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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/
I departed Columbus, Ohio with two urban planners for what was self-described as a whirlwind tour of West Virginia's largest cities on a sunny and warm Saturday morning. With a friend from the Ohio Department of Development and a graduate student from Miami University, we traveled to Wheeling, Morgantown, Fairmont, Clarksburg, Elkins, Lewisburg, Bluefield and Charleston over the period of three days.
Wheeling was our first stop to tour downtown and to complete a drive-by of the endangered East Wheeling Historic District. It was a quiet Saturday in downtown, with the exception of yet-another-demolition of historic building stock. This time, it was the "Port Heritage Business Center," that despite its tasteless modern facade, was a structurally sound multi-story brick structure on North Main Street.
2 The art store adjacent to the former "Heritage Port Business Center" isn't pleased that he'll be a lone wolf on the block.
5 The United Bank Building at 12th and North Main Street.
6 The Absure Tower at 12th and North Main Street (1201 Main Street) was constructed in 1915 and is underutilized. The building was once home to the National Bank of West Virginia and was designed by Wheeling-based architect Charles Bates.
7 A fantastic corner building at 12th and Market Street.
8 Between the Central Union Building and a pastel colored brick building is the modern WestBanco Building. It was founded as The German Bank in 1870.
9 What a great mix of downtown building styles.
10 The Central Union Building for the Central Union Trust at 14th and Market Street was completed in 1926. It connects to the modern WestBanco Building.
12 A collection of historic Italianate buildings along North Main Street between 13th and 14th Street.
13 What Wheeling needs is more convenient surface lot parking. Being sarcastic, of course.
14 The original DiCarlos Pizza location along North Main Street between 12th and 13th Street has been demolished, although the building was structurally sound.
a. Quiet Saturday in Wheeling: http://urbanup.net/2011/11/19/photographs/quiet-saturday-in-wheeling/
b. Wheeling, West Virginia: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/wheeling-west-virginia/