Historic Hotels and Theaters of Charleston West Virginia
This short drive or virtual tour explores current and former hotels and theaters in West Virginia's capital city.
The Charleston Light Opera Guild is a community performance group founded in 1949 on Charleston's West Side. The group has weathered hard times but has gone on to thrive. It has performed over 200 shows. The Guild performs in the Civic Center, Clay Center and their own theater, which seats 225 and is located in the former home of Weekly Memorial Church.
Located in downtown Charleston, West Virginia, the Charleston Civic Center has hosted hundreds of events in sports, music and more. It has provided an important entertainment venue for the community of Charleston since its construction. Originally opened in 1959, the Civic Center was renovated in the late 1980s and continues to host events to this day.
Dedicated in 1939, Municipal Auditorium serves as a prime example of Art Deco design. The building was the result of over a decade of organization and planning and made possible by a combination of city and federal funds through the Works Progress Administration. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, significant for its contribution to entertainment/recreation and performing arts as well as its classic Art Deco design.
Completed in 1912 and located in the heart of downtown Charleston, The Capitol Center Theater is now part operated by West Virginia State University. The historic building held vaudeville productions in the early 20th century when it was known as the Plaza Theater, and later held movies and other events before closing in the 1980s. After a neighboring historic theater was demolished, preservationists and investors worked with government officials to save, restore, and preserve the historic downtown theater.
The Hotel Kanawha was established in 1903 and was a premier hotel in Charleston, WV until 1965. When West Virginia was a battleground state during the Democratic primaries of the 1960 presidential election, the Hotel Kanawha was campaign headquarters for President John F. Kennedy. The Arcade Building was established in 1895 by a former state governor, and was demolished during the efforts to restore the Hotel Kanawha. Despite its historical significance and tremendous efforts to restore the Hotel Kanawha, the building was demolished and a bank now stands in its place. There were many fights to save the hotel, but the project was too expensive and there were multiple problems with loans.
The Charleston House Holiday Inn opened in 1966 on Kanawha Boulevard East overlooking the Kanawha River. It is open as a Four Points Sheraton as of May 2016.
This was the location of the Hale House from 1872 until it was destroyed in an 1885 fire. The Hale House was one of the leading hotels in the area, and it was replaced by the Ruffner Hotel was in 1885. The Hale House, which was the brainchild of then-Mayor of Charleston, Dr. John P. Hale, was envisioned as a prestigious hotel to accommodate travelers to the city. The Hale House became the preferred hotel of state legislators after Charleston became the permanent capital city of West Virginia in 1877. The hotel's successor, the Ruffner Hotel, stood at the northwest corner of Hale Street and Kanawha Boulevard until 1970 and was a leadingCharleston institution until it ceased operation. It was torn down in 1970 to make room for a surface parking lot.
This location, which is now a parking garage, was the site of the Rialto Theater. The theater was built in 1917. This theater differed from other theaters in Charleston at that time because patrons entered the theater "sideways." Instead of walking forward to the counter and the movie screens, moviegoers had to turn left to get to the movie screens and right to go to the balcony which was set up in tiers. The Rialto is significant as the site where African Americans protested the 1925 opening of a controversial movie.
The Daniel Boone Hotel was built in 1929 by a group of Charleston citizens known as the Community Hotel Corporation to provide an elegant place for politicians and visiting dignitaries to stay in the capital city. This elegant hotel served as a base for most state legislators during the 60-day legislative sessions. Many laws were conceived, discussed, or modified in the smoke-filled rooms of the hotel, and most of Charleston’s major meetings, banquets, and conventions were held here as well. This piece of property has held a long standing with state government, as it housed the “Pasteboard Capitol” prior to housing the political guests of the Daniel Boone Hotel. Some notable patrons of the Daniel Boone Hotel were John F. Kennedy, Debbie Reynolds, Bette Davis, and Elvis Presley.
The Ferguson Hotel was the dream of Gurnett E. Ferguson and included a retail and business complex in addition to a 72-room hotel. It featured a cafe, a pool room, barber shop, movie theater, and convention hall. Part of the downtown area referred by its inhabitants as "The Block", the Ferguson Hotel served Charleston's African-American community. The building was designed by John C. Norman, the first African American to become a registered architect in Charleston.
This charming Art Deco building sits on Washington Street in the East End of Charleston, West Virginia. Built in 1939, this theater entertained the citizens of Charleston until its closing in 1982. The building was vacant for many years and was in a state of disrepair when, in 2005, the WVSSPA restored it for office use.