Parkersburg Things to Do Tips by kevanrijn
Parkersburg Things to Do: 14 reviews and 42 photos
A home in the 900 block of Julianna Street
Parkersburg has some beautiful buildings in a variety of architectural styles--certainly more than you would generally expect to find in a small town/city in West Virginia. The reason it is blessed with such an abundance is because after the Civil War, due to its location on the river and its proximity to the newly discovered oil and gas fields in West Virginia, many beautiful and expensive homes and commercial buildings were built in Parkersburg by the people who profited from the oil and gas boom.
Juliana and Ann streets contain the most concentrated grouping of Italianate, Second Empire, and Queen Anne mansions in the entire state of West Virginia, all typical of upscale Victorian-era design. Many of the homes are listed on the National Register, as is the Julia-Ann Square District as a whole. Several times a year, the Julia-Ann Square Association sponsors home and/or garden tours and visitors can get a closer look at some of the homes. There is usually a Christmas tour in early December, showing the homes decorated for the season. Brochures for a self-guided walking tour are available in local businesses and the visitors center.
Parkersburg has some lovely homes built in a wide variety of architectural styles: Federal, Italianate, Second Empire, Gothic revival, Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Tutor revival, Colonial revival, etc. In addition, some churches and civic buildings in the Richardsonian Romanesque and Beaux Arts styles are located in the downtown area.
Check out the website link below for a downloadable brochure of the self-guided walking tour and more pictures of the Julia-Ann Square Historic District.
Address: Market Street, Julianna Street, Ann Street
Directions: Downtown Parkersburg. The majority of the structures of interest are located on Market Street, Julianna Street, Ann Street, upper Avery Street, and Washington Street in north Parkersburg.
Henderson Hall in the snowfall
A real time capsule of a pre-Civil War home/plantation...Henderson Hall is unique. Built by the Henderson family in 1836, it was continually occupied by the same family from that time until 2007. Henderson Hall was a 2600 acre plantation that was one of the northernmost to keep slaves. In fact, the view from the front of Henderson Hall looks out across the Ohio River toward Marietta, the first settlement in the Northwest Territory and a place where slavery was illegal. Henderson Hall literally was on the dividing line between the free North and slave owning South.
Not only is the mansion intact, the contents of the home are all there too. Everything has been saved, from letters, shopping lists, and business accounts to furniture, wallpaper, antique light bulbs, clothing, and shoes. More than 200 years of family papers were collected and have been saved.
While these documents are extremely important, they represent only a small part of the household collection. The mansion is furnished with exquisite antiques and wonderful treasures. Family portraits hang in almost every room. There are still working gaslights and gas fireplaces, as well as some original candlelight fixtures. Curtains made in the mid-1800s by the ladies of the house still hang in some of the windows. The dining room is filled with an extensive array of heirloom silver, china, and linens collected by generations of Henderson residents.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Henderson Hall has also been among the sites included on Flight to Freedom: Ohio’s Underground Railroad Tour.
There are just too many wonderful things to detail about this unique historical treasure--do go see it for yourself! The home is now open again for tours, every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 pm. The cost is $4 per person for a self-guided tour and includes a movie on the history of the family and the house. Even if you have toured the house before, you will find another visit of interest as the house has been restored to what it would have looked like around 1900 to 1910.
Address: Off Route 14, south of Williamstown
Directions: Off Rt 14 just 2 miles south of Williamstown (10 mi north of Parkersburg), turn right on River Road at Boaz sign (see photo). Call the Oil and Gas Museum in Parkersburg 304-485-5446 or 304-428-8015 for more details.
Other Contact: Henderson Hall, Route 2, Box 103
Blennerhassett Mansion front view
First go to the Blennerhassett Museum at Second and Julianna Streets and purchase your tickets for the Sternwheeler ride (totally necessary since the mansion is on an island and the sternwheeler is the only public transportation to the island) and tickets for the mansion tour. You may also purchase tickets for a horse drawn wagon ride around the island--or you may want to walk or bike to explore the island.
The current Blennerhassett mansion is a re-creation of the original mansion (which burnt down in 1811). It was errected on the foundation of the original building and is a very accurate replica based on careful historical and architectural research.
The mansion is a lovely Palladian style building, very reminescent of George Washington's residence, Mount Vernon. At the time it was built, it was the largest and most elegant homes west of the Alleghany mountains and one of the most beautiful in the entire country. The Blennerhassett mansion was the social hub of the (then) American frontier.
The mansion boasted rare plants, Oriental carpets, wood paneled rooms, Venetian mirrors, oil paintings, gold and marble clocks, silver doorknobs and a 2.3 acre flower garden and huge lawns, furniture purchased in London and Baltimore, and porcelain made in Paris. Alabaster lamps were suspended from the ceilings by silver chains. The house was the epitome of style and elegance of its time and place.
Even were the mansion not so lovely, the site would be worth visiting just to learn about the interesting (and largely tragic) history of the Blennerhassett family. The island and mansion are closed from November through April but the museum is open year round.
Address: 127 Julianna Street, Parkersburg, WV 26101
Directions: Downtown Parkersburg at the corner of Second Street and Julianna Street is the location of the museum where you buy tickets for the boat and mansion tour.
Other Contact: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (304) 420-4800
Point Park is submerged--January 2007
Parkersburg's floodwall was built to keep the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers out of the city. The flood of 1913 was the worst--the Ohio River crested here at 58.9 feet. The stage at which damage would begin to occur was 36 feet, so downtown was under more than 20 feet of water in that flood. Then, less than 25 years later in the flood of 1937, the river reached 55.4 feet. Again, water stood almost 20 feet deep in the city's downtown.
After the flood of 1937, the city fathers decided enough was enough and the decision was made to build a floodwall. Even so, construction on the floodwall was not started until 1946 (possibly because of World War II?) and the floodwall was not completed until 1950.
The move was not universally popular. Many bemoaned the cutting off of the view of the river from the town. Point Park, built just outside the floodwall at the point where the Little Kanawha River meets the Ohio River, was established so that people could once more re-connect with the rivers. The Sternwheeler boats for Blennerhassett Island depart from Point Park. There is a paved walkway around the outside of the floodwall and there are benches clustered at the Point.
The floodwall itself extends 20,000 feet (over three and three-quarters miles). There are 10,400 feet of concrete walls and 9,600 feet of earthern levee. The walls range in height from an average of 21.5 feet to a maximum of 30 feet tall. The floodwall is designed to protect Parkersburg from a flood three feet higher than the previously known highest flood. There are 13 or 14 openings in the floodwall--one of them is permanently closed. The others are closed when river conditions dictate. All the gates are closed by hand, except one which is a steel gate that lowered and raised by electrical motor-powered chains. The rest are closed by stacking either wooden or aluminium logs across the opening.
Check out the website below for more details or check out the website: http://www.newsandsentinel.com/communities/commprofiles/floodwall.asp
Address: 2nd and Ann Street
Directions: Downtown Parkersburg -- the floodwall is hard is miss--it's the high concrete and earthen wall which surrounds the downtown area.
Spiral staircase, glass floors and books
I'm so sorry to say the Trans-Allegheny bookstore is closed due to the death of the owner. According to what I've heard on the local grapevine it won't be re-opening anytime soon. Gossip has it that the books were willed to one person and the building to another person. I don't know who gets the cats! If what I've heard about the will is true, then I doubt it will re-open as a used bookstore.
In the meanwhile, I highly recommend Barking Dog Books and Art in Marietta Ohio if you are looking for used or rare books and prints. They have an excellent selection at very reasonable prices. They are located at 310 Front Street. Their website is http://www.bdbooksandart.com/
If the Trans-Allegheny Bookstore building is ever re-opened again (regardless of what goes in there) it will be well worth visiting. The building was formerly a Carnegie Library. It was constructed in 1905 and is listed on the National Historic Register.
Glass floors (yes, that's right, floors made of glass), stained glass windows, a spiral iron staircase with brass railings and carved marble mantelpieces are just some of the lovely architectural features. As the Trans-Allegheny bookstore it boosted the largest selection of used books in West Virginia (and a nice selection of new books of regional interest) as well as being home to two cats (Page, a female ginger long haired cat and Jacket--also known as DJ for Dust Jacket--a friendly female tortie).
Did you know it's very traditional for bookstores to have cats? Keeps the book-nibbling mice from ruining the books! I loved that the Trans-Allegheny kept up the old tradition of having mice-slayers in residence.
In addition to the books, wonderful architectural features and cats, the Trans-Allegheny Bookstore had the reputation of being the most haunted location in Parkersburg. Supposedly it has at least three or four ghosts. But you won't have a chance to check it out anytime soon....
Address: 725 Green Street, Parkersburg, WV 26101
Directions: From Market Street (downtown), go east on 7th Street, then turn right on Green Street. Parking available in the lot on 6th Street, across from the bookstore, where Green Street dead ends into 6th Street.
Other Contact: 800-371-1283
View of Mound with stairs in Mound Cemetery
The MOV is the Mid-Ohio Valley. Some of the oldest known burial sites in the country are located in this area. No, I'm not talking about the cemeteries of the early settlers--I'm talking about the burial mounds left by the Adena and Hopewell Indians. The Adena/Hopewell Culture was centered in the Ohio valley in southern Ohio--right around our area. They existed from around 1000 BC to around 700 AD. They were obsessed with the afterlife and built huge funeral mounds to house their dead. Like many other cultures, they buried rich funeral offerings with the bodies.
The largest, most prominent mound in the area is located atop a hill in Marietta--and is surrounded by one of the oldest cemeteries in the Mid-Ohio Valley which contains the burials of the founders of Marietta. The cemetery is known as Mound Cemetery. The Indian mound is 30 feet tall. There are stairs in the mound so you can climb to the top--it's strictly forbidden to climb the mound except by going up the stairs. The Mound itself is a National Landmark.
Besides the inhabitants of the Indian Mound, there are more than 25 veterans of the Revolutionary War buried there. More Revolutionary War officers are buried here than at any other cemetery in America. Most of the original settlers of Marietta are interred in Mound Cemetery. Mound Cemetery one of the oldest pioneer burial grounds west of the Appalachian Mountains and the oldest in the Northwest Territory.
Address: 5th and Scammel Streets, Marietta, OH
Directions: From I-77 take exit 1 and follow Ohio Route 7 south to downtown Marietta (at that point Rt 7 is following 3rd Street). Turn right on Scammel street and go two blocks to 5th Street.
Colorful handpainted Fenton glass eggs
Another UPDATE: http://www.newsandsentinel.com/page/content.detail/id/561393.html
UPDATE: Okay, Fenton isn't closing but they have stopped making their traditional pressed and handblown gift and art glass. They are concentrating on making jewelry and glass beads. They still offer limited factory tours--check their website for the schedule. The gift shop is also still open--again, check their website for the hours of operation.
The following information was from my review in 2008. Things have obviously changed since then, but I'll leave the info here, for nostalgia's sake....
NEWS FLASH: FENTON IS NOT CLOSING! Although Fenton has been struggling for survival for a while, and even announced they were closing earlier this year, orders have increased and other things have been worked out and it appears Fenton will remain in operation.
Fenton Art Glass is both one of the last remaining family owned handblown art glass factories in the United States and the largest handmade glass company in the U.S. The Fenton family started their glass business in 1905, decorating glass blanks provided by other glass makers. In 1907, they began producing their very own handcrafted art glass, and they haven't looked back since. 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of Fenton glass production. Check out my VT homepage personal album on Fenton glass for more pictures of their marvelous, beautiful glass.
Fenton offers a free tour of their factory with live demonstrations of the techniques used in producing their glass. The tour is rated one of the top ten factory tours in the U.S. The techniques involved in making Fenton glass items--both glass blowing and glass pressing--are shown. The tour takes approximately 30-40 minutes. The tours begin at 8:15 am. The usual tour schedule is as follows:
AM Tours: 8:15, 9:00, 9:45, 10:30
PM Tours: 12:15, 1:00, 1:45, 2:30
Tours can be cancelled or times changed without notice due to production issues, especially in the late afternoons. I would recommend scheduling your tour early in the day in the summer, to avoid the brutal heat in the factory. In the winter or cooler weather, this will not be an issue and you could take the tour comfortably at any time of the day. The factory closes for vacation for two weeks in the summer, as well as on certain other holidays. I suggest calling ahead to make sure the factory will be open when you intend to visit, if you are making a special trip just to visit Fenton glass.
The tours begin and end in the Fenton gift shop.
Address: 700 Elizabeth Street, Williamstown, WV 26187
Directions: From I-77, take Exit 185 and follow WV Route 14 South into Williamstown. Continue following WV 14. Turn left on Henderson Avenue (at the stop light). Go two blocks, turn right on Elizabeth Street.
Other Contact: email: email@example.com
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