HIstoric Charles Town West Virginia Walking Tour

This walking tour explored historic Charles Town, West Virginia and includes numerous historic homes and buildings as well as several museums.

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The Gibson-Todd House
Built in 1891, the Gibson-Todd house was designed by the architect Thomas A. Mullet. While the building has gotten attention over the years, the site is better known for being the place where John Brown was hanged following his trial. John Thomas Gibson was the first occupant of the house after it was completed. His granddaughter, Frances Prakette, married Augustine J. Todd and donated the house to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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Happy Retreat
Happy Retreat, also known as Mordington, was the home of Charles Washington, youngest brother of George Washington. Though he inherited the property in 1752, he did not construct the mansion and move in with his family until 1780. Following Charles's death in 1799, the house was sold to his son-in-law, Thomas Hammond. The house stayed in the Hammond family until 1837, after which it passed through several hands until it was purchased in the 1960s by Mr. and Mrs. William Gavin.
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Page Jackson High School
In 1866, Page Jackson High School became the first publicly funded school for African Americans students in Jefferson County. The first Jefferson County Branch President of the NAACP was Professor E.M.Dandridge, science teacher at Page Jackson High School and later the school principal. Page Jackson High School was a symbolic structure for African Americans during that time period in Jefferson County by signifying a stepping stone for becoming successful during a time period where it was frowned upon to educate African Americans. Today the Page Jackson High School building is home to the Jefferson County Board of Education.
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Fishermen's Hall (Galilean Temple)
With African Americans no longer enslaved in the turn of the century, many African Americans looked for organizations or places where they could prosper. Many of them joined churches and organizations where they could loudly express their thoughts and bond with their peers. The Galilean Temple was built in Charles Town on June 6, 1885. The Galilean Temple, now known as Fishermen's Hall, was built for African Americans; specifically the local tabernacle of the Grand United Order of the Galilean Fishermen. The Galilean Temple also encouraged black enterprise in Jefferson County.
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St. Philips Episcopal Church
An African-American Episcopal church 20 years in the making. In the early 1900s an epidemic of smallpox swept through the community and the church served as an emergency community hospital.
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Star Lodge #1 / Old Stone House
A landmark, consisting of two sides, tells the story behind the Star Lodge Number 1 and the Old Stone House. This is one of the oldest buildings in Charles Town, being built in 1970s. Also,one of the oldest Prince Hall's in the state. The Star Lodge Number 1 was eventually bought by two African American organizations.
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Jefferson County Museum
The Jefferson County Museum is located in historic downtown Charles Town and shares a building with its partner organization, the Charles Town Library. Since its founding in 1965, the museum has been dedicated to fostering the understanding and love of history. The museum is committed to the acquisition, preservation, and exhibition of objects of historical value and relevance to the county and the region. Jefferson County’s rich history is a microcosm of the larger historical events that shaped the nation—from George Washington’s surveying here in the mid-1700s to John Brown’s Raid at Harpers Ferry through the Civil War and post-war establishment of Storer College for freed African Americans to the Miners’ Trials in the 1920s.
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Jefferson County Courthouse
The Jefferson County Courthouse was originally built in 1808 in Charles Town on a plot of land donated by Charles Washington. The original structure is now part of a larger structural addition that was built in 1836.Due to damaged that happened during the Civil War Era, the Jefferson County seat was temporarily moved to Shepherdstown, and then promptly moved back to Charles Town when the war was over. The Jefferson County Courthouse is famous for housing two treason trials: John Brown's trial after his raid on the armory in Harpers Ferry to arm slaves, and the trial against unionizing coal miners from Mingo County.
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Martin Delany Historical Marker
Martin Delany was born in Charles Town, West Virginia and went on to become one of the most influential African Americans of the 19th century. Delany was an abolitionist, author, editor, physician, and the highest-ranking African American officer in the Civil War. Martin Delany was also instrumental in supporting Frederick Douglass and shaping the famous leader's thoughts about the extent to which African Americans could support nonviolence without accommodating the violent regime of chattel slavery. Delany is thought to be the first black nationalist in America.
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Old Opera House Theatre
In 1910, Annie G. Packette raised $50,000 and employed Washington, D.C. architects A.B. Mullett & Co. to construct the New Opera House. Designed in a classical revival style, this theatre included a proscenium stage complete with fly-space for hanging scenery, an orchestra pit, a curved balcony, and seating for 500 people. The theatre remained open through two wars, the Great Depression, and the advent of radio. However, in 1948 its stage went dark. In 1973, the building was donated to a local theatre group, and the renamed Old Opera House opened to the public in 1976. The season now offers six main stage productions, a summer children’s program, art shows, and classes in dance and acting.
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First Black School in Charles Town/Achilles Dixon Home
Established in 1865 by the Freedmens' Bureau, the first African American school in Charles Town was located in the Achilles Dixon home. The school located in the Dixon home was named the Liberty Street School, and employed a local Storer College graduate to teach the students. In 1867, Jefferson county began it's own system of black education, and by 1874 constructed a brick school house on Harewood Road, now Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. The students were promptly moved from the Achilles Dixon home to the newly constructed Page-Jackson High School.
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The Webb-Blessing House
The Webb-Blessing House is one of the oldest stone structures built and owned by free African Americans in Jefferson County. This structure in Charles Town, WV consists of two homes that were combined together in the 19th century. The Webb-Blessing House was purchased by the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society in 2003, and the organization is in the process of renovating and restoring the home.

This tour was created by Clio Admin on 05/28/18 .

This tour has been taken 220 times within the past year.

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