Posts Tagged With: WV historic locations

Volunteers Impact the Future of The Golden Rule Building.

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Often time’s volunteers don’t get to see the impact they have on a project. This is not the case with the volunteers who have helped begin the redevelopment of The Golden Rule building in Belington,WV this spring. Over 32 volunteers have spent over 220 hours donating their time and skills to bringing the 116 year old building back to life.

The Golden Rule volunteers have worked on everything from painting murals for the buildings windows while the frames are restored, to helping to remove up to 6,000 pounds of garbage, and pulling up over 6,000 square feet of old carpet and linoleum on the first floor. The work is hard and dirty but that does not seem to slow the volunteers down.

.logan and Patrick AmeriCorps members volunteer to toss out 4,000 pounds of trash

AmeriCorps Service members volunteer to help remove trash from the Golden Rule: Patrick Facemire and Logan McDonald AFHA 2018 service members.

AmeriCorps volunteers at the GR volunteer day

AmeriCorps Service Member and Preservation Alliance of West Virginia members volunteer to remove linoleum: Sarah Heuer a Elizabeth Satterfield.

Many of the volunteers are local church members who have an interest in community service but others like Mary Streets, of Belington, remembers her husband working at the Golden Rule in the 60’s and 70’s. She wants to see the building reopen and be an important part of the downtown area again. Mary spent her 83rd birthday with her daughter Stacy Streets and other volunteers at the building on July 21st of this year.

After a long hot afternoon working, I asked Mary about why she spent her birthday with us at the Golden Rule Building. She shared that the Golden Rule was full of good memories for her. She said, “It was nice to come back and visit a place where she often shopped and bought things for her kids.” She went on to say,  “My husband worked here for many years and we all felt like family here.” She was the most joyous member of our volunteer crew and explained that she was happy to be part of the rehabilitation that would make her home town a better place.

Mary and Stacy Streets at Golden Rule.Mary Streets and Daughter Stacy Streets help to clean debris at the Golden Rule.

Volunteers like Terri Kittle from the Belington Revitalization Committee have worked for 6 years trying to get the historic building redeveloped. Terri, head of the committee is passionate about the building and its future for Belington. Terri says, “The Golden Rule is vital to bringing downtown back to life. So working with Woodlands Development Group a non-profit developer in the region just made since.”

Woodlands Development Group purchased the building in April of 2018 and the work to clean out the building began a few weeks later. Dustin Smith project manager says “The Golden Rule project is a unique case when it comes to volunteerism; it is not often that we use volunteers but everyone is so interested in the project that we are happy to have the help.”

Volunteers clean out first floor of the GR

Volunteers from Mountain Valley Bank of Elkins work with Missionaries from the Church of Latter Day Saints

Volunteer days will continue throughout the next few months until the Open House that will include refreshments, tours and discussions about planes for the building. Many of the antique items found in the building will be on display and some will be for sale to the public. The Open House is planned for Saturday, Sept. 15th at the building at 122 Crim Ave. in Belington.

It is hoped that the volunteers that have worked on the project will come to the open house to share their experiences with the community and celebrate their hand in making the Golden Rule a better place for everyone in the community.

May 2018 mess first floor of the GR

Before photo of the main floor of the Golden Rule Building taken a week after purchase in May 2018

This is the after photo of the main floor after two volunteer days and hundreds of hours of sorting, tearing up flooring and removing trash.

Clean first floor of the Golden Rule before demo

The success of this project has been a grass-roots effort and will continue to be for the next few months. We had a wonderful turn out for the Golden Rule Open House with about 75 visitors stop to learn about the project or take a tour. It is hoped that new construction will begin at the start of the new year and we will have some work on the 10 upper story apartments done by summer. The Main floor will have a new elevator and a new fire safe stair well installed over the course of the next two years. Then a train depot, ticket counter with a coffee shop and retail space will be the last to be built-in the front of the first floor space.

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Building rehabilitation, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Trash to treasure, Uncategorized, volunteering | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A year after the 1,000 year flood in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

Having the opportunity to travel to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia a year after the 1,000 year flood,the 3rd most deadly flood in the state’s history was eye-opening. The resolve of the people who call this area home, the love and compassion they have and the amount of work that has been done since that day in June 2016 is amazing.

These are the images the country had seen for days in the wake of the flooding in Southern West Virginia. This YouTube Video shows the complete devastation one family experienced as their home not only was flooded but floated away while on fire. The small stream the usually quietly trickles water through downtown that day became a rushing raging deadly river.

 

These are photos taken that same day in different location in the downtown.

 

The flood almost wiped the town from our memory that day. The famous Greenbrier Hotel  resort became the main shelter for many of the effected residence. Rooms that often cost $ 600.00 dollars a night  or more became home for over 200 people for about two months while crews worked to do clean up. Many of my work friends became FEMA volunteers and coordinators helping to dig out privet homes where the nation guard was unable work.

These are the photos I took less than 14 months later.

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a pole sign the greets everyone on main street near the memorial park.

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The white gazebos that sits at the entry to the memorial park from the street.

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memorial informational sign

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Stone memorial wall left side with names of those who were lost to the flood waters. Eight names and markers 4 on each side were recessed into a grass covered mound in the small downtown park.

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Christopher and Tom walk over the bridge at Howard’s Creek. This bridge was under 5′  of water during the flood. Christopher would have been completely underwater.

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Howard’s Creek the stream that  flooded the town of White Sulphur Springs June of 2016.

 

As my family walked the quite downtown. It was true that many of the shops are still closed.That many of the stores did not have insurance and were wiped out, but today you see these wonderful signs of hope, strength and courage. This place is ready for a renewal, ready to come back to life again. Every thing is clean, every place has taken on what they can to make their town look beautiful. The streets are lined with flowers, benches and trash cans have fresh paint and patio umbrellas dot the sidewalks to eat under.  We felt welcome and wanted in their downtown.

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Alfredo’s Italian & Greek Family Restaurant on main street White Sulphur Springs.

You can not tell the story of White Sulphur Springs without showing  the Greenbrier Hotel. Many come to the area just to visit the historic building circa 1778. It is one of West Virginia true treasures and I was over joyed to be able to spend some time visiting at the hotel.

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Flower beds in the entry parking area of the Greenbrier Hotel Resort 2017

The main flooding to the property was on the hotels golf course so the main build and the rooms of the hotel were free from damage. The 1778 hotel sits high enough on hill at the edge of town to escape the flooding. Making the owner Governor Jim Justice a hero to many who lost everything and were able to have a safe place to stay for a month or two while clean up and recover efforts were underway.

Some outsiders say “if it was not for the Greenbrier the town would have never recovered fully , they are a rich town”… I can’t disagree more. The people of White Sulphur Springs are why the town is slowly rebounding. It is apparent that they want their town back and are willing to work very hard to have the town to thrive again. It takes more than one hotel to get the schools back up and running, it takes more then just tossing money at a mud puddle to clean up block after block of flooded stores, it takes more then a Governor to declare his business a shelter to build a park and make memorials to those who died that day.

White Sulphur Springs is also home to my friends at The Barnwood Builders T.V. show. So just in case you were wondering… Yes, they have their showroom on main street it is called  Barnwood Living. Yes, they are doing all they can to help the town with their business and the donation of a log structure that will be used at a pick nick pavilion for the whole community to enjoy. They also helped do some construction at Hope Village, a community owned and planned subdivision that was built to move families out of the flood plain of the White Sulphur Springs up on a hill where they will always be safe.  They are proud of their home and are working for its successful future. I remain a fan of the show and loved shopping in their store.

White Sulphur Springs is an example of West Virginians commitment to community, family and hard work.The old saying, “she could make a silk purse from a sows ear” might be fitting. Some how the people have taken the worst of a situation and made something better for everyone. My only hope is to return to see what they do to improve in the next year!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barnwood Builders, community service, Country life, Flooding, Greenbier Hotel, historic locations, Uncategorized, White Sulphur Springs | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Lost Creek, West Virginia Depot Restoration is Complete 2015

Owned by the local branch of the “Lions Club” the Lost Creek rail road depot got a grant and a face lift in 2015. The Depot has always had a place in my heart, maybe because both my boy love trains or maybe because of the fact that I love old buildings, but when I began to see the work being done here I was so happy.

Lost Creek, WV, Depot Christmas 2015 restoration is complete

Lost Creek, WV, Depot from 1892,restoration is complete 2015

Lost Creek Depot Historical sign

Lost Creek Depot Historical sign

Sometimes a place that you see everyday just becomes a blur and you forget about how wonderful it is and forget the fact it is an important place in it the community. This little depot in a tiny West Virginia town called Lost Creek, is one of those kind of places. In the twenty some years that I have been traveling to Lost Creek I have seen this building only repainted once. Below is the before photo I found on the internet. This is how passing motorist have seen the depot for at least 10 years and you can see why it needed restored. The weather and water damage took its toll on the little building. At one time the Lions Club used the building to sell crafts and Christmas tree as fund-raisers but over the last few years the depot had fallen into such bad disrepair that the doors closed year round.

Lost Creek Depot before restoration had begone this fall 2015

Lost Creek Depot before restoration had begone this fall 2015

Now after Govern Earl Ray Tomblin added the structure to his list of grant recipients and awarded $40,000 through the Transportation Alternatives,Recreational Trails Program we can see what a beautiful place a depot can be.

I was able to watch the progress of the construction over the last part of this year and each time I made a trip to Lost Creek I notices more of the work being completed. It is a joyful thing to see another building on the states register of Historic places getting the restoration it badly needed. It has made a huge improvement to the small towns downtown and has added another interesting stop on the Harrison County rails to trails program. I hope in the near future to see the depot open again for fund-raisers and community festivals like it was 20 years ago,when I bought a cup of hot apple cider from the Lions Club during a Christmas street fair.

Lost Creek, West Virginia restored depot window with Christmas decor

Lost Creek, West Virginia restored depot window with Christmas decor

street view of the Lost Creek Depot and snowman 2015

street view of the Lost Creek Depot and snowman 2015

It is hard to believe that this depot was once a busy place and that millions of dollars passed through its door and docks during the late 1800’s. That at one time Lost Creek was on the main train line of the B&O railroad and a busy trolley stop for the larger cities north of here. Because today the town’s population is around 500 and there are only a few grand homes and business left from the time period makes it even more important to save some of the  local history of one of Americas most beautiful small towns.

 

Categories: Country life, Depot, Harrison County, historic locations, Lost Creek West Virginia, nostalgic, Photos, trains | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Deep Under Ground, Seneca Caverns Pendelton, WV

At the top of a mountain is the opening into the earth that leads to Seneca Caverns. I have always been fond of tunnels, caves and any old, deep dark place. My husband is of coal miners blood and he too likes the closeness and beauty that is found in places that make you feel the earth wrap her arms around you. Here in West Virginia it seems only natural to mine the ground, drill through rock and go caving, because we are so close to heaven already the only other place to go….. is down.

Mineral Stained Columns , Stalagmites and Stalactites, Seneca Caverns, WV

Mineral Stained Columns , Stalagmites and Stalactites, Seneca Caverns, WV

Seneca Caverns are one of around 100 limestone caves that spread along the Appalachian ridge tops of Pendleton County. The caves range in size from shallow to very wide and deep. Seneca Cavern only reaches 165 feet into the cool earth but is quite long and the path can be twisty. It was first used by the Seneca Indians around 1400 as a shelter and ceremonial center. The cave was then officially explored in 1742 by German settler Laven Teter while trying to find a water source for his family and cattle. The property and cave remained in the Teter family until the late 1920’s when it was sold and the cave reopened to the public in 1930. Not much has changed since the discovery of the cave in the 1700’s. The only additions are the walking path, handrails and lights to make it easier for visitors to see the fantastic mineral formations.

Seneca Caverns' Restaurant and mountain view, Riverton, WV

Seneca Caverns’ Restaurant and mountain view, Riverton, WV

Once below ground the air is cool and damp giving my family a nice break from the hot summer day that we visited. The temperature inside the cave is stable 54 degrees unless over the small pool in the end of the cave where the temperature sometimes drops to 49…. a little cool. Guides recommend jackets for those who get cold easily. This day Christopher was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and began to complain that he was cold over the pool. It is hard to believe that the pool (the coldest portion of the tour) is only feet from the outside world that was a toasty 85 degrees. Before doors  covered the exit portion of the cave it was not uncommon to find deer and other animals drinking from the cool water and staying in the shade of the cave.

Christopher Powers 165 feet underground at Seneca Caverns, WV

Christopher Powers 165 feet underground at Seneca Caverns, WV

This cave is small and low unlike other caves that are known for the high ceilings and wide views. It has some taller rooms but it is wise to wear the hard hat that guides require to enter the cave. Even I hit my head while passing from one room to the next. At 5’8″ I am too tall to not lean over in several places. I also recommend that people who are claustrophobic skip this tour and take another one. Some rooms are small and passages tight… very tight. So tight that a man of 6 foot and in the weight range of 220 fits but it could be a squeeze if you are heavier.

looking down on main room used by Indians at Seneca Caverns, Wv

looking down on main room used by Indians at Seneca Caverns, WV

The tour takes around an hour with groups of 10 to 15 in the summer. The first few rooms are tall and wide and as the tour progresses the unique features of the cave get closer and tighter. You are asked not to touch any of the formations because of the slow growth of the stalagmites and stalactites, some taking centuries to grow a few inches, yet the crowed passages almost force you to touch the wet walls.

Flowstone formation Seneca Caverns

Flow stone formation Seneca Caverns

 

Dripping Ceiling Formation at Seneca Caverns

Dripping Ceiling Formation at Seneca Caverns

Popcorn Walls Seneca Caverns, Wv

Popcorn Walls Seneca Caverns, WV

Floors are WET! Beware if you wear Crocs! I should have worn any other kind of shoe on the planet. Well maybe not flip-flops but the floors are slick and there lots of stairs to go up and down. I am thankful the stairs are a rough concrete so I at least had a chance to keep my balance. I never did fall but it was a constant worry.

3/4 of the way through the cave you drop to its lowest point at 165 feet below ground level. The room is commonly called  Hell’s Kitchen.The room is small ( maybe the size of a compact car) but has a high and narrow opening almost to the surface. The view up reminds you of a stove-pipe or chimney. It is also one of last rooms that has evidence of use by the Seneca Indians. Making it a great place for ghost stories and interesting views.

Hell's Kitchens Chimney Formation, Seneca Cavern, WV

Hell’s Kitchens Chimney Formation, Seneca Cavern, WV

Then my favorite portion of the tour is the formations that look like a fairyland. These formations are Calcite and sparkle in the low light… I think they look like snow or ice frozen deep under ground.

Calcite formations that look like frozen waterfalls at Seneca Caverns, Wv

Calcite formations that look like frozen waterfalls at Seneca Caverns, WV

Calcite Stalagmite Seneca Caverns, Wv

Calcite Stalagmite Seneca Caverns, WV

Then for dramatic effect some of the formations are back-lit to show off the true strangeness of the world underground.

limestone formations

limestone formations

Red lights on drip formations at Seneca Caverns

Red lights on drip formations at Seneca Caverns

Finally the tour ends with all us slowly crossing a narrow foot bridge over the pool of water that Laven Teter was looking for. In his months of exploring the cave Teter finally found the small pool hundreds of yards from the opening where we also ended our journey. Had he continued through the pool to the other side he would have found a small exit way only 20 feet from the pools edge. Where his livestock could get water with little effort.

We return to world of light and heat, I think each of us moaned with dread.The sun was bright, the heat and humidity unbearable.Our eyes had become very accustomed to the dim lighting and dark paths, our bodies liked the cool dampness of the cave. I see where being a hermit in a cave could be very comfortable in the hot humid West Virginia summers. My family really enjoyed the tour and finished up with a stop at the restaurant for some hand dipped ice cream.

As we had only a few more hours to get to our campsite we left the small park and headed back to the main road to continue our trip. In passing we stopped at a road side memorial in Riverton. The stones and flags looked new and I wondered if by some chance it was for climbers, hunters or Veteran’s who had lost their lives near by…. what we found was shocking and kind of creepy.

Riverton Battle Memorial with two flags

Riverton Battle Memorial with two flags

We walk up to the stone to get a better look and read the inscription.

Inscription on the Battle of Riverton stone

Inscription on the Battle of Riverton Stone

The stone tells of two men who died at the battle and one of them shares my husband’s name…… We have family that have lived in Randolph county but did not know of any who lived in Pendleton County. How strange It felt taking this photo, Tom standing next to the stone with his name inscribed on it from 1862.

Thomas Powers at the Battle of Riverton memorial for Thomas Powers

Thomas Powers at the Battle of Riverton memorial for Thomas Powers

Also unique is the fact that  my husband, his father and his grand father were all name Thomas Powers along with this man. All but one was a Veteran of a war, proving that Thomas Powers is a great name for any one who wants to serve our country! What a cool way to end our trip to Seneca Caverns, seeing this made both of us feel like we are  a part of these mountains and caves ,that we have roots the run deeper than any Cavern.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Caves and Caverns, family fun, photo review, Seneca Caverns, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

For My Love of Bridges: Wheeling Island and Walkersville Covered Bridge

 

Wheeling Island Bridge deck and walkways

Wheeling Island Bridge deck and walkways

So as a creative person who loves to take photos almost more than any other free time activity,I spend a lot of time thinking about where and what I will take photos. Ten years ago I found my muse. Unlike some photographers  I do not take a lot of photos of humans or love to trek into the wilderness to find beautiful vistas or take photos of the night sky with a million stars. I can’t help it, I love to photograph bridges.

This summer I actually spent some time with two historic bridges here in West Virginia and wanted to add them to the collection of photos I have of them. Then if that is not strange enough… my husband recently started work for the State Wide Bridge Department for the Dept of  Highways here in WV. So I get to fallow him around our state taking more photos of bridges he works on and in the surrounding area of his locations. My love affair always seems to lead to him!

So I wanted to share some photos of where we have been this summer and what I have seen. My first stop was to see the oldest suspension bridge that is still open to traffic in the United States. The bridge passes over the Ohio River and connects Wheeling Island to the main city of Wheeling, West Virginia and the state of  Ohio. The Island is a large populated island in the Ohio River with a wonderful history of flooding and escaping the river. Bridge construction completed in 1849 and has been in continuous use ever since. The bridge looks almost the same as it appeared in the 1800 except for the decking was changed in the 1950’s to better deal with the problem of swing caused by the wind and traffic.

Stone Pier of the Wheeling Island Bridge, Island side.

Stone Pier of the Wheeling Island Bridge, Island side.

It is one of my favorite bridges so far because the bridge design has always included the two side walks you see in the upper photo… Meaning I get to walk across the 1010 foot span of the bridge and not get stuck on the road way to take photos and I get to feel the strong cables that hold me above the cold water of the Ohio. I spent some time imagining the many families who would walk the bridge in the early 1900’s to get to the city to buy necessities for their family every week. Then make the return trip before dark with tired children and arms full of produce and meats. The view from the bridge is lovely, it shows off the Ohio River Valley and some of the  historic homes of Wheeling island.

Barge moving slowly up the Ohio River from Wheeling to Wirton West Virginia

Barge moving slowly North up the Ohio River from Wheeling to Wierton West Virginia

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New Life Church on the bank of the Ohio River on Wheeling Island… and my little silver car!

The bridge drops you on Main Street in downtown Wheeling and only about a block from the Capital Theater.  It is West Virginia’s largest and oldest theaters… and a career starting point of Brad Paisley’s musical life. It is beautiful and worth it to stop to enjoy its charm and if you are lucky see a show.

Front of Capitol Theatre, Wheeling West Virginia

Front of Capitol Theater/ Theatre, Wheeling West Virginia

Pediment of Capitol Theatre/ Theater, Wheeling WV

Pediment of Capitol Theatre/ Theater, Wheeling WV

The Bridge and Wheeling island are nice reason for a trip to downtown Wheeling. There are so many beautiful places hidden in the old down town area. I hope to spend more time walking the city streets at some point but for this trip the National road and Wheeling Island bridge were a great way to spend the afternoon.

The other bridge the my family stopped to take photos is not far from our home and is one of 17 restored Covered Bridges that remain in West Virginia. This one is pretty small in comparison to others, but It is still a wonderful place to enjoy the views. The Walkersville Covered Bridge is in the southern part of Lewis County in the North Central Region of the state. It crosses the Right Fork of the West Fork River and passes through several small communities. The bridge is a 39 feet 4 inches long and constructed in 1903 to help passage of farmers from their farms to the city of Weston. My family passes the bridge quite often and I love to stop and walk on the wooden trusses and wonder what it would have been like to drive a team of horse with a wagon through the bridge.

The bridge is off the main road and gets very little traffic. The bridge and the surrounding small farms and pastures make it a perfect country setting for photos.

front of the Walkersville Covered Bridge in Lewis County West Virginia

front of the Walkersville Covered Bridge in Lewis County West Virginia.

South side of Walkersville Covered Bridge in Lewis County, WV

South side of Walkersville Covered Bridge in Lewis County, WV

This last photo I took is my favorite of the collection. The inside view makes me think of all the “Sleepy Hallow” movies that I have loved through out my life. To ride a horse through the bridge on a cool foggy early morning would just make this little bridge come to life for me.

Inside View of the Walkersville Covered Bridge

Inside View of the Walkersville Covered Bridge.

The day we stopped to see the bridge the farm next door was taking a lunch break from bailing hay on the hot afternoon. I just could not keep myself from taking a photo of the tractor and bailer at rest for a short time in the field.

lunch time on the farm during hay season

lunch time on the farm during hay season.

The covered bridge will be part of a seasonal series that I hope to make. Because the bridge is so close to my home I can take time during winter and fall to try to capture some of the beauty that nature adds to such an old structure. I hope to grow my photo collection over the next couple of years and share them through a calendar at some point.

 

 

Categories: bridges, nostalgic, photo review, Photos, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Happy unbirthday party at Moundsville State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

prisoner art work inside family meeting area of Moundsvill state Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

prisoner art work inside family meeting area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

The un-birthday has been a family tradition of ours for at least 18 years although I did not know that was the term until recently. A fellow blogger Lori at www.waldorfmoms.com  had written about her sons lack of birthday party due to his allergies to glueton and dairy. The traditional american birthday includes cake and ice cream both things he can’t have in the traditional form so they went on a trip instead and eat fruit, vegetables, rice and fish.

veiw of Moundsville State Penitentuary, Moundsville, West Virginia

veiw of Moundsville State Penitentuary, Moundsville, West Virginia

In my case I just hate birthday parties, I am not a hostess at heart. So my children and husband  have learned to do other things instead of renting a hall, buying cake that no one really likes anyway and eating pizza.The whole processes is just UN-FUN for me. So when Cody was little we just started to doing other things for his birthday. Tom didn’t seem to care so the tradition started to travel, explore and seek new things on the one day in the world that is truly yours. I picked the Moundsville Prison Tour as our UN-Party location this year. I love a good murder mystery and ghost story so this is the perfect place to hang out for the afternoon of my birthday.

custom made front entry door for Moundsvill state prison

custom-made front entry door for Moundsville state prison

We took the tour and learned a lot about the huge Gothic structure and about inmates that lived in the prison. The Prison opened in 1876 with 251 inmates who actually help build the buildings and reached a max capacity of almost 2000 in the late 7o’s. Riots and federal laws changed and by 1996 at the closing of the institution their were around 600 to 700 inside the 5 foot thick walls. The history of the penitentiary is a mix of executions, murders and Charles Manson stories.

Cell in high security area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, site of worst murder in thier history

Cell in high security area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, site of worst murder in their history

94 inmates lost their lives to executions inside the grounds of  the prison 85 hung and 9 died by electrocutions. The hangings were frist thought to take place inside the frist building on the property The Wagon Gate and later moved to an outdoor gallows that later became the recreation yard for some of the most violent criminals. The gallows disturbed inmates who spent hours every day looking at them and were eventually removed.

frist structure at Moundsvill state penitentiary.. used as housing and sight of hangings

first structure at Moundsville state penitentiary.. used as housing and sight of hangings

trap door in the wagon gates ceiling moundsville prison

The prison boasts 36 recorded Homicides inside the prisons walls. Most being prisoners against prisoner but some assaults were against state employees who were over taken while performing their duties.  The prison has its own cemetery with simple markers for the bodies of those whom no one came to clam.The highest death tolls taking place during the 3 riots that occurred at the prison. The one in 1986, last 5 days, resolved only after the governor of West Virginia ( Arch Moore) came in person to  the prison grounds.

door into the location of the worst prison riot location at Moundsville

door into the location of the worst prison riot location at Moundsville

It was also this prison that the most notorious prisoner of all, Charles Manson wanted to call home in the late 80’s. The prison displays the original letter that Manson wrote to the then Warden. The letter explains that Manson would like to return home to West Virginia to serve his remaining time in jail. Yea, he and most of his family were from an area near Wheeling and close to Moundsville. The website  Charlie. com  http://www.charliemanson.com/places/lb-moundsville.htm

has a wonderful photo spread of the letter on their website and more information about his past. While our tour group spend time in the “Yard” our tour guide also informed us that Charles Manson lived with his aunt and uncle from about age of 5 to 15, as his mother was also incarcerated most of his youth. Really, are any of us surprised over this information. The tour guide informed us that Charles’ mom had arm robbed a gas station in the Charleston area of West Virginia and was in a prison in the southern part of the state for 10 years.  How crazy is that; puts a new spin on the words”criminal family”.

Christopher and I hanging out in a padded cell at Moundsville state Penitentiary

Christopher and I hanging out in a padded cell at Moundsville state Penitentiary

After spending time inside this chain linked high security area of the prison, I now know that most criminals were generally housed like animals early in the 20th century.  I am not sure how I feel about it really, creeped out yes, but deep inside I wonder if you act like an animal, people generally just see you as one also. Making it very hard for the justice system to “want” to improve things. The cells are very small measuring 5′ by 7′ with three inmates in each one. Looking very similar to the dog kennels that we all see at the local ASPCA or pound. The most violent inmates eat in their cells, used the toilet in their cells and slept in them. Two hours a day these violent criminals gained accesses to exercise in caged area within the high walled yard.

The small exerice area for the worst criminals inside the walled yard at Moundsville State Penitentiary

The small exercise area for the worst criminals inside the walled yard at Moundsville State Penitentiary

Christopher and Paige playing in the large "yard" at the prison

Christopher and Paige playing in the large “yard” at the prison

The Capel inside the "yard' at Moundsville state Penitentiary

The Capel inside the “yard’ at Moundsville state Penitentiary

 

For those who were the most unfortunate solitary confinement was actually in the basement of the main building. The “Hole” was really a hole, deep, dark and dank. I did not attempt to explore the area and was not sure if it was even allowed but some looked into the boiler room and holding areas. If it was any worse than what I already shared with my family above ground it must have been one step from hell. Loud boiler fires roaring, the creaking of hot pipes,sounds of men shoveling loads of coal into the hole and into the boiler. Darkness that was unending, no natural light passing through anything like a window. Mice, rats and roaches and who knows what else would slither into the basement for warmth in the winters. A hole in the floor for you bodily functions. Nothing at all like our world of light and freedom.

vistitor looking into basement area / solitary confinment area of administration building at moundsville Penitentiary

visitor looking into basement area / solitary confinement area of administration building at Moundsville Penitentiary

back of main gate, home of wardon and family, administration building. Moundsvill State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

back of main gate, home of warden and family, administration building. Moundsvill State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

 

I found the whole experience moving but not in the way I expected. I had come to see the cells of the TV shows and movies I had seen in the past. I came to see what incarceration meant, I left in confusion. I saw where guards lost their lives and others lost dreams because of the violence inside the castles walls. I walked through community shower halls where men got washed down like cattle to the slaughter. I stood on the bottom floor of four stories of cells packed with 600 men looking out on to a wall of nothingness. I viewed works of art and murals that took hours to paint and great skills to make, wasted on the walls of this institution. I knew that prison life was not some thing I ever wanted experience,but grown adults made choices everyday to return to this system of living. They would return over and over to having nothing and being nothing to the outside world. I learned how some families survived this place and how men had visits from their wives and children through walls and windows always watched by an armed guards. I wondered how their conversations went.

Shower "hall" below three stories of overlooking cells. regular inmate cell block moundvills state Penitentuary

Shower “hall” below three stories of overlooking cells. regular inmate cell block Moundsville state Penitentiary

4 stories of cells in regular cell block home to about 600 prisoners. Moundsville prison, Moundsvill, West Virginia

Gaurds gun used in the visitor are of prison

Guards gun used in the visitor are of prison

inmate art work one of several painted inside new caffiteria

Finally the most disturbing thing of all was the view from the front gates of the prison. The homes built not 300 yards from the fence that surrounds the castle. Families lived in rows of 1940 and 1950’s homes, all with in the reach of hundreds of damaged lives.  To my shock there is an elementary school within three blocks of the leaving the penitentiary property. I find that just so strange. Why, in the middle of very rural West Virginia did some city planner think  this was a good idea.  From what I gathered on our tour, inmates escaped at least 4 times and one escape was of 15 men. The escape of the 15 men took place in 1986 during the day and after that elementary school was in use. This to me was the most disturbing part of the entire trip. You drive through a typical residential area, then arrive at the parking area across from the prison. The neighborhood is in good shape,although old and is homey and seems very happy to have the tourists stopping in to get ice cream at a locals ice cream parlor.

community of Moundsville, West Virginia taken across the street from the prison.

community of Moundsville, West Virginia taken across the street from the prison.

Front view of the Big Dipper icecream parlor

Front view of the Big Dipper icecream parlor

 

Christopher eating at the Big Dipper ice cream parlor across from the prison, Moundsville, West Virginia

In the end the beauty of the building alone is worth the trip to see it. The community surrounding the relic is friendly with restaurants and small shops. Yet, after seeing inside the prison a person can not help feeling differently about the majestic structure. It is a prison and  it is nothing more than creepy and sad. Our country still has no better way to remove the most violent from society then the prison system. This tour really shows off where we started in the containment, control and rehabilitation of our criminals. This was one of the most educational and emotionally driven un-birthday trips ever. My family never even thought about doing the haunted tours and paranormal investigations that they also offer at the prison but here is the link to their website for more information about tours and spectacle events. http://www.wvpentours.com/tours_dailytours.htm.

I will try to return to the prison again. I aim for a less busy day next time and maybe I will be without the 3 and 5 year olds. I didn’t get enough time to see the letter from Manson and I wanted better photos of their electric chair but over all it was worth every penny and I highly recommend the trip to anyone.

Categories: Birthday, family fun, Moundsville State Penitentiary, State Park activities, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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