Lewis County: Where Memories are Made
Lewis County has a storied history that continues to draw visitors seeking to connect with the past and make their own vibrant memories.
It was in Lewis County (which was then part of Virginia) on January 21, 1824, that iconic Civil War general Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was born. This Confederate General then spent his formative years in Lewis County. In fact, visitors can still walk the grounds where he spent his youth at Jackson's Mill, which is now part of West Virginia University Extension Service 4-H grounds. Jackson’s Mill is also the historic home of 4-H camping in the United States. Visit on Labor Day weekend when thousands gather to celebrate the Jubilee, which features history and heritage crafts.
There’s more to Lewis County’s military history than the Civil War, however. Stop by the Mountaineer Military Museum for exhibits and information on every U.S. war from the Civil War up through Operation Iraqi Freedom. The museum recently expanded by 2,100 square feet and now features a reflection room. Yet it is the story behind this museum that makes it stands out. As the site describes: “Childhood friends were drafted into their country’s service and only one made it home. A graveside promise was made that ‘I’ll never let anyone forget you guys.’ Ron McVaney vowed to keep his promise.” Over the next 35 years, McVaney gathered hundreds of pieces of military memorabilia. When he retired, he and his wife Barbara decided to open the museum to share these pieces with the public and educate future generations on the sacrifices made by those who came before.
Of course, no discussion of history would be complete without mentioning that Lewis County once was known as the hand blown glass capital of the world. While many large factories have closed, small shops like Appalachian Glass and West Virginia American Art Glass in Weston keep the art alive. Each day, visitors can watch glassblowing demonstrations as they view (and purchase) beautiful pieces from local artisans. Glass blowing is such an integral piece of Lewis County history that the Lewis County Convention and Visitors Bureau is located right there. To get an even richer picture of the history of glass, visit The Museum of American Glass on Main Street in Weston. Founded in 1993, this non-profit museum is dedicated to preserving the history of America’s glass industry.
When it comes to experiencing the great outdoors in Lewis County, you can do so in Four Star luxury at the Stonewall Resort. This 1900-acre resort features a golf course, spa, marina, a campground, luxury hotel and cottages, three restaurants a coffee shop and more.
You don’t have to stay at the resort to get in a round of golf in beautiful surroundings. The Deerfield Country Club in Weston is open to the public and features 9 beautiful holes designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan, ASGCA and Jack Kidwell.
Image from: Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Facebook
No trip to Lewis County would be complete without a stop at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. The structure itself is a landmark; it’s the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America and reportedly only second in the world to the Kremlin. Yet this structure is better known as one of the scariest places in the world. This facility (at the time the Weston State Hospital) was a sanctuary for the mentally ill in the mid-1800's. While it served thousands of patients, several hundred also died within its walls, and guests and staff have seen apparitions, heard unexplainable voices and sounds and more. In fact, several paranormal TV shows have filmed here. Visitors can take everything from a tame historic tour or a four-hour photography tour to a scary paranormal tour or even an 8-hour private ghost hunt. See their website for complete details and times.
Need a good stiff drink after your visit? Then stop by Lambert's Vintage Wines. This Gothic Winery in Weston is built from hand-cut stones and perched majestically on a hillside surrounded by a vineyard. It’s known as a beautiful site for weddings and features tours and tastings daily. With a full range of reds, whites and blushes, there is something here to please every palate. (We like to savor our favorites in a West Virginia stemless wine glass.) And if you want to look and feel years younger without drinking even a sip of red wine – we’re not sure why you would skip that delicious step, but we won’t judge – you can also buy some Lambert’s Resveratrol. A single ounce reportedly contains the same anti-aging Resveratrol content found in 156 glasses of red wine!
Image by: The Hickory House
Of course, you need some food to go along with your beverages, so stop by The Hickory House Restaurant in Jane Lew. Known for its signature hickory wood smoking, Hickory House was voted the best BBQ in West Virginia. Fortunately, it’s open 7 days a week, so no matter when you visit, you can order a traditional Pork BBQ sandwich (or 4!), a beef brisket platter, ribs, or even a Frac-Burger, known as the oil field special, which features a burger topped with pulled pork, beef brisket, jalapenos and two cheeses.
Image by: Thyme Bistro
The Thyme Bistro in Weston features upscale food in a casual setting. On a recent day, they featured Garlic Beef & Orzo Pasta soup; Tomato-Cucumber Salad with Shaved Locatelli Romano and Garlic Bread; and a Canal Street Foccacia Sandwich with Italian Meats and Cheese. Check out their Facebook page for desserts that will have you jumping in the car to drive over!
So whether your appetites run toward the historic, the artistic, the terrifying or the simply delicious, you’ll find history to discover and memories to make in Lewis County.
P.S. - For those of you wanting to hangout with the Loving WV family we will be selling shirts at the Jane Lew Firemen's Arts & Crafts Festival on Labor Day weekend
Upshur County – Small Town Charm
If you are looking for small town charm, Upshur County in the foothills of the Allegheny mountains has pretty much cornered the market. From strawberries to motorcycles, here’s a look at what you can see, do and taste in this charming county.
The West Virginia Strawberry Festival has been an annual tradition since 1936 (breaking only for 5 years during World War II). Initially a one-day festival designed to celebrate strawberry farmers (and boost their business!) the festival has expanded into eight days in May that are chock full of parades, arts and crafts shows, a carnival, vendors, and of course, every type of strawberry food you can imagine!
Is straight up shopping more your style? Then make plans to attend WV’s Largest Yard Sale. Each August, you can join a few thousand of your closest friends as literally hundreds of individual yard sales dot the streets of Buckhannon and Weston and spread throughout surrounding Upshur and Lewis counties. What makes it even better is that all the yard sales are within an hour driving radius, making it easy and fun to pop from sale to sale.
When you get tired of shopping, you can hit the road because Upshur County is known for some of the best motorcycle rides (or country drives if you prefer a car) in the state. Check out the Visit Buckhannon travel guide for starting points of routes that take you through everything from Civil War sites to wood chopping festivals.
Looking for things to see in Upshur County? This historic area has you covered there as well. From June to September, start your Sunday afternoon at the Upshur County Historical Society & Museum in Buckhannon. Built in 1856, this structure is the oldest surviving building on Main Street and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Each summer, it hosts a different exhibit– past years’ exhibits have focused on colleges, and of course, the Strawberry Festival.
But your historic tour doesn’t end there. In fact, the Downtown Buckhannon Historic District is itself listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can stroll down the district streets to see gorgeous examples of Italianate and Queen Anne architecture. Visit the Upshur County page of the Register for more details on this and four other county locations that made the cut.
If you’re looking for a more outdoorsy site that still has some historic value, visit Pringle Tree Park. This tree marks the spot of the first permanent settlement west of the Alleghenies in what was then Virginia. On that site, John & Samuel Pringle lived in a large, hollowed tree for three years, from 1764 -1767. You can view the third-generation tree and enjoy surrounding picnic facilities, a public boat launch & a playground.
Image by: Three Quarter Cafe
Hungry for some upscale fare? Then head downstairs to the third basement of the Stockert Building for the ¾ Café. Springing up next to an underground micro-cinema (in the fourth basement of the building), the restaurant features international flavors that compliment the films, as well as “handcrafted simple foods like bread, soup, wine, and cheese.” From luscious crepes to a Bacon, Peach & Chevre Panini, you are certain to discover a craveworthy bite on their menu.
Craving some real life Hillbilly food? Then there’s no better place to go than the Hillbilly Grill in Buckhannon. The owners hand-built this popular restaurant with a glass-enclosed deck, but the real star is the Hillbilly Burger. It starts with a traditional 8-ounce beef patty on a sesame seed bun, but then goes a little crazy with American cheese, horseradish sauce, white queso cheese, honey mustard and – wait for it – shaved prime rib. In fact, it recently was featured in an article on the best burgers in the state.
If you happen to visit from early March through mid October, you can top off your meal with a tasty treat at Dairy Queen. Sure, there are Dairy Queens in lots of places, but only in the Downtown Buckhannon Historic District can you find this walk-up restaurant that has been in business for 60 years and is one of the few like it left in the country.
Image by: Tateep Unique Boutique
After you get your fill of ice cream in Buckhannon, don’t forget to walk down Main Street to Tateep Unique Boutique. This clothing store boasts gifts with unique style – ranging from Simply Southern clothing and Spartina purses to our personal favorite, Loving WV gear! No matter what you are shopping for, you can find unique and upscale items at affordable prices with friendly southern service at Tateep’s.
Fairmont, West Virginia – Home of Legends
What do Mary Lou Retton, Johnnie Johnson and Nick Saban have in common? It turns out the iconic female gymnast, the “Father of Rock and Roll,” and the head football coach of Alabama’s Crimson Tide all hail from the same town in West Virginia – Fairmont. This city of about 19,000 and the county seat of Marion County is also home to Fairmont State University, high-tech institutions like the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Facility, and some mighty fine craft beer, as well as spectacular views of the natural beauty of West Virginia.
Image by: Kevin Funk
To see it all, start at Valley Falls State Park, a scenic place to get out and enjoy the best of the outdoors. This 1,145 acre park features a spectacular series of foaming falls. Here, the waters of the Tygart Valley River fall over ledges and room-size boulders of Connoquenessing Sandstone. Against this scenic backdrop, you can enjoy fishing, picnicking or kayaking, and experience 18 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Image by: @lillyputian18
If you like your parks more historic, you can visit Prickets Fort State Park. This log fort that overlooks Prickett's Creek and the Monongahela River re-creates the original fort built in 1774, which served as a refuge on what was then the western frontier of Colonial Virginia. This new fort was built in 1976 by the Prickett's Fort Memorial Foundation and functions as a living history center. Visitors can experience 18th century colonial life through demonstrations by blacksmiths, spinners, weavers and even firearms manufacturers.
If you are in Fairmont during the summer, plan to stop in at the Annual Johnnie Johnson Festival, which promotes jazz and blues music in honor of this legendary musician. Johnson founded "The Sir John's Trio" and on New Year’s Eve 1952, he hired a young guitarist named Chuck Berry; the rest is literally music history. The annual summer event features three days of great music and lots of memories.
Image from: Fairmont State University Facebook
No trip to Fairmont is complete without a stop at Fairmont State University. You can visit a historic one-room schoolhouse on the campus and see Hardway Hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1917, it boasts unusual architecture and is the birthplace of three international educational drama honorary organizations: Alpha Psi Omega, Delta Psi Omega, and the International Thespian Society. Also on campus, The School of Fine Arts offers a variety of concerts, exhibits and plays throughout the year.
Speaking of culture, where can you experience the world championship pepperoni roll eating contest? Why, the West Virginia Three Rivers Festival of course! Held in Palantine Park over Memorial Day weekend, this festival features a parade, carnival, live entertainment and more in addition to the legendary eating contest.
If you’d rather see the area via two wheels, Marion County Parks and Recreation offers two rail trails for biking, walking or even horseback riding. The West Fork River Trail is 16 miles long and boasts several re-decked railroad bridges and more than 200 acres of riverfront property. MCTRAIL starts at Pricketts Fort State Park and goes nearly 3 miles to Mt. State Metals on Morgantown Avenue in Fairmont.
Image by: @TheRamblingRoot
Of course, all this sightseeing is bound to work up quite a thirst. One place to quench it is at the Rambling Root. This quirky restaurant features 21 taps of handcrafted beers, and their bottles and cans list is near endless. The owners envision it to be a place where you can bring your family, meet friends and make memories; a place that keeps you rooted to your past no matter where you ramble. (We love the idea of this place so much that we backed their GoFund Me, so look for our name on the back of their menus when you visit!)
If you love dogs, you need to stop at the home Yann's Hotdogs. With just eight seats, no posted hours and no sign, it’s a not-so-secret hideaway at 300 Washington St. that the locals love. The spicy “sauce” (otherwise known as chili) is legendary for its heat and its flavor. Rumors of secret ingredients range from lard and cracker meal to cinnamon so order a dog (or three!) and take your best guess.
Image by: @LovingWV
Because you need to start your mornings off right, visit McAteer's for breakfast. You can tell this place has a local feel as soon as you walk in the door, and it should, since it’s been here since 1958. So grab a cup of coffee (you might even get it served in one of our coffee mugs!) and enjoy a taste of home for breakfast.
Image by: @joe_n_throw
Of course, no Fairmont coffee run is complete without a stop at Joe N Throw. This quirky place got its start when a coffee roaster and a potter met at a beard growing competition. The result is a lasting friendship and a local coffee shop/pottery studio that promotes local art, culture and food. Did we mention that you can get your own Loving WV decals there, too?) Stop on in, chill with a coffee, and check them out!