Natural gas, a byproduct of the creation of petroleum in the earth, also had use in nineteenth century western Virginia. As early as 1831, the Kanawha salt manufacturers were producing heat by using wooden pipes to move natural gas from wells. As oil production declined in the twentieth century, natural gas gained popularity as a more efficient and cost-effective option.
The Parkersburg Oil and Gas Museum explores the history and technologies of these fossil fuels in West Virginia, along with some history of the Civil War in this area.
The Museum is located in the historic W.H. Smith Hardware Company building, completed around 1900 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It retains unique, original features such as a historic Romanesque facade with the hand-painted sign, hardwood floors, light fixtures, hardware store shelving, and heating units. The Hardware Company was established in 1874 on this site and produced items for agriculture and industry; home items ranging from doors to stoves to roofing; and tools for blacksmiths, wagonmakers, and saddlers. The original building burned in August 1899 and the current structure built on the former's original foundations. The Hardware Company kept shop at this site until the 1980s when they moved out of downtown; they remain in business today.