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After having visited Morgantown earlier in the day, Fairmont, West Virginia was a complete change of scenery. Located deep within the north-central coal fields, the “Friendly City” dates to 1818 when land along the Monongahela River was divided into town lots. After the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1886, Fairmont flourished with the opening of the coal seams around the city and county. Peaking at nearly 30,000 citizens in 1950 due to the coal boom and other major industrial assortments, the town has regressed to under 20,000, mirroring the collapse of the local coal industry. Today, the local economy is becoming increasingly reliant on high-tech businesses, partially due to the development of Technology Park and the flurry of government, defense and government contractor agencies and businesses that have located at the site.
1 We started out by parking on Adams Street and completing a loop around the tight and dense downtown. The building to the immediate right, 314-320 Adams Street, was constructed in 1940 for the G.C. Murphy Company in the style similar to Art Deco.
3 The Fairmont Theatre, located at 416 Adams Street, was completed in 1940 in the Art Deco-style. It could be demolished for a state office building.
4 From left to right, the red corner structure at 234 Adams Street and Jefferson is the Comerford Building, constructed around 1880. The cream colored structure to the right, at 226-230 Adams Street, is the B.A. Fleming Building, also constructed around 1880. The 7-bay building is divided between two storefronts. The gray and dilipated building in the middle-right, at 222-224 Adams Street, is Hatter Bents Big Brick and was modernized in 1927. To the extreme right is the McCrory Building, a 3-story brick, six bay building constructed in 1909-1910.
5 The building to the extreme right is the Deveny Building constructed in 1917. To the left is 221 Monroe Street, constructed circa 1910 as a three-story, three-bay brick structure that was used for law offices. The fourth story was added around 1920. The adjoining building, with green metal detailing at 221 Monroe Street, was constructed around 1905 as a three-story commercial building with three bays and 3rd story arched windows. To the left, at 217 Monroe Street, was the Anna Building, an early apartment structure constructed in 1911 of the Renaissance Revival design. It was later named the Hayes Building. Finally, at the end of Monroe (209-211) was the city fire and police station, built in 1912 and expanded four years later. The three story building featured extensive glazed areas, two large service bays with segmental arches on the ground floor.
6 The Deveny Building is located at 223 Monroe Street at the corner with Adams Street in downtown Fairmont, West Virginia. The four-story brown-brick Neo-Classical Revival building was designed by J.C. Burchinal with C.D. Keyser of Bellaire, Ohio as the contractor, with the initial structure completed in 1917. Two more levels were added in 1925, and the building was purchased by the Vandalia Heritage Foundation in 2003 for conversion into lofts.
7 The right-most building, at 208 Adam Street, was constructed in 1884. The two-story brick structure was originally the cashier’s residence for the adjoining First National Bank, but a new front was built in 1917 for the Jones’ Department Store. The orange-glazed brick building to the left, at 210-212 Adams Street, was constructed in 1898 and represents one of the best architecturally significant buildings in downtown Fairmont. Designed for the First National Bank, the building combined the Romanesque and Neo Classical Revival style. It features a triple arched granite base, with polished squat columns and carved cushion capitals.
8 Cleveland Avenue winds around downtown and is full of commercial warehouses and storage buildings.
Views of Adams Street.
15 The red brick building to the right, at 110 Adams Street, is the Skinner Building that was completed around 1893. It was recently restored for the Chamber of Commerce.
16 The Bond Insurance Agency Building, at Cleveland and Adams, was completed in the 1970s.
17 The West Virginia State Office Complex, at 109-119 Adams Street, was built in 1985 and is being demolished. It closed in 2009 after developing structural problems. A replacement building may be built at the Fairmont Theatre site.
19 The historic Fairmont Hotel is located at 200 Jefferson Street. Designed by the C. Milburn, Heister and Company and constructed by the Fuller Construction Company from 1916-1917, the seven story building overlooked the Monongahela River valley. The hotel opened at a cost of $400,000 with 115 rooms with common spaces finished in mahogany. In 1984, the Fairmont Hotel was renovated into an 86-unit Section 202 apartment complex for the elderly and disabled.
The Masonic Temple is located at 320 Jefferson Street was designed by H.F. Griffin. The imposing six-story, 32,500 square foot building, designed in the Beaux Arts style, was constructed from 1906-1907 by the Brady Construction Company after being commissioned by the Masonic Lodge No. 9. The Masons spared no expense, stating that “nothing has been omitted to make this a modern lodge and first class office building in all its appointments.”
In 1993, the Masonic Temple was added to the National Register of Historic Places. While the building is abandoned today, stabilization work could begin at the end of the year to preserve the roof.
22 The FBI Professional Building is located at 307-311 Cleveland Avenue. The five-story brick office building was constructed in 1916 with J.L. Crouse as contractor.
The Jacobs Building is located at 312-316 Monroe Street. Designed by Andrew C. Lyons, the five-story beige Roman-shaped press brick building was constructed in 1906 by Holbert & Spedden. Among its decorative highlights was trimmed blue stone, extensive terra cotta cornices and large glazed areas. Structurally, the building was built with steel columns and beams with wood floor joists.
The first level was originally home to the Racket Department Store, and served as the temporary offices for the City of Fairmont as well as the municipal court. The Union Business College occupied the fifth floor. In 1912, the J.H. Hartley & Son department store expanded from the adjoining Jacobs-Hutchinson Building by utilizing the first floor and basement as warehouse space, connecting to the Jacobs Building via a connecting walkway – later expanding with a sales floor. In 1927, the Hartley & Son store moved to Adams Street, and the Jones’ Department proceeded to move from its location across the street to the Jacobs-Hutchinson Building and Jacobs Building, remaining at the location with only cosmetic improvements with the exception of a loading dock that was built in the alley in 1971. Jones’ closed in 1977.
The Jacobs Building was recently restored and houses the Marion County Sheriff’s Department on the first level, with storage on the upper levels.
The Jacobs-Hutchinson Building is located at 201-209 Monroe Street. Designed by Andrew C. Lyons, the five-story beige Roman-shaped press brick building was constructed in 1902 by Holbert & Spedden Builders. Although given the appearance of being one large structure, the building was originally planned to be used as four separate business “houses.”
The Watson Building, an eight story Neo Renaissance limestone clad tower, Fairmont’s largest, was designed by C. Horace Trumbauer and constructed between 1909 and 1911. The building was named after James Otis Watson, referred to as the “Father” of coal industry in the state. The building housed the offices of the National Bank of Fairmont, Consolidation Coal, Fairmont & Clarksburg Traction Company, Fairmont Gas & Light Company and the Fairmont Chamber of Commerce.
Finally, we ended near where we began with the Marion County Courthouse, a Beaux Arts-style structure distinguished by monumental Corinthian porticoes and an impressive dome. Designed by the noted architectural firm Yost and Packard of Columbus, Ohio, bids for construction were opened in June 1897. The accepted bid, for $130,643, went to the Westwater and Company of Columbus, versus the Hamilton Brothers of Wheeling and G.W.L. Myers of Fairmont. The courthouse was mostly completed by mid-1900, with the grounds work finished by June. The imposing two-story government building is located at the corner of Jefferson and Adams street.
In 1960, the courthouse’s ground floor was renovated by L.D. Schmidt and Son. Additional first floor renovations in the county commissioners’ office and the Division II Circuit Courtroom were finished in 1977. The building is currently undergoing a $1.9 million renovation project.
a. Mountain State Tours: Fairmont: http://urbanup.net/2011/11/30/photographs/mountain-state-tours-fairmont/
b. Fairmont, West Virginia: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/fairmont-west-virginia/
c. Marion County Courthouse: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/fairmont-west-virginia/downtown-fairmont-west-virginia/marion-county-west-virginia-courthouse/
d. Deveny Building: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/fairmont-west-virginia/downtown-fairmont-west-virginia/deveny-building/
e. Fairmont Hotel: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/fairmont-west-virginia/downtown-fairmont-west-virginia/fairmont-hotel/
f. Masonic Temple: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/fairmont-west-virginia/downtown-fairmont-west-virginia/fairmont-masonic-temple/
g. FBI Professional Building: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/fairmont-west-virginia/downtown-fairmont-west-virginia/fbi-professional-building/
h. Jacobs Building: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/fairmont-west-virginia/downtown-fairmont-west-virginia/jacobs-building/
i. Jacobs-Hutchinson Building: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/fairmont-west-virginia/downtown-fairmont-west-virginia/jacobs-hutchinson-building/
j. Watson Building: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/fairmont-west-virginia/downtown-fairmont-west-virginia/watson-building/
Continuing from a rather quiet morning in Wheeling, Morgantown, West Virginia could be considered an exact opposite. Located along the banks of the Monongahela River, the city of 29,000 is the largest in north central West Virginia and is home to West Virginia University with an enrollment of 29,000 students. The city and county are among the state's fastest growing, with Monongalia County posting an 18% gain in population in just the past decade alone.
The region is geographically challenged. Because of this, its residential neighborhoods sprawl out in each direction, and its downtown is fairly linear in a north to south pattern. The university campus is divided into three campuses: downtown, Evansdale and Health Sciences. All three are linked together with downtown Morgantown via the unique Personal Rapid Transit project, which was built in 1974 to replace an overburdened and inefficient bus network, reduce the amount of automobiles in downtown and to reduce congestion. The early success of the project led to a major expansion in 1978, and another expansion, proposed in 2010, could extend the line to the emerging Wharf District.
For this overcast Saturday, I toured downtown and a brief portion of the West Virginia University downtown campus. We started with where we parked at: Pleasant Street, which is a steep roadway leading out of the river valley up towards High Street, the main route through downtown.
Monongalia County was formed in 1776 from the Virginia District of West Augusta and was named for the Monongahela River. After the Mason Dixon line was recognized in 1783, officials discovered that the first meeting house of the county was in Pennsylvania, so the court met at the home of Zackquill Morgan. The second courthouse was finished in 1784 for $250. A third building was completed in 1802, and a fourth in 1848 for $6,500. The fifth and current courthouse was completed in 1891 for $43,478 and was designed by James Baily of Pittsburgh in the Romanesque Revival style, An annex was added on in 1976 for $1.5 million.
Along High Street was the Warner Theatre. The Warner is a historic Art Deco movie theater along High Street. Opened in 1931, it was designed by John Eberson and featured a 50-foot vertical marquee illuminated with over 6,000 light bulbs. The marquee was later removed and the theater was converted into a single screen theater, eventually becoming a multiplex in the 1970s. On September 5, 2010, the Warner closed its doors. The Round Table Corporation purchased the building in 2004 with the intention of restoring it into its original condition.
7 The Hotel Morgan, named for the founder of Morgantown, featured a ballroom, lobby, dining room and upscale finishings throughout. The building opened on October 16, 1925 along High Street.
Adjacent to the hotel is the Monongalia Arts Center. Designed by Oscar Wenderoth in the Classical Revival style and built in 1913, this architectural gem along High Street housed a post office. In September 1975, the building was purchased by the Louis F. Tanner family, whose family was the founder of the Morgantown Players, for the reuse of the building as a community arts center. In 1978, the Monongalia Arts Center opened to the public. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 as the “Old Morgantown Post Office,” and was listed in the Downtown Morgantown Historic District in 1996.
10 The Monongahela Building along High was constructed in 1922.
12 Other scenes from High Street include the Citzens Building.
14 The more modern yet brutal Harley G. Staggers Federal Building and Post Office. Apparently, all federal offices have moved out, lending to its unkept appearance.
15 A fine downtown building along High constructed in 1911.
19 The former Farmers & Merchant Bank, now home to various businesses along High Street.
21 The Metropolitan.
We then picked up the Personal Rapid Transport and headed over to the heart of the downtown campus. Below is a photograph of the PRT as it crosses over University Avenue.
25 The PRT comes close to several new developments, such as this one along Pleasant Street.
28 Approaching the Beechurst PRT station.
29 A vehicle leaves the Beechurst PRT station.
31 White Hall undergoing renovations.
32 The Life Sciences Building.
34 Woodburn Hall was constructed in 1876 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is home to the College of Arts and Sciences, along with the Department of History and Political Science.
Oglebay Hall is an academic building the Downtown campus. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is LEED certified. It was constructed for the Agricultural Department, representing the university’s heritage as a lang-grant institution. A memorial to the U.S.S. West Virginia, which sank during the Pearl Harbor bombing, stands in front of Oglebay. It is comprised of the mast and bell from the ship. Read more about its history »
Stewart Hall is the fourth oldest building on campus. Designed in the Romanesque Revival architectural style, it was the most prominent example of this style in the state when it opened as a library in 1903. Read more about its history »
To conclude Morgantown, I end on one of the best new developments in the city: the Wharf District, which acts as a gateway to the former Fairmont, Morgantown, and Pittsburgh Railroad, later the Baltimore and Ohio and today the Capterton Trail. Public and private investments have converted the derelict area along the river into a mixed-use community with a hotel, restaurants, retail shops, offices and loft apartments.
More on the Wharf District at a future point. Onward to Fairmont!
a. Mountain State Tours: Morgantown: http://urbanup.net/2011/11/23/photographs/mountain-state-tours-morgantown/
b. Morgantown, West Virginia: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/morgantown-west-virginia/
c. West Virginia University: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/morgantown-west-virginia/west-virginia-university/
d. Oglebay Hall: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/morgantown-west-virginia/west-virginia-university/oglebay-hall/
e. Stewart Hall: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/morgantown-west-virginia/west-virginia-university/stewart-hall/