginia on June 20, 1863.
Settling on a state capital location, however, proved to be difficult. For several years, the capital of West Virginia intermittently traveled between Wheeling and Charleston.
In 1877, however, the state’s citizens voted on the final location of their capital. Charleston was chosen and, eight years later, the first capitol building was opened.
After a fire in 1921, a hastily-built structure was opened but it too burned down in 1927. Two people were killed in that fire and a memorial was built in memory of the victims.
The present Capitol took eight years to complete at a cost of just under $10 million. It was constructed in three stages. The west wing was built in 1924-25; the east wing was constructed in 1926-27; and the rotunda connecting the wings was completed in 1930-32. Governor William G. Conley dedicated the new Capitol on the state’s 69th birthday, June 20, 1932.
The architect chosen was Cass Gilbert, born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1859, he studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1912, Gilbert designed the world’s first skyscraper, the Woolworth Building in New York City. His other works include the state capitols of Minnesota and Arkansas, and the U.S. Treasury Building and the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. Gilbert died in 1934, just two years after West Virginia’s State Capitol was completed.
The exterior of the classical-styled building is buff Indiana limestone. More than 700 train carloads of limestone and 4,640 tons of steel were used in its construction. The magnificent 293-foot gold dome which tops the structure is five feet higher than the dome of the U.S. Capitol. The entire dome is gilded in 23½ karat gold leaf applied to the copper and lead roof in tiny 3 3/8 inch squares.
Two thirds of the interior of the Capitol is marble – White Imperial Danby Vermont, Italian Travertine, and Tennessee. Consisting of 535,000 square feet of floor space, the building has 333 rooms in its main unit and two wings.
We entered from the main entrance facing the Kanawha River.
However, had we entered through the East Wing we’d have been greeted by the faces of Mercury (who presided over commerce), Vulcan (the celestial artist and architect), and Minerva (the goddess of wisdom).
Supreme Court Chamber
Across the expansive, tree-shaded grounds from the Capitol is the beautiful and stately, 30-room executive mansion … one of a very few on the same parcel as the State House … and the home of the Governor and his family.
To the right of the entrance, is the formal parlor
Also on the State House campus is the state’s Cultural Museum. It showcases West Virginia’s history (dating back to prehistoric times), economic, political, artistic and cultural heritage. Just a few of the hundreds of artifacts on display include:
When a warrant for his arrest was issued by federal officials, the still was and spiral condenser, known as a “worm” to IRS officials, were seized, Witt was nowhere to be found and never captured.
We then walked the State Capitol’s grounds, where a number of statues were prominently displayed.
and a memorial to all West Virginia’s veteran’s of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War … with the names of this lost in those conflicts inscribed on the inside of the circular monument.