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West Virginia Scenic Drives: Historic National Road

West Virginia Scenic Drives: Historic National Road

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West Virginia’s Historic National Road takes you on a trip through history. In 1863, West Virginia developed into a new state. The building where the Restored Government of Virginia was established is located along the byway; many important decisions and debates regarding the Civil War took place in this building. You can tour this historic site that has been painstakingly preserved and beautifully restored.

The Historic National Road boasts many impressive museums and art galleries. One of the most popular museums along the byway is the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum in Wheeling. The byway also features restored mansions, such as the Oglebay Institute Mansion Museum. This 16-mile attraction offers a high level of historic aesthetics and cleanliness. To make this route even more accommodating, you can find bike paths and paved trails through most of the byway’s highlights.

Come take a ride through the northern panhandle, and discover the remarkable heritage to be found in this narrow section of West Virginia.

The cultural qualities of the Historic National Road are many in number and offer diverse experiences. Two of perhaps the most meaningful include music (particularly Jamboree U.S.A.) and religion.

The Capitol Music Hall, located next to the famous Wheeling Suspension Bridge, is home to both Jamboree U.S.A. and the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. The Jamboree is the second-longest-running live radio program in America’s history. Since 1933, famous artists from all over the nation have their show aired live over the radio each Saturday night. It was founded with the idea of promoting the regional country music that is dear to the South. When the Jamboree first began, fans drove hundreds of miles for this weekly event. This tradition continues today, as many still drive great distances to participate in the yeehawin’ fun.

Religion has played a powerful role in shaping the communities along the byway. Places of worship dot this area, some with beautiful aesthetics and architecture. Churches along the route tell the story of the great diversity of those who traveled and settled here. You can view beautiful cemeteries near the churches with many monuments and headstones indicative of the artistry of earlier eras.

Historical Qualities of the Historic National Road

Without question, the historic qualities are the richest attribute this byway has to offer. With two national historic landmarks, numerous designated historic districts, and National Register structures, the Historic National Road had a great impact on not only West Virginia’s past, but on America’s, too.

The National Road Corridor Historic District consists of a variety of homes built by Wheeling’s wealthy industrial class. It also includes Wheeling Park, Greenwood Cemetery, and Mount Cavalry Cemetery.

In 1888, farms outside the city began to be developed as “suburbia.” The Woodsdale–Edgewood Neighborhood Historic District is a result of this type of development. The district contains many high-style houses, such as Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Shingle styles. As the route descends Wheeling Hill into the city of Wheeling, you enter the North Wheeling Historic District. Ebenezer Zane, the founder of Wheeling, laid out the Victorian district in 1792. The houses include a variety of simple Federal townhouses offset with the high styles of Italianate, Queen Anne, Second Empire, and Classical Revival architecture.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge crosses the Ohio River to Wheeling Island. The engineering marvel spans 1,010 feet and was the first bridge to cross the Ohio River. Designed by Charles Ellet, Jr., it was the longest single span in the United States at the time of its completion in 1849. You cross the bridge to get to Wheeling Island, one of the largest inhabited river islands in the country. The Wheeling Island Historic District includes a diverse collection of lavish 19th century residential homes.

The city of Wheeling has some of the world’s fastest canines in the races. This popular event is usually open every day.

Visitors go to Wheeling Downs to watch the races in person. These sleek thoroughbreds give quite a show as they thunder along at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. At Wheeling Downs, people can enjoy the luxury of attending the races while eating at a fine diner overlooking the track.

Length: 16 miles

Time to allow: Less than

one hour

States it runs through: West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania

Cities it runs through: Wheeling

Considerations: The byway is open all year, but many feel it is best to drive during the summer, the high season, when more cultural activities are taking place.


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