Shotwell Hall, West Liberty University
Main Hall was constructed in 1926.
Early aerial photo of West Liberty showing Shaw Hall (center) and the earliest sections of Main Hall.
A postcard from the 1930s showing Shaw Hall (right) and the President's Mansion (center).
Main Hall viewed from Main Entrance to campus. (Photo courtesy of Susan Jones)
Shaw Hall (Photo courtesy of Susan Jones)
Shotwell Hall (Photo courtesy of Susan Jones)
View of the Hall of Fine Arts across the "Quad" from Main Hall. (Photo courtesy of Susan Jones)
Aerial view of West Liberty University (Photo courtesy of WLU)
Backstory and Context
The first academy of higher education in this part of what would become West Virginia was established by a charter from the Virginia legislature on March 30, 1837. This private subscription school met in Shotwell's West Liberty home the following year. While most subscription schools were short-lived, this school evolved and grew in the subsequent decades. Classes were held in private homes and rented spaces until the construction of Academy Hall in 1857, a building that remained standing until the 1970s. The academy was nearly closed or relocated on several occasions, but it survived largely owing to its reputation for training teachers and became an official state normal school before becoming a state college. In 2009, West Liberty was granted university status and today it offers more than 70 programs of study for a student body that fluctuates between two thousand and twenty-five hundred full-time students.
In an 1859 school catalog there was allowance for both male and female students although the coursework was based on gender with boys studying Latin, Greek and philosophy and girls studying literature, writing and geography. Both groups worshiped together on the Sabbath. Housing was done privately in the town. The first dormitories were not built until the 1920s.
Following the American Civil War the school became a Normal school, focusing on preparing teachers for the greater demand for education. The current campus was developed during the 1920s on farmland that was just south of the Academy Hall building. Main Hall was the central building. In 1931, the school changed its name to West Liberty State Teachers College. In 1938 a branch campus opened in Wheeling. It would later become known as West Virginia Northern Community College.
During WWII the hilltop campus became known as West Liberty State College and saw its highest enrollment due to the GI Bill. Many additional academic buildings and dormitories were added to the campus during the 1960s to accommodate the baby-boom generation.
In recent years, the campus has seen numerous new buildings including dormitories, laboratories, and athletic facilities. The campus includes nine academic buildings, seven residential buildings, two cafeterias, and additional office and athletic facilities. The university serves over 2300 students from 27 different states and 23 countries from around the world. West Liberty also opened a secondary campus in Triadelphia at The Highlands.
West Liberty's Shotwell Hall and Shaw Hall are both listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Shaw Hall was built in 1919 and served as a women's dorm. The Neoclassical designed building was the first building on campus and the only dormitory on campus until Shotwell Hall was added as a men's dormitory in 1937. Shotwell Hall was designed by noted Wheeling architect Frederick F. Ferris. The design was Colonial Revival and was built during the Great Depression as part of a PWA project. It was named for the college's founding father, Rev. Nathan Shotwell.
Top alumni include Brigadier General George C. Allen, radio talk show host Chris Booker, professional body builder Erik Fankhouser, Major League Baseball pitcher Joe Niekro, Country Music singer/songwriter Brad Pasiley, and award-winning Walt Disney animator Rick Schneider-Calabash.
In 2018, West Liberty University ranked #37 in the Top 50 regional colleges in the South. Furthermore, it was ranked the highest public university in the state of West Virginia.
Fast Facts. WestLiberty.edu. . Accessed July 06, 2018. https://westliberty.edu/admissions/learn-more/fast-facts.
Education: West Liberty University. USNews.com. . Accessed July 06, 2018. https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/west-liberty-3823.