What is now one of the most rapidly growing cities in the Ohio Valley was, for most of its corporate history, large stretches of farmland — the end result of a New England doctor’s broken dream.
Vienna was founded in 1794 by Dr. Joseph Spencer, a Connecticut-born physician who had been given for his services in the American Revolution a 5,000-acre tract of land eight miles above the mouth of the Little Kanawha River. He brought his family to the area and settled at what is now 28th Street and River Road. In what is now the central part of the city, he laid out lots of 100 acres for a town he named “Vienna” probably — though it is not certain — after the town of Vienna, New Jersey. During his war career he had taken part in a battle there. Toward the end of the 1800s Vienna’s future brightened when in 1888 its first post office was opened, and in 1902 when tracks for a streetcar line — officially called “The Parkersburg, Marietta and Interurban Railway Company – were laid through the area. When the track was completed to Marietta the following year, the real urbanization of Vienna began. It was aided, too, in 1902 by being chosen as the site of the Parkersburg Country Club. This prompted a number of Parkersburg’s well-to-do families to build expensive summer homes in the club’s vicinity.
Industry soon appeared, led by the Meyercord-Carter Glass Company which opened its doors in 1908. It was nicknamed the “Vitrolite Plant” for the rather exotic building material called “Vitrolite” it produced, “a flint-like substance resembling marble, used for store fronts, interior walls and decorations, table tops and ornamental bric-a-brac.” Gradually as its reputation as a desirable residential area grew, Vienna’s population expanded necessitating incorporation in 1935. Its original charter had been “forfeited because of disuse” long before. Today, Vienna exudes an air of confidence. Vienna is one of the valley’s most thriving business centers, primarily a result of the Grand Central Mall — West Virginia’s first covered shopping mall — a complex comprising more than 100 stores and shops.