Mile 259 – Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio

The facade of the statehouse.

The facade of the statehouse.

When the National Road was built, it carried transportation importance not only as a gateway west, but also as a link between western state governments and the East. The road itself passes through three former state capitals – Wheeling, W.Va. (several times in the late 1800s), Zanesville, Ohio (1810-1812), Vandalia, Ill. (1819-1839) – and two current state capitals – Columbus and Indianapolis.

The dome in the rotunda of the statehouse.

The dome in the rotunda of the statehouse.

In all of these locations, the National Road passes directly by, or very close to, the state capitol buildings. In Columbus, the Ohio Statehouse fronts the road (Broad Street) on its northern side.

The current statehouse was completed in 1861, after fire destroyed a previous building. The building is consistent with Greek Revival architecture, and the self-guiding tour brochure states that the idea to construct the capitol in this style came from a desire to create a structure that represented democracy, which was, of course, developed in ancient Greece.

Inside the statehouse rotunda.

Inside the statehouse rotunda.

The statehouse was renovated during the early 1990s, which restored much of the detailed interior architecture seen in the building today. In addition, the statehouse was fused with the Senate Building via an enclosed atrium, and the lowest level of the structure was renovated to serve as both a lower connection between the buildings and as a better facility for visitors.

The entrance to the Statehouse Museum.

The entrance to the Statehouse Museum.

Visiting the statehouse today is quite easy. A public parking garage exists under the building, accessible from Broad, Third or State streets. The garage leads directly into the lower level of the capitol, where a small, but modern, interactive museum features exhibits documenting politics and government in Ohio. Guided tours are free and given throughout the day, or guidebooks are available for a self-guided tour, which is what I did.

The mural for which the "Map Room" is named.

The mural for which the “Map Room” is named.

Because the statehouse and Senate Building are essentially one building, it’s a little easy to get disoriented at first. However, the statehouse is secured with a division of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and those officers can be of assistance.

The self-guided tour leads through each level of the building, noting the function of nearly every room on each floor. The guidebook provides detailed information on each location, and also contains photos and descriptions of what parts of the capitol looked like before the 1990s renovation/restoration.

Ohio Statehouse Resize (5)One aspect of the Ohio Statehouse that makes visiting pleasant is that the whole building is very open and visitor-friendly (at least when the Ohio General Assembly is not in session). Visitors are able to walk freely in and out of the building’s entrances, and even the House and Senate chambers are open to the public (again, as long as the legislature is not in session). This atmosphere allowed me to enjoy and take in the building at my own pace, without feeling rushed.

The highlights, at least in my mind, are The Rotunda, the House and Senate chambers, the Statehouse Museum and the grounds around the building. Of course, there are scores of other features the capitol has to offer.

The Ohio Statehouse is open to the public Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ohio Statehouse Resize (6)


Mile 189 – Fox Run ‘S’ Bridge, New Concord, Ohio

Fox Run S Bridge ResizeJust west of New Concord, Ohio, is one of the state’s relatively numerous ‘S’ bridges still standing – the Fox Run ‘S’ Bridge – right up against a four-lane segment of U.S. 40.

Built in 1828, this bridge seems to be unique in that I’ve seen it under three different names: the “Fox Run S Bridge,” the “Fox Creek S Bridge” and “S Bridge II.” Like most of the S bridges in Ohio and Pennsylvania, a small park surrounds the structure, which is open to pedestrians. However, as I found out, the bridge isn’t very friendly to visitors in the winter, as the small designated parking area and the bridge itself aren’t kept free of snow.

A marker at the bridge.

A marker at the bridge.

An information marker  on the east end of the bridge gives a little more information than a standard state historical marker, including mentioning that “the Fox Creek Crooked Creek area [was] a bastion of Abolitionism before and during the Civil War,” that every township in Ohio along the National Road doubled in population in a decade after the road was built and that the National Road was bricked over in 1919 to transport heavy equipment during World War I. Apparently, this bridge was the last part of the road to be bricked over. The bridge was used at least until the 1930s or 1940s. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

If I get a chance, I would rather see this bridge without snow on the ground. There’s supposed to be a path that leads down to the creek to let visitors see the structure closer. Parking (when there’s no snow on the ground) is located on the west end of the bridge.Fox Run S Bridge Resize (2)


Mile 180 – Theo’s Restaurant, Cambridge, Ohio

Theos ResizeIt seems that when a restaurant advertises the fact that it’s been around for decades, said establishment often sticks to decor associated with a set time period in American history. But that doesn’t appear to be the case with Theo’s Restaurant in downtown Cambridge.

Theo’s traces its history to 1931 when it opened as a Coney Island-style hot dog establishment, says the restaurant’s website. Since then, the place has passed down though several generations of owners, all related to varying degrees. After a fire in the 1980s, the restaurant was rebuilt, retaining the “Coney Island Lunch” name (which explains the more modern decor in the restaurant). It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the restaurant was renamed “Theo’s.”

The bar area of one of the dining rooms.

The bar area of one of the dining rooms.

Remnants of the eatery’s original purpose still survive, such as a Coney Island hot dog menu in the far dining room. The restaurant also has retained the locally-famous Coney Island dogs on its menu.

I was able to stop in for lunch on a recent trip to Indiana, and I was thoroughly impressed. The interior is large, and divided into two distinct dining rooms, one of which contains a bar. I had the “moist and sassy” version of the grilled chicken breast sandwich (I tend to be a sucker for menu items that are given a weird name). This version of the sandwich features the chicken marinated in a wine, olive oil, lemon and spice blend, which honestly was one of the best marinades I’ve ever had – not too sweet, not dripping wet and not hot. The grand total for my sandwich, fries and drink was under $7.

The "moist and sassy" version of the chicken sandwich.

The “moist and sassy” version of the chicken sandwich.

Theo’s seemed really down-to-earth, despite the fairly modern decor. The staff was all very friendly and made sure everything was satisfactory. The other thing I really liked was the variety on the menu. This isn’t just an average sandwich and fries place. For example, one of the specials the day I visited was halushki – a Hungarian entree based on soft noodles and cabbage. The Theo’s recipe included ham.

Theo’s is located at 632 Wheeling Ave., right in downtown Cambridge along U.S. 40.  It is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Daily specials and the regular menu are updated on the restaurant’s website. Parking is available on both sides of Wheeling Avenue in Cambridge, and is free for two hours – plenty of time to eat. Theo’s can be reached at 740-432-3878.

A page of the menu.

A page of the menu.

The main dining room.

The main dining room.

Theo's Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Side Trip – Mt. Davis, Pa.

Mt Davis (33)Not even 10 miles from the National Road in Grantsville, Md., is a pretty cool natural landmark – Mt. Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania at just over 3,200 feet. I was pretty surprised I had never made a detour to the mountain, despite traveling just south of the area so frequently.

Boulders at the summit of Mt. Davis.

Boulders at the summit of Mt. Davis.

Due to the mountain being west of the Allegheny Front, it’s prominence isn’t really all that great compared to other summits. However,  there’s still some pretty commanding views of the surrounding area from the mountain’s observation tower.

Mt Davis (19)

The observation tower and the high-point are just north of Springs, Pa., and just west of Salisbury, Pa. The mountain is surrounded by rural roads that form a rough loop around the mountain. There are two ways to get to the observation tower: a one-mile trail from a large picnic area (which I inadvertently took), or from a parking lot almost adjacent to the tower.

At the summit itself, a natural wind effect has resulted in a series of large boulders arranged in a ring. Plaques providing information about the mountain and local geology have been affixed to many of the boulders. The high point itself – marked by a USGS disk – is on a boulder near the observation tower (hint: look for a boulder that comes to a point at its top).

A view to the west.

A view to the west.

I’ve always found making to the top of a state high point to be a unique experience. Additionally, south-central Somerset County is tied very closely with its neighbors right below the Mason-Dixon Line in Grantsville. The small community of Springs hosts the annual Springs Folk Festival, and is also closely tied with Penn Alps and the Spruce Forest Artisan Village.

A close-up view of Salisbury, Pa., to the east.

A close-up view of Salisbury, Pa., to the east.

Based on my getting turned around several times during my visit to Mt. Davis, I feel that the best way to get to the mountain from U.S. 40 is via Md.-669 in Grantsville, which becomes Pa.-669 at the state line. Just north of Springs, make a sharp left onto Savage Road. Take Savage Road for about three miles until taking a right on Mt. Davis Road. Signs will direct you to the observation tower and picnic area. Of course, there are a number of ways to get to Mt. Davis, some of which may be more direct than the aforementioned. I’ve gathered that the route is better marked coming from the north than the south.

The top of this boulder is the highest point in Pennsylvania.

The top of this boulder is the highest point in Pennsylvania.

Because Mt. Davis is part of Forbes State Forest, backpack camping is permitted almost anywhere, with setback restrictions, and there are no fees to use the land.

The USGS marker at the high point.

The USGS marker at the high point.

The view to the east.

The view to the east.


Mile 132 – Wheeling Suspension Bridge, Wheeling, W.Va.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge as seen from Wheeling Island.

Many of the icons that make driving an old road enjoyable are actually part of the road itself. In Wheeling, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is an attraction in and of itself.

The bridge was built in 1849 specifically to carry the National Road across part of the Ohio River, connecting downtown Wheeling with Wheeling Island. Another bridge would then take the National Road from Wheeling Island (in then-Virginia) to Ohio. And while the bridge has been replaced as the main thoroughfare across the Ohio, it remains the oldest suspension bridge still in use in the United States.

The bridge has been fitted with numerous modern traffic control measures.

A drive across the bridge is an experience in itself. The open steel grates create a odd effect that seemingly reduces the grip the car has to the roadway, and is one reason why low speed limits are in place. Because the bridge was built before the invention of heavy automobiles, stoplights at either end of the bridge ensure no more than a handful of cars can be on the bridge at any one time. Heavy vehicles are banned from the bridge entirely. All vehicles are required to maintain 50-foot intervals from one another.

Markings on either side of the bridge define the structure as being part of the National Road.

At roughly 1,000 feet long, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its construction until 1851. However, the bridge deck collapsed in 1854 during a severe storm, and subsequently had to be rebuilt. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

Due to U.S. 40 being re-routed over I-70 from downtown Wheeling to Ohio, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is no longer directly on U.S. 40. Instead, eastbound travelers should use W.Va.-2 south (Main Street) to 10th Street, which is the bridge. On the Wheeling Island side, the bridge is part of Virginia Street.

When it was built, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge was the longest in the world.


Mile 126 – DiCarlo’s, Elm Grove, W.Va.

Residents of West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle rant and rave about DiCarlo’s – a pizza tradition born and raised in this part of the Ohio River Valley.

According to the DiCarlo’s website, the pizza recipe for which it is so famous was created in the late 1940s by Galdo DiCarlo, the third son of Michael and Caroline DiCarlo, who operated a grocery store and bakery.

What makes DiCarlo’s pizza unique is the way it is made. Unlike traditional pizza, DiCarlo’s bakes the crust and sauce, then adds the majority of the diced provolone cheese to the pizza as the pizza cools. So, a fresh DiCarlo’s pizza will likely have unmelted cheese or cheese that is in the process of melting. Pepperoni is standard on pizza.

Notice the freshly-spread cheese across the pizza.

Today, the DiCarlo’s franchise has grown to 12 locations in and around Wheeling, stretching from New Martinsville, W.Va., in the south to Wellsburg, W.Va., in the north. There are also DiCarlo’s outposts elsewhere in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

The Elm Grove DiCarlo’s sits right along U.S. 40.

But don’t think that all of these locations serve exactly the same product in exactly the same atmosphere — no. All DiCarlo’s eateries have pizza, but some have dine-in areas and some have expanded menus. What I’ve found is that local residents tend to think that “their” hometown DiCarlo’s is better than another DiCarlo’s down the road (and maybe that thinking keeps each DiCarlo’s in business!).

Regardless, from what I could gather, the DiCarlo’s in Elm Grove is the original DiCarlo’s franchise (though, if that’s not true, I’d like to know!). This DiCarlo’s is smack on the National Road, tucked between that historic highway and I-70, which seems to have sliced right through the middle of Wheeling and its surrounding communities.

The kitchen at the Elm Grove DiCarlo’s.

In this DiCarlo’s, there is no dine-in area. Instead, you can either call ahead or place your order at the store and wait. Each order is assigned a number, and orders are supposed to be finished in regards to their respective numbers.

Pizza is sold by the slice, which is square, and extra cheese is available for extra cost (it comes in small bags and is put on separately by the customer). At the Elm Grove spot, slices are offered in amounts from 1-28. If you’re on the go, soda is available at vending machines in the waiting area.  When your number is called, you pay, take your food and go.

Apparently this DiCarlo’s mails pizza?

I met a friend for dinner, and we ended up eating outside, putting our pizza on the back of her car and eating out of the box. For all the hype surrounding DiCarlo’s, the pizza absolutely lived up to its expectations! It really is quite a change from traditional pizza, as the cold, melting cheese adds a different flavor.

Like other established local restaurants, pizza at DiCarlo’s is a great deal for the wallet. At a little over a dollar per slice, the quality and freshness of the pizza beats out the national fast food chains.

The Elm Grove DiCarlo’s is located at 2099 National Road in Elm Grove, just east of Wheeling. It is closest to Exit 5 on I-70. It’s open from 3 p.m. through the late evening, so this DiCarlo’s is not the best spot for a lunch stop. To order ahead, call 304-242-1490.
DiCarlos Pizza Shop on Urbanspoon


Mile 132 – West Virginia Independence Hall, Wheeling, W.Va.

The exterior of the WVIH in Wheeling, taken from Market Street.

In Wheeling, the state of West Virginia was born. Though the state capital moved to Charleston permanently in 1885, the spirit of those Virginians against secession from the U.S. during the Civil War is preserved in this city on the Ohio River. Arguably the centerpiece of historic sites from West Virginia’s early history is the West Virginia Independence Hall, now a modern museum.

Originally a U.S. Customs house built in 1859, the building became the center of the Reorganized Government of Virginia (later West Virginia), and was where the Wheeling Conventions took place, which produced the new state.

Independence Hall in its modern condition, to me, is very underrated and under-promoted. The quality of the exhibits in the museum is impressive, and the museum staff is extremely knowledgeable about the building’s history.

The window of the restored U.S. Customs office overlooks another historic building in Wheeling – the former B&O train station.

Like many older buildings, Independence Hall has seen several uses throughout its existence, from the U.S. Customs facility to a federal courthouse to the center of the creation of West Virginia’s early government to a number of private uses. While the building today has been restored to its original appearance, at one time, the building was expanded to include more floor space – both horizontally and vertically.

In the 1960s, the state of West Virginia bought the building from private use, with the intention of restoring Independence Hall through the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. After restoration was complete, the building was opened as a museum in the late 1970s. The museum is operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, which also runs the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston.

This museum is ideal for anyone the least bit interested in history, especially those interested in historic renovation or the Civil War. The museum occupies three floors, and is designed to have visitors begin on the third floor and work down through each floor.

The third floor houses the restored 19th Century courtroom, plus the restored judge’s chamber. Visitors are free to walk about the courtroom, and informational signs provide a concise history of the room and its uses over the years.

One of the Civil War-era flags preserved at WVIH. Flash photography is prohibited in this exhibit.

The second floor contains the gem of the museum – a rather large exhibit containing  battle flags carried by companies that mustered across West Virginia during the Civil War. Because of the fragile nature of these flags, each is preserved in a controlled environment, and no flash photography is allowed in the exhibit. Tying in with the actual flags is another exhibit that features information on flag restoration and the relevant procedures.

Also on the second floor is an exhibit detailing the process of restoring Independence Hall to its original shape and size in the 1960s. The exhibit points out the extensive attention to detail that was paid during the restoration efforts.  In addition, a replicated U.S. Customs Office and the original West Virginia Governor’s office are on the second floor.

The first floor has more general exhibits on the Civil War and Wheeling history.

The West Virginia Independence Hall is on the corner of Market Street (W.Va. 2 North) and 16th Street in downtown Wheeling. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is closed Sundays and government holidays. Admission is free (Note: some Internet websites list an admission price, but that is no longer true). A small parking lot for the museum is off 16th Street.

 

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