"Civil War Trails" commemorative plaque
Tower School Sign
The Northwest Virginia Academy in 1843.
Towers Grade School.
Students from Towers School.
Color postcard of the Towers High School.
Backstory and Context
This site has a long history of educational use. In 1787, the Randolph Academy was chartered as the first academy west of the Allegheny Mountains. A building to house the school was completed in 1793 before officially opening in 1795. Reverend George Towers, who was a graduate of the University of Oxford, England, served as the school’s first tutor until his death in 1816. Reverend Towers was a Presbyterian minister and advocate for the education of young people. Randolph Academy was the principal regional school from 1795 to 1843. However, the school often had problems finding teachers during this time, and the school’s physical condition was poor as well. By 1841, the condition of the building was so poor that the Board of Education opted to sell the property to the Northwestern Virginia Academy with the condition that the building be demolished.
Northwestern Virginia Academy constructed a new building on this site in the early 1840s. Reverend Gordon Battelle, who would later help found West Virginia, presided as principal of the academy from 1843 to 1851. In the spring of 1853, the board of trustees added a female department to the school that was overseen by Reverend Richard A. Arthur. Enrollment for the 1855-1856 term included 130 male students and 99 female students. This was a total of 229 students led by 5 teachers, or a 45 to 1 ratio. During the Civil War, the school was used as a barracks, hospital, and guard house. After the war, the school did not reopen, but offered private schooling. In 1888, Clarksburg High School was founded and used the Northwestern Virginia Academy building until 1894. During this time, two more rooms were added to the western end of the building.
In 1894, after fifty years of service, the Northwestern Virginia Academy structure was demolished due to structural safety concerns. A new building, the Towers School, was constructed on the site of the Northwestern Virginia Academy in 1895. The school was named for George Towers, the aforementioned first tutor in Randolph County. The institution served as a Clarksburg public school and was funded with donated materials and money. The total cost of the project was $25,000 — approximately $800,000 adjusted for inflation. The building was designed by M. P. Geisy with John Shrake Company from New Matamoras, Ohio carrying out construction. As a Romanesque-Vicorian building, the school reflected the popular architectural styles of the time. The first floor was equipped with a large hall that separated two classrooms on the left and a room called the chapel on the right. The second floor was divided into five classrooms. As a whole, the two-story brick building was 71 by 44 feet and topped with a cupola.
The Tower School’s time as a high school was short-lived. In 1913, the school was converted into an elementary school. It continued to serve this function throughout most of the twentieth century. A historical marker was erected by the West Virginia Department of Culture and History in 1980 in recognition of the school’s contributions to public education in Clarksburg. In the mid 1990s, Towers School was demolished and no new building has been erected at this site.
Cork, Tim and Judy Cork. Clarksburg Schools. Accessed March 24th 2021. http://clarksburg-myhometown.blogspot.com/p/schools.html.
The History of Education in West Virginia. Revised Edition. Charleston, WV. Tribune Printing Company, 1907.
Pauley, Michael J. Downtown Clarksburg Historic District, National Register of Historic Places. July 19th 1982. Accessed March 23rd 2021. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/ce68bc09-5ff0-4266-8041-89c13538848d.
Washington Irving H.S. 100 Years of Education, Harrison County Historical Society. Winter 2014. Accessed March 23rd 2021. http://www.harrisoncowvhistoricalsociety.org/uploads/1/2/3/8/12382667/1_hchs_newsletter_1-23-2014.pdf.
Harrison County Historical Society.