DOWNTOWN & JULIA-ANN HISTORIC DISTRICT WALKING TOUR
This walking tour of downtown Parkersburg and the Julia-Ann Historic District provides a glimpse of Parkersburg past and present.
Please note that the private homes are not open to the public, but we invite you to appreciate their architectural and historical significance
1. St. Francis Xavier Church, 532 Market Street (on left)
Built 1869 on the site of an earlier church, the church is an adaptive Romanesque design with French Gothic influences. The contractor was Lysander Dudley, Parkersburg’s first architect. The church is distinguished by its magnificent mural paintings and imposing, hand-carved wooden altar and features the prime example of ecclesiastical artwork in West Virginia. The building’s exterior has changed very little over the years.
Turn left onto 4th Street and walk one block
2. Civil War Hospital, 402 Avery Street (one block from Market Street up 4th Street)
This two-story Federal style brick home, constructed in 1843, was one of five United States Army hospitals operated in Parkersburg during the Civil War, and is the only one still standing. It functioned circa 1863 to 1865 after having been purchased from its owner, Henry Logan. Since the house alone could not provide adequate space, two long wooden buildings were built adjacent to it to the north to serve as patient wards and as an office. To the east of the house, tents were erected to accommodate the overflow. In the 1890s this house served briefly as a civilian hospital. In 1986 an addition was constructed on its south side.
At the corner of 4th and Avery Streets (on your right) is the new facility to house additional offices for the Bureau of Public Debt. Encompassing over 200,000 square feet of space, approximately500 people work in the building. The primary function of this government agency is to provide accounting and human resource services to a wide variety of other government agencies.
Return to Market Street
3. Blennerhassett Hotel, 4th and Market Streets (on left)
Built 1889 by W. N. Chancellor, Mayor of Parkersburg, the Chateau-like structure is Queen Anne architecture. It originally housed several banking institutions. After being closed for several years, the hotel was completely refurbished and an addition added to the rear prior to reopening in 1986. The hotel has just undergone further extensive renovation to equip it with the most modern and luxurious amenities.
To your left on 3rd Street is the Parkersburg Municipal Building. This modern glass-fronted structure is in an area known as Government Square since several government buildings are located in the vicinity.
4. Wood County Court House (on right)
The current courthouse was begun in 1899 and opened 1901. This is the county’s fifth courthouse and the third on this site. The heirs of Alexander Parker, for whom Parkersburg is named, donated the land. Constructed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style that features stilted arches and stone carvings, the sandstone used for the exterior was quarried from the nearby Quincy Hill. The total construction cost was $100,000.
5. US Treasury Department Bureau of Public Debt (on right)
Parkersburg could justifiably be called “The Savings Bond Capital of America”. Since 1957 when the US Treasury Department’s Bureau of Public Debt was consolidated in Parkersburg, every savings bond bought or redeemed has passed through this structure. Today the Bureau’s 1,400 employees process approximately 800,000 bonds every day.
6. Fort Boreman Hill (straight ahead beyond the floodwall)
Fort Boreman Hill, at the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers, stands overlooking Parkersburg. First named Mount Logan, it was the site of a large Indian mound surrounded by a ditch and parapet. This magnificent structure survived until the 1860s when it was destroyed to make way for Fort Boreman, built during the Civil War to guard Parkersburg and the mouth of the Little Kanawha River that led to valuable oil fields at Burning Springs. The fort was constructed during the summer and fall of 1863 and named in honor of Arthur I. Boreman, West Virginia’s first governor and a leading citizen of Parkersburg. Upon completion, 136 Union soldiers were garrisoned here until the fall of 1865. Following the Civil War and until the early 1900s, the hill was also the site of the city’s “pest house” for those suffering from smallpox or other contagious disease. Another interesting facet of the hill’s history involved three Wood County men found guilty of murdering a neighbor in an argument over the Civil War. The trio was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead from the “hangman’s tree” on Fort Boreman. They were executed on February 6, 1866 with considerable local ceremony.
Turn right onto 2nd Street
7. Blennerhassett Museum, 2nd & Juliana Streets (on left)
The north half of the Blennerhassett Museum building was constructed in 1902 as the home of the Star Grocery Company. In the 1920s the company added the present south half of the structure, but went out of business in the 1940s. Later the building housed the Gutherie-Morris-Campbell Company who sold it to the State of West Virginia in 1983. After a total renovation, it was opened as the Blennerhassett Museum on April 30, 1988. This museum exhibits a large array of area history from prehistoric Indian artifacts to items once owned by the Blennerhassett family. A 12-minute video on the history of Blennerhassett Island and the tragic couple who gave it their name is shown in the theater. The museum also houses a gift shop and offices for the park. (Admission fee)
8. Parkersburg Floodwall (straight ahead on 2nd Street)
Built in 1946-50 by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the wall is nearly 2 miles long with 14 gate openings and 6 pump stations. The wall is built in shape of inverted T, its average height is 22 feet with a maximum height of 30 feet. The construction cost was about $6.8 million ($40 million today). The highest flood of record in Parkersburg was in March 1913 when the floodwaters crested at 58.9 feet. If the floodwall had been in place at this time, the waters would have crested 3 feet from the top. The levels of the highest floods have been indicated on the floodwall at the 2nd Street opening.
9. Point Park, through the floodwall at the foot of 2nd Street
The site of Parkersburg’s second oldest point of settlement, the north side of the mouth of the Little Kanawha River was called “The Point” in its earliest days. It was a scene of lively activity since it served as the public landing for the river craft that plied the Ohio River during the frontier era and westward migration. The State of Virginia built a blockhouse at the Point in 1792 to shelter the soldiers stationed there to protect the settlers from Indians. Wood County’s first courthouse, a two-story log structure, was built at the Point at what is now First and Juliana Streets. Around 1800, a settlement of 12 buildings existed there. In the Civil War days, the spot had not lost its bustle, for the Swann House, the city’s finest hotel, stood nearby at First and Ann Streets. This hotel was a magnet for army officers, politicians, oilmen, merchants and many other travelers. In the 1920s and 1930s, “Murphy’s Park” was created at the Point. This park was destroyed when the Parkersburg floodwall was constructed, but a new “Point Park” was finally constructed in 1982.
10. Blennerhassett Island, 1 ½ miles down river from Point Park
This island, the fifth largest in the Ohio River, stretches 3.8 miles in length and contains 500 acres. Archeological excavations have revealed that the island was the home of Indians as early as 9000 BC. Two exiled Irish aristocrats, Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, settled on it in 1798 after fleeing Ireland for political and personal reasons. They laid out a magnificent European-style estate whose mansion, contained 7,000 square feet of floor space. But the Blennerhassett’s stay on the island was tragically short-lived. They allowed former vice president Aaron Burr to use their island as the base of operations for his controversial 1805-1807 military expedition to the Southwest, labeled by some historians as a “conspiracy.” The local militia invaded the island in 1806 in search of Burr and the Blennerhassetts, causing Harman and Margaret to flee down river. They never returned to their island paradise. After the Burr treason trial, presided over by Chief Justice John Marshall, the wealthy couple lost the remainder of their large fortune and died in poverty. Their splendid mansion accidentally burned to the ground in 1811. Blennerhassett Island was farmed throughout the nineteenth century, and from 1886 to 1912 a private park was operated on the head of the island. In 1966 the island was purchased by the E.I. DuPont de Nemours Company that leased it to the State of West Virginia for the development of a state park that opened in 1980. (Admission fee)
Return to the Blennerhassett Museum and turn left onto Juliana Street. Proceed one block to 3rd Street and turn left.
11. Oil and Gas Museum, 108 3rd Street (on right down 3rd Street)
This museum, which opened in June 1990, is housed in a building constructed in 1874 by the W.H. Smith Hardware Company and used by it until 1988. The museum’s many displays depict the origin and development of the American oil and gas industry and include engines, pumps and tools actually used in the oil and gas fields along with photographs and other early oil and gas artifacts. The museum also includes displays on the history of local railroads and industry as well as an extensive exhibit of photographs and memorabilia from Parkersburg’s past. A special room has been created to showcase a collection of Civil War items. (Admission fee)
12. Albright-Bradley Building, 101 3rd Street (on right)
Built before 1899, it is the site of first Maxwell car agency, first Chrysler car agency and the first Kaiser-Frazier car agency. It was formerly the location of Schilling Lumber, Bones Tire Service and Wallbrown Tire. After standing vacant for 20 years, it was restored and occupied in 1990 by the law offices of Albright, Bradley & Ellison.
Return to Juliana Street and turn left.
13. Neale-Tebay House, 4th and Juliana Street (on left)
Built in 1840 by George Neale. The orange-red bricks used in this structure were fired on Blennerhassett Island. Neale owned the upper end of Blennerhassett Island, which he purchased from Harman Blennerhassett’s Philadelphia business partner. The style is Greek Revival. The building is now used as law offices and is being restored by the owners.
14. United States Post Office, 4th and Juliana Streets (on left)
Erected in 1930 at a cost of $315,000 (well over three million dollars in today’s inflated currency), this Renaissance Modern style structure remains a fine example of Depression era architecture. The marble-lined walls of its lobby and the brass work over the front doors are particularly striking decorative features. The adjacent Federal Building was constructed in the 1960s.
15. Trinity Espiscopal Church Complex, 5th and Juliana Streets (on right)
Built in 1878, the church’s design is rich in architectural symbolism found in all true Gothic structures even to a single flying buttress and stained glass windows. The Rectory, erected in 1863, stands on the corner and is an excellent example of Victorian architecture. In the rear of the property is Trinity Hall. Built in 1881, it was originally a Sunday School whose construction was financed by children’s events.
16. Smoot Theatre, 213 5th Street (on left down 5th Street)
Constructed in 1926 by the Smoot Amusement Company for vaudeville acts, the theater was later converted as a showcase for silent films when the interest in live entertainment declined. In 1930 it was sold to the Warner Brothers Company that redecorated the building and converted it into one of Parkersburg’s leading movie houses. The Smoot closed in 1986 in a state of disrepair and soon faced the prospect of a wrecking ball. In 1989 a group of citizens purchased, renovated and reopened the theater. Its burgundy and cream color décor was restored along with its gilt molding. The addition of hand-cut Austrian crystal chandeliers have enhanced the elegance of its art deco ceiling. Many of its original features remain including trap doors in the stage floor and gas burners in the basement dressing rooms that actresses used to heat their curling irons.
17. Ohio River Railroad Bridge, above 6th Street on Juliana Street
A branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad reached Parkersburg in 1857, but lacking a bridge to cross the Ohio River, its trains had to be ferried across the river to Belpre, Ohio on barges. The first stone was laid for the B&O Railroad bridge on July 9, 1869, and at the time of its opening 1871, it was the longest railroad bridge in the world, with a total length of 7,140 feet. Its construction cost was $1,000,000. The structure for many years has been the object of perennial complaints by riverboat pilots who claim that its piers complicate what is already the worst bend in the Ohio River. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
18. Julia-Ann Square Historic District
At 9th Street you enter one of two historic districts in downtown Parkersburg and the largest historic district in West Virginia. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, this section of Parkersburg contains 126 separate properties, some of which are among the finest examples of Victorian architecture to be found in West Virginia. This area was once the social center of the county and home to Parkersburg’s most prominent families. The majority of the district’s structures date from 1850 to 1910.
19. Waterman-Hartleroad House, 901 Juliana Street (on left)
An elaborate Victorian home stood on this corner until its owner demolished it circa 1904. Mrs. Florence “Pink” Waterman then had this structure built, the finest example in West Virginia of a prairie school style house. Its architect, a follower of Frank Lloyd Wright, added definite Oriental touches. (Private residence, not open for tours)
20. Chancellor-Burwell-Lowe House, 904 Juliana Street (on right)
An architectural authority has called this red brick structure “the most significant example of its style in the state.” Of the Second Empire design, Colonel William Chancellor, a prominent oilman, railroad builder and real estate tycoon, completed the house in 1877. He served as mayor of Parkersburg (1874 and 1886) and in the state legislature. (Private residence, not open for tours)
21. Shattuck-Huffman House, 910 Juliana Street (on right)
Charles Horace Shattuck, sheriff of Wood County in 1872, mayor of Parkersburg in 1871 and 1875 and founder of the Citizens National Bank built the house in 1863. In 1890, he and James Monroe Jackson, Jr. organized the Parkersburg Electric Light Company. (Private residence, not open for tours)
22. Galvin-Shaw-Burche-Link-Wilson House, 931 Juliana Street (on left)
The original part of this house was built in the early 1850’s, but it has been enlarged and remodeled several times, the latest in the 1990’s by the present owners. Some of the more notable owners have included Stephen Shaw, managing editor of a Parkersburg newspaper and Dr. Samuel Quincy Adams Burche, a prominent local merchant. (Private residence, not open for tours)
23. First United Methodist Church, 10th & Juliana Streets (on left)
First United Methodist Church was the first church to be organized in Wood County and the first Methodist Church in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Organized in 1796 by a lay preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop Francis Asbury sent an ordained minister who established a church on June 1, 1799. After worshipping at four previous structures, the present church was erected in 1911.
24. Caswell-Harnett House, 1024 Juliana Street (on right)
This three-story 34-room house was constructed for Capt. William Butterworth Caswell, a West Virginia lumber baron. When completed in 1885, it was reported “There are no homes in the state that excel it in finish.” Caswell was one of the original partners that founded the Parkersburg Mill Company, a very successful venture for many years. Mr. Caswell served as one of the founding fathers of the Republican Party in West Virginia. Today the house has been completely restored to its original splendor. (Private residence, not open for tours)
25. Deming-Hayhurst House, 1117 Juliana Street (on left)
Built by Charles T. Deming circa 1853 (all told he built four homes in Parkersburg), this is one of the oldest houses in the district. Deming, a riverboat captain, added several additions to the house in his lifetime. Its architecture combines eighteenth-century New England and Colonial Williamsburg styles. (Private residence, not open for tours)
26. Smith-Knapp House, 1125 Juliana Street (on left)
It was built in 1888 for William Haimes Smith and Columbia Duncan Jackson while they were honeymooning in Europe. Upon returning, they discovered the contractor had mistaken the internal room dimensions for the external ones making the house much smaller than intended. (Private residence, not open for tours)
Turn left onto 12th Street
27. Smith House, 118 12th Street (on left)
This three-story brick colonial home was built circa 1895 for W. H. Smith. Attorney Levin Smith and his family were the original residents. The original carriage house is behind the main house, and Joseph H. Diss Debarr, an artist from Doddridge County, WV lived in a room on the second floor. While there he was commissioned by the state legislature to design the official state seal. His drawings were approved without modification and have continued unchanged as the Official Seal of the State of West Virginia. The current owners have restored this house and operate it as The Old Carriage House Bed & Breakfast.
Return to Juliana Street and turn left
28. Wiant-Badger House, 1225 Juliana Street (on left)
This frame house, originally constructed circa 1880, boasted one of the prominent architectural features of the Victorian Age — a resplendent turret. Captain William T. Wiant, founder of Wiant and Barr Hardware, purchased the property in 1889, and in 1920 it underwent major remodeling and the turret was removed. The property underwent further renovation after 1974. (Private residence, not open for tours)
Turn left onto 13th Street
29. VanWinkle-Hiteshew-Duranti House, 112 13th Street (on left)
The house was built around 1872 by Walling VanWinkle, an attorney, director of the B&O Railroad and prominent entrepreneur in early Parkersburg. Considerable remodeling and enlargements were done to the house around 1892 when electricity was installed. Intricate parquet floors of various woods are a feature of this structure. (Private residence, not open for tours)
30. Amiss-McCrary House, 111 13th Street (on right)
Constructed in 1872, the Queen Ann Victorian style home has a continuous theme, “A Southern Victorian Serenade” that features a lush Southern style décor. Beautiful woodwork, magnificent crown moldings and hardwood floors are found throughout the house along with several stained glass windows and fireplaces in each room. (Private residence, not open for tours)
31. Leach-Mason House, 104 13th Street (on left)
The Leach family purchased this land in 1800 and owned it for the next 154 years. The original dwelling, made of logs, was built in 1840 and expanded in 1867. Late Federal/Early Victorian style renovations have given the home its present appearance. It is famous as the turn of the century residence of Ann Leach, a young Parkersburg woman who gained fame as a New York newspaper reporter. (Private residence, not open for tours)
Turn right onto Ann Street
32. Riverview Cemetery (on right down Ann Street)
One of the oldest and most historic cemeteries in the area, this cemetery was started by the Cook family on land that was part of their farm. More distinguished Wood County citizens are buried here than in any other local cemetery. The list of famous names includes two West Virginia governors, Jacob B. Jackson and William E. Stevenson; one congressman; eight Parkersburg mayors; four clerks of the Wood County court; three Wood County sheriffs; six justices of the Wood County court and many early pioneers. Peter Van Winkle, one of the first United States Senators from West Virginia and the man who cast the deciding vote in the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, was interred here in 1872. The shaded paths of this cemetery provide interesting walks leading visitors to unique and striking nineteenth-century tombstones. One such marker is inscripted entirely in Chinese letters and another displays a sailing ship beautifully carved in bold relief.
Retrace your steps and proceed down Ann Street
33. VanWinkle-Wix House, 1209 Ann Street (on right)
This Gothic-type red brick structure, built before 1870 and currently nicknamed “The Castle,” was the home of the most important person to ever live in Parkersburg — Peter Godwin Van Winkle. Born in New York in 1808, he emigrated to Wood County and quickly rose to prominence practicing law. He held a number of offices including that of president of the Parkersburg Board of Trustees (equivalent to mayor), treasurer and president of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad Company and West Virginia House of Delegates. He was one of West Virginia’s first United States Senators (1863-1869) where he cast the deciding vote in President Andrew Johnson’s 1868 impeachment trial that acquitted Johnson and ruined Van Winkle’s career. A later owner greatly enlarged the structure by adding the wings and a third floor and reversing the stairwell. The home’s original front faced Murdoch Avenue, a more fashionable thoroughfare at that time than Ann Street. (Private residence, not open for tours)
34. Church-Currey House, 1208 Ann Street (on left)
Built in 1880 by M.C.C. Church, Civil War correspondent for the New York Tribune, and later a prominent oilman who built the first oil pipeline from the Volcano fields to Parkersburg, the house shows German and English influences. Artisans were brought from Europe to do stone work, lead glass windows and woodcarving. (Private residence, not open for tours)
35. McClandish-Samuel-Leonard House, 1121 Ann Street (on right)
This house is typical of the many homes built in the district during the Victorian era. Constructed around 1880 by J. R. McClandish, a prominent oil and gas speculator, the house features a variety of architectural styles including Queen Ann, Italianate and Greek Revival. The formal garden and privacy wall in the backyard are unique in the district. (Private residence, not open for tours)
36. Neale-Sams House, 1110 Ann Street (on left)
Built about 1875 by Joseph B. Neale, this home is a fine example of French Second Empire architecture with a Georgian interior. The ceilings are twelve feet high, and the third floor has a large ballroom. The double front doors are solid walnut. (Private residence, not open for tours)
37. McClandish-McCarter House, 1045 Ann Street (on right)
Douglas Putnam, a wealthy Marietta businessman, as a wedding present for his daughter, completed this Queen Anne style structure in 1884. Its interior is notable for its paneled woodwork, English winding stairways, fingered hardwood doorframes and hand carved mantles. Albert B. White, governor of West Virginia from 1901 to 1905 lived here. (Private residence, not open for tours)
38. Gerwig-Jones House, 1008 Ann Street (on left)
In 1891 this home was constructed by Edward Gerwig, a prominent businessman and civic leader, president of the Wood County Bank and partner in the firm of Bentley & Gerwig, whose furniture factory was located at 6th and Ann Streets. Exterior features are predominately Queen Anne with a late Victorian interior. (Private residence, not open for tours)
39. Kahn-Vaughan House, 1000 Ann Street (on left)
This Medieval Romantic style house, erected by S. Kahn circa 1890, features a multi-windowed round turret on the third floor. Stanley Vaughan, Sr. restored the residence. To the rear on West 10th Street is the Vaughan Funeral Home, originally the residence of Philip Neal. (Private residence, not open for tours)
Turn left onto 9th Street then right onto Market Street
40. First Baptist Church, 9th and Market Streets (on right)
Constructed in 1871-1876 under the direction of Lysander Dudley from a design of a church in Wallingford, Connecticut, his former home. The first meeting was held in the basement of the new church on January 2, 1872. Built at the height of the Italianate period, the church displays with excellent integrity the characteristics of that style.
41. Oeldorf-Smith Bulding, 809 Market Street (on right)
Now the home of J Wetherell Jewelers, the building was constructed in 1906. It includes a variety of classical motifs with cartouches and swags above the third story. The beautiful storefront is an outstanding first story feature.
42. Actor’s Guild Playhouse, 8th and Market Streets (on left)
Formerly built as a movie theater, the building was later modified to house a department store. After the store moved to another location, the building was purchased by a local volunteer group and returned to a theater for live performances.
43. Parkersburg Art Center, 8th and Market Street (on right)
Over the years, this building has served many purposes including a department store and a cafeteria. It was recently renovated as the new home of the Parkersburg Art Center. Besides a permanent exhibit, the center features rotating exhibits and large meeting room on the second floor. (Admission fee)
Turn left onto 8th Street and turn right onto Greene Street
44. Former Carnegie Library Building, 8th & Green Streets (on right)
Just one block off 7th Street on Green Street is the former Carnegie Public Library. Donated by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the building was completed in 1905. It served as the public library until the new facility was opened in 1976. The building features marble throughout including the exterior trim, spiral iron staircases to the book stacks and glass floor tile. The building was restored and now houses Trans Allegheny Books.
Turn right onto 7th Street and return to the CVB office and visitors center
OTHER NEARBY SITES OF INTEREST
Summerite African-American History Museum, 1016 Avery Street
In January 1862, seven black men established a free public school for their children. This was not only the first free public school for blacks in what is now West Virginia, but the first south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Sumner School, founded in 1874, was an outgrowth of the first school and became in 1955 the first West Virginia high school to be integrated. The original Sumner School building has been razed, but its 1926 gymnasium remains. In 1991, it was opened as the Sumnerite Museum, the first black museum in West Virginia. Its large number of displays include many old photographs, art, printed items and other relics including a “beaten biscuit machine” used by an early black caterer.
Holliday Cemetery, 6th Street and Gale Avenue
One of the most picturesque of Parkersburg’s old cemeteries, Holliday is located near the Little Kanawha River and has a deep ravine running through its center. Two sides are marked by stone walls constructed during the 1930s by CCC labor. The cemetery’s earliest known burials date to 1811. At least two other markers record burials in 1818. Lying in an unmarked grave is Ransom Reed, Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett’s favorite and most famous servant. A number of Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate, are buried in this small cemetery.
Quincy Park Overlook, Quincy Street with access from 8th or 13th Streets)
This neighborhood park includes an overlook that provides a scenic panoramic view of downtown Parkersburg, the Ohio River, Blennerhassett Island and the surrounding area. The park also has picnic facilities, grills and small playground.