West Virginia State Capitol Complex Walking Tour
This walking tour gives detailed explanations to each building and monument on the West Virginia State Capitol Complex.
The Culture Center is home to the West Virginia State Museum which offers a variety of programs and exhibits that preserve and share the culture and history of the Mountain State and its people. The complex is also home to the state's archives and library, the state historic preservation office, and offices of the West Virginia Library Commission. The complex also holds the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater which hosts Mountain Stage and other cultural and educational events throughout the year.
The current West Virginia State Capitol was constructed from 1924 to 1932 and is the tallest building in the state and fourth tallest domed capitol building in the United States. The building was designed in the Classical Revival style using Buff Indiana limestone for its exterior and various types of beautifully polished Vermont and Italian marble for the interior. The building is full of artifacts from around the state, oil portraits of former West Virginia governors, crystal chandeliers, and exquisite carvings. Statues commemorating figures of the state’s culture and history can be seen on the stunning campus. Wheeling served as the first capital city of the new state of West Virginia when it separated from Virginia during the Civil War. The transfer of the capital to Charleston in 1870 reflected the growing population of the western portions of the state and a shift in political power during the Reconstruction period. The change was not permanent at first, and the records and other items of the fledgling state government were transferred back and forth from Charleston and Wheeling via steamboat along the Ohio River and the Kanawha River a total of three times. The capital was moved from Wheeling to Charleston in 1870, from Charleston to Wheeling in 1875, and finally back to Charleston in 1885 when the state capital was permanently established in Charleston. The original structure that served as the capitol building in Charleston in the 1870s was razed to make way for a more prominent structure in hopes of convincing West Virginia voters to make Charleston their choice for the state’s capital. That state capitol building was located in downtown Charleston and construction began in 1880 when Wheeling once again served as the capital. The building was complete in 1885 when the government returned to Charleston. That capitol building caught fire in 1921 and was quickly replaced by a wood frame structure that served as temporary quarters for the government while architect Cass Gilbert’s design for the new capitol complex along the Kanawha River was coming to life. In addition to this building, Cass Gilbert is best-known for designing the Woolworth Building in New York, the George Washington Bridge, the Minnesota State Capitol, and the U.S. Supreme Court Building.
Holly Grove Mansion, also known as the Ruffner Mansion, was built in 1815 by Daniel Ruffner, the brother of David, Joseph Jr., and Tobias Ruffner. All were the sons of Joseph Ruffner Sr. and were instrumental in developing a thriving salt industry to the Kanawha Valley in the early 1800s. The Ruffner Mansion served as the home for the family who helped develop the Kanawha Valley while also being a center of industry and commerce during the early 19th Century. Holly Grove Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and now sits on the West Virginia State Capitol Complex.
The second executive mansion built for the governor of West Virginia in the state's history, this structure was completed in 1925 at a cost of $200,000. The mansion was designed by Walter Martens, a Charleston architect who designed several other buildings on Charleston's East End. The Georgian-Colonial-style home has welcomed national and global dignitaries, ambassadors, public officials, and hosted numerous events to encourage business, support education, and promote the preservation of West Virginia history and culture.
The Union Soldiers and Sailors monument is a memorial to the West Virginians who fought for the Union in the American Civil War. As West Virginia became a state in response to Virginia's secession from the Union, the new state was predominantly sympathetic to the Union. The memorial was funded by the State of West Virginia and placed on the capitol grounds in 1930. It faces Kanawha Blvd. east of the Governor’s Mansion. The statue depicts a soldier carrying a musket and symbolically marching towards the statue of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, which is also placed on capitol grounds.
West Virginia sculptor Fred Torrey designed Lincoln Walks at Midnight in the 1930s based on Vachel Lindsay’s 1914 poem of the same name. The statue represents Lincoln's decision to grant West Virginia statehood during the Civil War. “Whereas, by the Act of Congress approved the 31st. day of December, last, the State of West Virginia was declared to be one of the United States of America, and was admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever, upon the condition that certain changes should be duly made in the proposed Constitution for that State; And, whereas, proof of a compliance with that condition as required by the Second Section of the Act aforesaid, has been submitted to me; Now, therefore, be it known, that I Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do, hereby, in pursuance of the Act of Congress aforesaid, declare and proclaim that the said act shall take effect and be in force, from and after sixty days from the date hereof. In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.” -Abraham Lincoln (April 20, 1862)
Born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Thomas "Stonewall'' Jackson rose to prominence as one of the Confederacy's most successful generals. In 1909, the United Daughters of the Confederacy hired Moses Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran who knew Jackson, to sculpt a bronze statue in the general's honor. The state legislature approved placing the statue on capitol grounds, where it became the first statue to be erected. In 1910, it was dedicated to much fanfare. Many onlookers wore "Lily White'' buttons during the dedication, which was a campaign to disenfranchise African-American voters. In recent years, there have been repeated calls for the monument's removal, but the decision rests with the state legislature.
In response to the dedication of a statue honoring Clarksburg, West Virginia native and Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson at the old State Capitol in downtown Charleston, West Virginia, veterans of the Union Army received an equivalent statue sculpted by Henry Kirke Bush-Brown in 1912. The bronze statue depicts a pro-Union citizen militiaman carrying a flag and musket, while the two reliefs on the base depict Mountaineer home life. Colonel William Seymour Edwards, former speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates was instrumental in the erection of the statue.
This replica of Philadelphia's famed Liberty Bell was cast in 1950 and designed to match the same weight, size, and tone of the original. The replica was one of fifty-five that were ordered by the federal government as part of a savings bond drive and distributed to state and territorial governments. Following a celebratory tour around the state, this replica bell has been located in Charleston's Capitol Complex directly at the front of the courtyard opposite the Kanawha Boulevard side of the Capitol. The bell can be visited alongside many other monuments at the Capitol Complex.
Dedicated in 1985, this monument honors West Virginia educator Booker Taliaferro Washington. Born into slavery prior to the end of the Civil War, Washington established Tuskegee University and worked to establish private funding for hundreds of schools for African American children across the South at the turn-of-the-century. After the Civil War, Washington moved to West Virginia with his mother and stepfather. As a young boy, Washington worked with his stepfather in the salt mines of Malden, a small town near the city of Charleston. At this time, the boy learned of a schoolhouse that was near their home and convinced his stepfather to allow him to attend that school by working morning and nights in the mines while reserving the daytime hours for school. This ambition for knowledge would be the signature of Washington's life. Washington returned to West Virginia throughout his life and often spoke at West Virginia Colored Institute, a historically black college that is now West Virginia State University.
The WV Coal Miners Memorial is located on the grounds of the West Virginia State Capitol Complex in Charleston, West Virginia. Coal mining has deep roots in West Virginia and is a quintessential aspect of culture in the Mountain State. However, coal mining is difficult and dangerous work. The Coal Miners Memorial was designed by Burl Jones in 2002 to honor the men and women who have dedicated their lives to mining coal in West Virginia. To this day, the statue remains a gathering site for those wishing to honor coal miners for their hard work, historical contributions, and personal sacrifices.
Dedicated in 2010 and located within the West Virginia State Capitol Complex, this statue is the first to honor female soldiers from the Mountain State. This memorial also features the only sculpture on the Capitol grounds that depicts a woman. The work was sculpted by Charleston artist Joe Mullins to represent a female veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wearing military fatigues designed to represent multiple branches of the Armed Services. The statue is symbolic of the sacrifices and commitment of all the women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
The West Virginia Veterans Memorial was designed by Charleston native P. Joseph Mullins, and built in stages from 1990-1999. The monument honors the over 10,000 West Virginian soldiers who lost their lives in the service of their nation. The memorial was originally funded by private donations and completed with the support of the state legislature. Though the memorial honors all West Virginian veterans, inscribed names are limited to four twentieth century conflicts for which data on West Virginian service exists: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The Veterans Memorial remains a popular gathering place for events and ceremonies that involve veterans.