Linsly Institute and the First West Virginia State Capitol
Constructed in 1859 to house the Linsly Institute, this stately structure also served as the first capitol building of West Virginia from the state's formation in 1863 until 1870. The building was the site of the first inaugural address of a West Virginia Governor and the convening of the first state Legislature. The Linsly Institute was established in 1814 and this building was constructed to house the boarding school which now operates on Knox Lane and is known as the Linsly School. The school had a military program for many years and during that time was only open to male students. In 1979 the military programs were ended and women have been able to attend the school since 1988.
Backstory and Context
The Linsly School in Wheeling was established in 1814 and is the oldest private school west of the Allegheny Mountains. The school was named after Wheeling lawyer Noah Linsly who designated funds to be used for a Lancastrian academy in his will. In the Lancastrian style, older students are trained to serve as tutors to younger students.
When the school opened, it admitted both boys and girls. However, the school soon restricted admission to boys within a few years. By 1859, the school had outgrown its original location on Chapline Street which led to the construction of this three-story building. The Linsly Institute building also served as the first capitol building for the new state of West Virginia from 1863 to 1870 and once again for a brief period from 1875 to 1876 when Wheeling once again served as the state capital.
Arthur I Boreman gave his inaugural address as the first Governor of West Virginia in front of the Linsly Institute building on June 20, 1863. That same day, the West Virginia Legislature met for the first time in the building. As the school expanded, a second building was constructed at Thedah Place in 1925 to accommodate the growing student population. The school remained at these two buildings until relocating to Banes Hall in 1968.
The Wheeling school struggled financially during and after the Civil War, but the Linsly School recovered under the leadership of principal John Birch when he took control of the institution in 1874. In 1877, Birch established a cadet battalion at the school and the program flourished. The success of the cadet and other military programs led the school to change its name to the Linsly Military Institute in 1942. The school moved from this building to new structure dubbed "Old Main" in 1925. In 1979 the school ended its military programs and by 1988 young women were once again allowed to attend at Linsly School.
"Linsly Institute School History". Ohio County Public Library. . Accessed February 09, 2019. http://www.ohiocountylibrary.org/wheeling-history/4103#photos.
"The Capitals and Capitols of West Virginia". Ohio County Public Library. . Accessed February 09, 2019. http://www.ohiocountylibrary.org/wheeling-history/the-capitals-and-capitols-of-west-Virginia/5324.
"West Virginia's Sesquicentennial Highway Historical Marker Program." West Virginia Archives & History. Accessed October 6, 2020. http://www.wvculture.org/history/markers/sesqui/firststatecapitol.html.