Parkersburg, West Virginia was not on my “Go To” list until recently when my husband and I headed there for a quick weekend away. Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers, Parkersburg is a pint-sized package of important aspects of American history. From pre-Civil War to the oil and gas boom to the height of manufacturing, Parkersburg’s history is a nutshell version of our shared tale of industriousness and the quest for new horizons.Many attractions are within easy walking distance of each other making a Parkersburg trip easy and relaxing.
Fort Boreman Historical Park – Located off US 50, Marrtown Rd exit just 2 miles from downtown, this park is a fitting starting place for a Parkersburg tour. From the vantage point of the park’s hill you can see both rivers, the train tressels that give testament to Parkersburg industrial past, and a large part of the city. Fort Boreman was also an important spot during the Civil War. There are remnants of the Union fortification that once exited here.
Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History – 137 Juliana St. Along with showcasing items that depict the history of Blennerhasset Island and the family that lived there, this museum features unusual objects of Ohio Valley history dating back to 9000 B.C. When I visited, there was an unusual displays of early toilets as a special exhibit.
The museum is housed in a building that has served as a grocery store and a warehouse. This is an example of a re-purposed building done right. It’s gorgeous.
Oil and Gas Museum, 119 3rd St. This museum is a facinating mix of items important to Parkersburg and West Virginia history. There’s more than oil and gas industry paraphenelia. Wandering from room to room and floor to floor of what was once a massive hardware store, I was able to gather how life in the United States has changed from pre-Civil War days to the boom and demise of major manufacturing. You could go back here dozens of times and find some other treasure you didn’t see before.
Julia-Ann Square Historic District – Juliana and Ann Sts between 9th and 13th Sts. Pick up a walking tour brochure at the Blennerhasset Museum or the Blennerhasset Hotel. The tour leads you past the finest homes in Parkersburg. Here is where prominent people lived back when Parkersburg was a booming center of trade and industry. The houses, dating between 1850 and 1910 are a gorgeous mix of Second Empire, 19th century eclectic and Queen Anne style architecture. In 1977, Julia-Ann Square acquired prominence by landing a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Several residents were outside gardening or sitting on their porches while we walked by and were happy to talk.
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, accessible via sternwheeler. (Purchase tickets at the Blennerhassett Museum, 137 Juliana St.) This island is where Irish aristocrat Herman Blennerhasset called home. His Palladian style mansion burned to the ground in 1811 but has been reconstructed to reflect the times when Blennerhassett was a prominent figure. Blennerhassett was accused, along with Aaron Burr, of treason for allegedly trying to establish a southwest empire.
From May to October, costumed docents lead tours of the mansion. Alas, we were in Parkersburg a week before the season opened. That’s okay. This just means I’m heading back to Parkersburg. I’m thinking about the fall when the colors will be at their peak.
Blennerhassett Hotel – If you are spending time exploring a town’s history, stay in its historic hotel. The Blennerhasset Hotel, built in the late nineteenth century, is a Parkerburg gem and downtown centerpiece. We stayed in a King room. On the weekends there are specials to entice guests. Our package was the Spring Fling which included a $20 gift card to use in the hotel and two Starbucks drinks. Our room rate for one night was $119. We used the gift card for the hotel’s sumptuous Sunday brunch. After the gift card, brunch cost us $15 and some change plus the tip.
320 Market St
Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association