West Virginia Independence Hall: A Historic Site with a Story to Tell

Suppose you’re looking for a place to learn about the history and culture of West Virginia. In that case, you can’t miss West Virginia Independence Hall. This historic building in downtown Wheeling was the site of the first West Virginia Constitutional Convention and the first and second Wheeling Convention, which resulted in the separation of Unionist West Virginia from Confederate Virginia during the Civil War. It’s also a stunning example of Renaissance Revival architecture, with a wrought iron framing system that was innovative for its time. In this web page, we’ll take you on a tour of West Virginia Independence Hall and tell you why it’s a must-see attraction for anyone interested in West Virginia’s past and present.

Image of West Virginia Independence Hall

The History of West Virginia Independence Hall

West Virginia Independence Hall was built in 1860 as the custom house for the Western District of Virginia, serving as a post office and courthouse. It was designed by architect Ammi B. Young, who used round-arch window and door openings, deep rusticated joints, and projecting beltcourses to create a harmonious and elegant facade. The interior also featured round-arch openings and a wrought iron framing system that used rolled I-beams fabricated by the Trenton Iron Works. This was one of the first uses of rolled I-beams in building construction, and the frame is one of the country’s best-preserved examples of wrought iron framing.

Image of Inside of West Virginia Independence Hall

The building became the center of political activity in 1861 when the western counties of Virginia refused to secede from the Union and the rest of the state. The Wheeling Convention met here in May and June 1861. It declared that secessionists had usurped the state government in Richmond and that a new government loyal to the United States should be formed. This new government, known as the Restored Government of Virginia, elected Francis H. Pierpont as its governor and occupied West Virginia Independence Hall as its capitol. Pierpont used this building as his office during his tenure, and it was here that he composed the telegram to President Abraham Lincoln urging him to sign the bill for West Virginia statehood.

In November 1861, another convention met at West Virginia Independence Hall to draft a constitution for the new state of West Virginia. The constitution was ratified by voters in April 1862 and submitted to Congress for approval. After some amendments and delays, President Lincoln signed the bill for West Virginia statehood on December 31, 1862, and West Virginia officially became a state on June 20, 1863. It was the only state to secede from a Confederate state during the Civil War.

West Virginia Independence Hall continued to serve as the capital of the Restored Government of Virginia until 1863 when Governor Arthur Boreman moved his office to another building nearby. The building remained a federal property until 1907 when it was sold to private owners. It underwent several alterations over the years, including a steepening of the roof, removal of some interior walls, and conversion into commercial space. In 1964, it was acquired by the state of West Virginia, which began a restoration project to bring it back to its original appearance. In 1970, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1988, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Culture around West Virginia Independence Hall

West Virginia Independence Hall is a historic site and a cultural hub for Wheeling and West Virginia. It hosts various events throughout the year, such as lectures, concerts, reenactments, festivals, and ceremonies. It also serves as an educational resource for students and teachers, offering guided tours, interactive exhibits, and curriculum materials. The museum staff are friendly and knowledgeable, ready to answer any questions you might have about the building or its history.

One of the most popular events at West Virginia Independence Hall is the annual West Virginia Day celebration on June 20th. This is when people gather to commemorate the anniversary of West Virginia’s statehood with speeches, music, food, and fireworks. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience some of West Virginia’s traditions and pride.

Another event that draws many visitors is the Civil War reenactment every October. This is when actors dressed in period costumes recreate some scenes at West Virginia Independence Hall during the Civil War era. You can watch them debate over secession and statehood, witness mock trials and elections, and even join them in singing patriotic songs.

What can you find in West Virginia Independence Hall?

West Virginia Independence Hall is a museum that showcases the Civil War-era building, its collections, and its role in the history of West Virginia. You can explore three floors of exhibits that tell the story of how West Virginia became a state and how the people of Wheeling and the western counties fought for their rights and values. You can also see the original Civil War battle flags, the restored courtroom, and the Soldiers and Sailors monument.

Some of the highlights of the museum include:

  • The Governor’s Office: This is where Governor Pierpont worked and wrote his telegram to President Lincoln. You can see his desk, chair, other furnishings, and some of his personal items and documents.
  • The Assembly Room: This is where the delegates of the Wheeling Convention and the West Virginia Constitutional Convention met and debated. You can see the original chairs, tables, podium, portraits of some of the delegates, and a replica of the state seal.
  • The Courtroom: This is where federal trials were held before and during the Civil War. You can see the judge’s bench, jury box, witness stand, prisoner’s dock, and some artifacts related to the cases tried here.
  • The Flag Room is where you can see the original Civil War battle flags carried by West Virginia regiments. You can learn about the history and symbolism of each flag and the stories of the soldiers who fought under them.
  • The Soldiers and Sailors Monument: This bronze statue stands outside the building, honoring the men who served in the Union Army and Navy during the Civil War. It was erected in 1880 by the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization.

Interesting Facts

Here are some interesting facts about West Virginia Independence Hall that you might not know:

  • The building was originally painted white but later changed to a sandstone color to match its exterior material.
  • The building has a clock tower that chimes every hour. The clock was installed in 1861 by John C. Hupp, a local jeweler who also served as a delegate at the Wheeling Convention.
  • The building has a secret tunnel that connects it to another building across the street. Federal officials used the tunnel to escape in case of an attack by Confederate sympathizers.
  • The building has a ghost that is said to haunt its halls. The ghost is believed to be Benjamin Franklin Kelley, a Union general wounded at the Battle of Philippi in 1861. He was brought to West Virginia Independence Hall for treatment, but he died shortly after. His spirit is said to roam around the building, especially near his deathbed.

Advice for Visitors

If you’re planning to visit West Virginia Independence Hall, here are some tips to make your trip more enjoyable:

When is it open?

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Admission is free.

What to wear?

There needs to be a dress code for visiting the museum. Still, you should wear comfortable shoes and clothing suitable for walking and climbing stairs. The building has no elevator or air conditioning so it might get hot or cold depending on the season.

Is it family-friendly?

Yes, the museum is family-friendly and welcomes visitors of all ages. There are interactive exhibits and activities for children, such as puzzles, games, and coloring pages. There are also restrooms and water fountains available for your convenience.

When is it best to visit?

Anytime is a good time to visit West Virginia’s Independence Hall. Still, avoid peak hours or days when there are special events or large groups. You can check the museum’s website or call ahead for their schedule and availability.

A Trip Through West Virginia Landmarks to Castle Floor Coatings

Via I-64 W and I-64 W/I-77 N

The Greenbrier

101 W Main St, White Sulphur Springs, WV 24986, United States

  1. Get on I-64 W from US-60 W/Midland Trail E
    1. Head southeast toward Greenbrier Dr/Springhouse Ln
    2. Continue onto Greenbrier Dr/Springhouse Ln
    3. Continue to follow Springhouse Ln
    4. Turn right onto US-60 W/Midland Trail E
    5. Turn left onto Harts Run Rd
  2. Turn right to merge onto I-64 W toward Beckley
    1. Merge onto I-64 W
    2. Use the right 2 lanes to merge onto I-64 W/I-77 N toward Charleston
    3. Take exit 79 toward Sharon/Cabin Creek Rd
  3. Turn left onto Access/Sharon Hollow Rd/Sharon Hollow Rd Access
    1. Turn left at the 2nd cross street onto Cabin Creek Rd
    2. Destination will be on the right

Eksdale, West Virginia, C&O Coal Tower

220 Back St, Eskdale, WV 25075, United States

  1. Head north on Cabin Creek Rd
  2. Turn right onto Access/Sharon Hollow Rd/Sharon Hollow Rd Access
  3. Turn left onto the 64 W/77 N ramp
  4. Merge onto I-64 W/I-77 N
  5. Take exit 97 for US-60 W/Kanawha Blvd toward Midland Trl
  6. Continue onto US-60 W/Kanawha Blvd E
  7. Destination will be on the right

West Virginia State Capitol

1900 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25305, United States

  1. Follow I-79 N and US-19 S to Birch River. Take the WV-82 exit from US-19 S
    1. Head west on US-60 W toward WV-114 N
    2. Turn right onto US-60 W/WV-114 N/Greenbrier St
    3. Continue to follow WV-114 N/Greenbrier St
    4. Turn left to merge onto I-64 W/I-77 N toward I-79
    5. Use the right 2 lanes to take the I-77 N exit toward I-79/Parkersburg
    6. Continue onto I-77 N
    7. Keep right at the fork to continue on I-79 N, follow signs for Clarksburg
    8. Take exit 57 toward Beckley
    9. Merge onto US-19 S
  2. Take the WV-82 exit toward Birch River/Cowen
    1. Turn left onto WV-82 E/Birch River Rd
    2. Continue straight onto Howard Farm
    3. Continue onto Old Birch River Rd
    4. Turn right onto 1st St W/Erbacon Rd
    5. Continue to follow Erbacon Rd
    6. Turn left onto WV-20 N/Webster Rd
    7. Continue to follow WV-20 N
    8. Turn right onto Co Rte 15/4
    9. Turn right onto WV-15 E/Point Mountain Rd
    10. Continue to follow WV-15 E
  3. Turn right onto US-219 S/Seneca Trail
    1. Turn left onto WV-66 E
    2. Turn left to stay on WV-66 E

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

12363 Cass Rd, Cass, WV 24927, United States

  1. Head southwest on WV-66 W toward Deer Creek Rd
  2. Turn right onto US-219 N/Seneca Trail
    1. Turn left onto US-219 N/US-250 N/Seneca Trail
    2. Continue straight onto WV-92 N
    3. Slight left onto US-250 N/US-33 W/US-48
    4. Turn right onto US-250 N
  3. Turn right onto WV-92 N/Morgantown Pke
  4. Continue to follow WV-92 N
  5. Turn left onto US-50 W
  6. Turn right onto WV-92 N
    1. Turn left onto Gladesville Rd
    2. Turn right to stay on Gladesville Rd
  7. Turn right onto US-119 N/Grafton Rd
    1. Turn left onto the ramp to I-79/Fairmont
    2. Merge onto I-68 W
    3. Use the right 2 lanes to merge onto I-79 N toward Washington
    4. Keep left to stay on I-79 N
    5. Use the right 2 lanes to merge onto I-70 W/I-79 N toward Washington
    6. Continue to follow I-70 W
    7. Keep right at the fork to stay on I-70 W
    8. Keep left to stay on I-70 W
    9. Take exit 225 for OH-7 toward Bridgeport
    10. Turn left onto Marion St
    11. Turn left to merge onto I-70 E toward Wheeling

Wheeling Suspension Bridge

Wheeling, WV 26003, United States

  1. Head east on I-70 E
  2. Take exit 1A for US-40 E/WV-2 N/Main St toward Downtown
  3. Merge onto US-40 E/WV-2 S/Main St
  4. Continue to follow WV-2 S/Main St
  5. Turn left onto 16th St/Greater Wheeling Trail
  6. Continue to follow 16th St
  7. Turn left onto Market St
  8. Destination will be on the right

West Virginia Independence Hall

1528 Market St, Wheeling, WV 26003, United States

  1. Get on I-70 E
    1. Head north on Market St toward 15th Pl
    2. Keep left to continue on Lane 38
    3. Merge onto I-70 E via the ramp to Washington
  2. Merge onto I-70 E
    1. Take the exit onto PA-43 S
    2. Use the right 2 lanes to merge onto US-119 S toward PA-43 S/Morgantown
    3. Keep left to continue on US-119 S/US-40 E
    4. Use the left 2 lanes to take the US-40 E exit toward Hopwood
  3. Get on I-68 E/US-40 E in Garrett County
    1. Continue onto US-40 E
    2. Turn right to stay on US-40 E
    3. Use the right lane to merge onto I-68 E/US-40 E via the ramp to US-219 N/Cumberland
  4. Merge onto I-68 E/US-40 E
    1. Continue onto Exit 82C (signs for I-70 W/US-522 N/Breezewood)
    2. Use the right lane to keep right at the fork and continue on Exit 82B
  5. Keep right to continue on Exit 82A, follow signs for US-522 S/Hancock/Winchester, and merge onto US-522 S
    1. Merge onto US-522 S
    2. Turn right onto Fairfax St
    3. Fairfax St turns left and becomes Cornelius Ave
    4. Destination will be on the left

Museum of the Berkeley Springs

2 Fairfax St, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411, United States

  1. Take Fairfax St to S Washington St
    1. Head northeast on Cornelius Ave toward Fairfax St
    2. Cornelius Ave turns right and becomes Fairfax St
  2. Turn right onto S Washington St
  3. Get on I-81 S in Berkeley County
    1. Turn left onto WV-9 E/Martinsburg Rd
    2. Continue to follow WV-9 E
    3. Use the right lane to take the ramp to Winchester
  4. Merge onto I-81 S
    1. Take exit 12 for WV-45 E toward WV-9 E/Winchester Ave/Charles Town
    2. Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto WV-45 E
    3. Continue onto WV-9 E
    4. Use the right lane to take the US-340 N/WV-51 W ramp to Charles Town/Harpers Ferry
    5. Turn left onto US-340 N/William L Wilson Fwy
  5. Drive to Shenandoah St
    1. Turn left onto Shenandoah St
    2. Continue straight to stay on Shenandoah St
    3. Destination will be on the right

John Brown’s Fort

814 Shenandoah St, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, United States

  1. Head southwest on Shenandoah St toward Potomac St
  2. Turn left onto US-340 E/William L Wilson Fwy
  3. Continue to follow US-340 E
    1. Take exit 10 for interstate 70 E toward I-270/Baltimore/Washington
    2. Merge onto I-70 E
    3. Use the right 2 lanes to take exit 53 to merge onto I-270 S toward Washington
    4. Take exit 31B for MD-85 S toward Buckeystown
  4. Continue onto MD-85 S/Buckeystown Pike
    1. Pass by McDonald’s (on the right in 0.4 mi)
    2. Turn right onto Executive Way
    3. Turn right onto Macon St
    4. Turn left onto Proclamation Pl
    5. Destination will be on the right

Castle Floor Coatings – Garage Coatings & Concrete driveway sealers

7180 Proclamation Pl, Frederick, MD 21703, United States