Downtown Parkersburg Walking Tour
This short tour includes a dozen historic sites and museums. If you would like to drive instead of walk, you might be better off to walk the downtown sections and use your car to get up the hill.
The state historical marker at this site commemorates the involvement of a woman nicknamed “Aunt Jenny” for her efforts to support freedom for enslaved persons escaping the South via the Underground Railroad between what is now Parkersburg, West Virginia and Belpre, Ohio. Active in the area during the 1840s, Aunt Jenny aided runaway slaves traveling through the area by notifying Underground Railroad agents across the Ohio River of their presence and gathering information on the activities of slave catchers. Historians believe that Aunt Jenny was in actuality Edna Sutton, who after her time in Parkersburg went on to settle in Little Hocking, Ohio. The assistance Sutton provided to refugees from slavery highlights the prominent role played by free black men and women in the activities of the Underground Railroad and the potential influence those activities could have on period politics. In 1845, Sutton’s aid to a group of slaves who were later captured and returned to Virginia from Ohio precipitated a near armed conflict between the two states. This memorial is located in Point Park and is one of only a handful of state historical markers that commemorate the experiences of women and people of color in West Virginia .
This museum in downtown Parkersburg offers a collection of artifacts, exhibits, and documents related to the history of the oil and gas industry in the region and beyond. The museum also includes a replica of an old oilfield office. It is a blast from the past when walking inside this old building, which dates back to 1900 after the original building was destroyed by fire. The grounds of the museum include a collection of different engines and machinery dating back to West Virginia's first oil boom.
The Wood County Courthouse in Parkersburg, WV was constructed in 1899 by local contractors Caldwell & Drake, according to the plans of architect L. W. Thomas of Canton, Ohio. The five-story building cost $100,000 to construct and took two years to complete. The courthouse is considered to be a perfect example of the Romanesque Revival architectural style. The 1899 courthouse is Wood County’s fifth courthouse and the third to be placed on Courthouse Hill.
Opening in 1889 during the "Gaslight Era," this hotel became the center of Parkersburg society during and after the region's oil and gas boom. The hotel, nearby island, and several other places in the city were named in honor of the famous Blennerhassett family. The family were local power brokers who captured the nation's attention after their association with then Vice President Aaron Burr and his attempt to capture the American West. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and a full restoration took place in 1986.
The Smoot Theatre in downtown Parkersburg is an entertainment landmark and serves as a reminder of the city’s prosperous past. Originally constructed by the Smoot Amusement Company in 1926, the theatre first functioned as a Vaudeville house until the Warner Brother Company purchased the building in 1930 and converted it into a movie theatre. The Smoot closed its doors in 1986. In 1989, a volunteer group purchased the Smooth Theater to prevent it from being demolished and renovated the building. The Smoot now offers a variety of theatrical performances to Parkersburg and continues to be an entertainment hub of the city.
The Henry Logan Memorial African Methodist Church is one three historic African American churches in Parkersburg, WV. Known for its Vernacular Romanesque style of architecture, and square pyramidal corner tower, it is a cornerstone of Parkersburg’s African American community. The church was constructed in 1891 and named after Henry Logan, a wealthy white businessman who, along with his wife Lavinia, supported and fostered the African American community in Parkersburg. The church is still used by the Henry Logan AME congregation and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
First Baptist Church was organized in 1817 by members of the Mount Zion Church in neighboring Mineral Wells. The congregation built its first permanent building--a wood frame building--at 6th and Ann Street. The current building was completed in 1878. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
First built in 1903 as part of Parkersburg's first "suburb," the Masonic Temple remains in active use today and is an important architectural element of the Avery Street Historic District. The Temple is listed in the National Register of Historic Places both individually and as part of the District.
Bethel AME was one of three black churches built in Parkersburg and was the oldest black church building in central WV. The church was demolished over a decade ago when the congregation moved into new building with same name on Laird Ave.
In 1905, Parkersburg received a $34,000 grant for its very own Carnegie Library. Between 1886 and 1919, Andrew Carnegie donated over $40 million for the creation of 1,679 libraries across the country. For the next 70 years, Parkersburg’s Carnegie library served as an educational resource and community center for the city. After 1975, the building ceased functioning as a library. Trans Allegheny Books, West Virginia’s largest used bookstore, moved into the building and operated between 1985 and 2010. The Parkersburg Carnegie Library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Quincy Hill, once known as Prospect Hill, is a neighborhood located between Quincy Street and Shattuck Street in Parkersburg, WV. This neighborhood was the site of one of the worst disasters in the region. On March 19, 1909, two water towers on top of Quincy Hill burst and released two million gallons of water, causing a sudden flood that claimed the lives of three nearby residents. A city park is now located on the site of the water tanks.
Established during the Civil War and located in Parkersburg, WV, Sumner School was the first free black school in the nation below the Mason Dixon Line. A group of African Americans wanted a way to educate the black students in the Parkersburg area, and wanted to form the school.
Julia-Ann Square Historic district is a residential neighborhood in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Comprising five blocks between Julia and Ann Streets, the area contains over one hundred historic homes. Many of the city and state’s elites lived here, constructing elaborate houses dating from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. It is the largest and oldest historic district in West Virginia, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today efforts to preserve and maintain the district are managed by the Julia-Ann Square Historical Community Association Inc.
Built by Peter Godwin Van Winkle, around 1933-1836, this house has been a long standing part of history in the Parkersburg, WV area. The house is now a part of the Julia-Ann Square Historic District, which is a community of roughly 126 homes. Within these homes is a cluster of historic houses and monuments, including the Van Winkle home. Parkersburg natives often refer to the home as "The Castle" and although the inside of the home has seen many renovations, the structure still stands as it did when Mr. Van Winkle called the place home.
DeSales Heights Academy opened in 1867 and was one of the first schools in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The school closed in 1992, but was able to survive for almost 130 years thanks to the strong Roman Catholic population that existed in Parkersburg from its early years. DeSales Heights Academy boarded and educated many young women throughout West Virginia and the United States, and accepted international students as well. DeSales Heights is an important academy in the history of Catholic education in West Virginia.