Tag Archives: u.s. 40

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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Mile 132 – Centre Market, Wheeling, W.Va.

The front of Centre Market along 22nd Street in Wheeling.

Centre Market seems to be one of the bright spots in Wheeling’s efforts to revitalize its older neighborhoods. The market itself and the surrounding neighborhood are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Centre Market Square Historic District,” though the market itself also has its own NRHP designation.

The market is made up of two distinct sections – one older and one “newer.”  The earliest section, built in 1853, is believed to be the oldest still-standing iron market house in the country. This neo-classical section is now enclosed and painted white and green and has its original belfry. The second section, further south and made of brick in a neo-Romanesque style, was built in 1890 for primary use as a fish market. The building’s original use lives on through Coleman’s Fish Market. A more detailed description of the building’s past is available here, on the NRHP application from the 1970s (This link from the Ohio County Public Library has much of the same information on the application, but a bit easier-to-read format).

The main corridor in the older section of Centre Market in Wheeling.

Today, the entire building remains open to the public as an open market, with a handful of restaurants, shops and an art gallery. In addition, the streets on the east and west of the building (both of which are Market Street, one southbound and one northbound) currently host a number of more shops and restaurants, thereby creating a small shopping district within historic buildings. The buildings are owned by the City of Wheeling.

While in some ways the market serves a notably different purpose as an attraction today than it did 100 years ago as a necessary supply destination, its purpose still lives on as an important asset to Wheeling’s commerce.

Each of the businesses in the actual Centre Market and the surrounding neighborhood has its own hours, though there are businesses open every day of the week. Parking is available along Market Street and nearby streets.

To get to Centre Market from U.S. 40, follow Main Street south to 22nd Street, then turn left. The Market is on the right. From I-470, take Exit 1, turn left at the end of the ramp, left on 26th Street to Main Street and then turn right (north) on Main Street to 22nd Street.

The southern building of Centre Market, built in the late 1800s.


Mile 24 – Penn Alps, Grantsville, Md.

The entrance to Penn Alps on a rainy evening.

Tucked neatly near the Casselman River near the Casselman River Bridge, Penn Alps has been serving traditional American fare since the late 1950s.

Like The Casselman Inn just up the road, Penn Alps features a menu built around the German-inspired Mennonite and Amish cuisine, but Penn Alps has a larger dining area, seems to have a bit larger menu and also has a popular buffet. Other dining rooms can be, and are often, reserved for private dinners.

A sample of the typical buffet food at Penn Alps.

Besides being adjacent to the National Road, the history of Penn Alps itself is tied to transportation. Although the present building is comprised of several additions, the original building dates to around 1818, and served travelers along the National Road. The oldest alignment of the highway that leads to the Casselman River Bridge is along the north side of the building, which is the oldest part of the complex. The modern U.S.-40 ALT alignment runs immediately to the south.

The lobby at Penn Alps.

Since Alta Schrock, the founder of Penn Alps, bought the building, the entire facility has evolved into a campus, featuring the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, which provides space for area craftsmen to produce and show off their work. Included in this complex of buildings is an early 19-Century house – the Miller House – and Stanton’s Mill, an old gristmill. While the grounds are free and always open, the actual artisans are at their posts intermittently from May through October.

Some of the work produced at Spruce Forest can be purchased in the gift shop inside the Penn Alps  restaurant. The shop also sells locally-produced baked and canned goods to take home.

One of the dining areas at Penn Alps.

Penn Alps is an ideal stop for travelers and locals who not only want to sample great food, but who are also looking for a locally-produced quality souvenir – edible or not.

Penn Alps is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Buffet hours are Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant can be reached at 301-895-5985.
Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop on Urbanspoon


Mile 127 – Madonna of the Trail (W.Va.), Wheeling, W.Va.

West Virginia’s Madonna of the Trail has it’s own pullout for seeing the statue up close.

Coming from the east, West Virginia’s Madonna of the Trail is the third such statue one comes upon if following the National Old Trails Road route (along which the monuments were laid), or the second statue if following the National Road (which is part of the National Old Trails Road).

West Virginia’s Madonna statue was the second to be built, after Ohio’s monument in Springfield. The West Virginia statue was dedicated in July 1928 (see this previous post on the Pennsylvania statue for a brief history of the origin of the statues).

The West Virginia Madonna is the second oldest of 12 in the country.

Unlike the Pennsylvania statue, which isn’t as visitor-friendly (it’s right up against a higher-speed stretch of U.S. 40), West Virginia’s Madonna is set further back from the road and has a turnout dedicated to the statue, which sits in Wheeling Park. The City of Wheeling assisted the DAR in funding the erection of the statue, and helps maintain the grounds around the statue today.

Like all 12 Madonnas, West Virginia’s is identical to the others, and is maintained by a local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, which is in Wheeling in this case.

(The other monuments are in Bethesda, Md.; Beallsville, Pa.; Springfield, Ohio; Richmond, Ind.; Vandalia, Ill.; Lexington, Mo.; Council Grove, Kan.; Lamar, Colo.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Springerville, Ariz.; and Upland, Calif.)

In my opinion, Wheeling is a fascinating, historic small city, but it is one of the more difficult places to navigate for someone not familiar with the area. The steep hills and Interstates 70 and 470 seem to cut the city into disjointed pieces. So, while the West Virginia Madonna is located in Wheeling, it’s a few miles east of the downtown area.

A sign describing all 12 Madonnas at the Wheeling statue.


Mile 257 – Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

The “Palm House,” the original building of the conservatory.

I happened to be at a wedding in Columbus at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, which just so happens to be right along Broad Street – the National Road’s route through Ohio’s capital.

The conservatory is a large, public botanical garden with indoor and outdoor sections. The indoor sections are separate greenhouses, each with a different environmental zone in the world, from the Himalayas to the tropical South Pacific. Some zones are interactive and allow you to hear information about the plants by calling a specified number from a cell phone. The South Conservatory houses a large seasonal butterfly exhibition in a tropical Pacific biosphere – although the presence of animals is absent from all other parts of the facility.

The outside part of the conservatory is a combination of horticulture and sculpture. Paths snake through the gardens, with benches set throughout the park.

The Pacific Islands zone. A Chihuly glass sculpture is on the left.

In addition, Franklin Park also has its own in-house glass furnace, staffed by rotating glassblowers. The glassblowers give demonstrations throughout the day, and also offer glassblowing classes to the public. The conservatory also promotes the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly, the works of whom are found throughout the conservatory, intermingled with the flora. Some of Chihuly’s glass art is also for sale at the conservatory’s gift shop, though it’s a bit pricey (think around $5,000 to $10,000).

Franklin Park Conservatory is nothing new to Columbus, and is on public land (Franklin Park). The first structure of the modern conservatory was built in 1895, which is the back part of the building today and called the “Palm House.” Before that date, Franklin Park had served as the location for the Ohio State Fair.

Since the first greenhouse was constructed, several additions have been made onto the building including the glassblowing furnace, a gift shop and a cafe. The conservatory has also hosted numerous weddings and events and possibly the most significant event in its history – AmeriFlora ’92, which attracted over 5 million visitors during its six months. However, despite the importance of the event (some of the outdoor park was constructed for AmeriFlora), the event apparently caused the Franklin Park Conservatory to have financial and management issues. Those issues resulted in the conservatory’s management to be somewhat restructured.

A bonsai in the conservatory’s Bonsai Garden.

Regardless, the conservatory has continued to grow and become stronger financially and has been implementing a master plan for the present and future. The entire facility is kept up to date, informative and clean. For those with a deep interest in horticulture, at least an entire day could be spent touring the gardens and greenhouses. But even for those without a huge plant interest, the conservatory is worth a visit of a few hours.

There is a fee to enter the greenhouses – $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and students and $6 for children 3 to 17. It’s open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ample parking is available in front of the main entrance. General information can be received by calling 614-645-5926 or visitorservices@fpconservatory.org.

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Mile 0 (literally) – National Road Monument, Cumberland, Md.

The newly-finished National Road monument. Between fundraising and construction, the mounument took about a year to complete.

The new National Road monument in Cumberland is finally open, after the city dedicated the monument on Sunday, June 10, as part of the annual Heritage Days festival.

The new monument is placed approximately at the start of the National Road’s original routing on Greene Street at Riverside Park. Fundraising for the monument started last year during the 200th anniversary of the start of construction of the National Road. There is also a time capsule around the monument that is supposed to be opened in 2211.

To be clear – the National Road was eventually re-routed through The Narrows and LaVale (current U.S.-40 ALT), rather than over Haystack Mountain (currently Md.-49). So, this monument marks the original route, and not the route that exists today.

The first National Road monument in Cumberland is located in a traffic island on Greene Street, and almost unnoticeable.

Previously, this historic spot was marked only by a small concrete marker in a traffic island at the intersection of Greene and the Blue Bridge, which brings traffic to Cumberland from Ridgeley, W.Va. Riverside Park, at the confluence of Wills Creek and the Potomac River, already had George Washington’s headquarters and remnants of Fort Cumberland, so the park was pretty unique already. The National Road monument, in my opinion, fits in well with what exists already.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) speaks during the dedication ceremony at George Washington’s Headquarters.

Another fact about the monument – in addition to Cumberland and Allegany County, communities in three states helped with funds for the monument: Frostburg and Grantsville, Md.; Brownsville and Claysville, Pa.; and Wheeling, W.Va. I found the fact that municipalities a good ways away from Cumberland would be willing to help with such a project. Of course, the major funding still came from the city, the Allegany County Historical Society, the U.S. Dept. of Transporation (through a National Scenic Byways grant) and other private donors and businesses.

The crowd at the dedication of the National Road monument at Riverside Park on June 10. The new monument is in the background.

Of course, with 2012 being an election year, Maryland politicians (or representatives of those politicians) had to visit the city to speak at the dedication ceremony. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and State Del. Wendell Beitzell all spoke in addition to Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim and Allegany County Commissioner Michael McKay.

To visit the monument, parking is available along Greene Street in Cumberland. There is also public parking at the Western Maryland Railroad Station, and a pedestrian bridge over Wills Creek connects the station area to Riverside Park.

The National Road monument in Cumberland fits into the surrounding Riverside Park.


Mile 100 – Shorty’s Lunch, Washington, Pa.

Shorty’s Lunch, Washington, Pa.

It seems like almost every old city has at least one hot dog/hamburger/lunch place that has survived downtown for decades, despite the general decline of downtown areas in the U.S.

Washington has Shorty’s Lunch, tucked along West Chestnut Street downtown. Shorty’s has been around since 1932, and the eight booths inside haven’t changed. Like Coney Island in Cumberland, there is a bar/counter along one side of the dining area, and the booths line the opposite wall, making Shorty’s a pretty packed place with just a relatively small crowd.

The menu is pretty simple, with hot dogs and hamburgers being the staple. The grill sits in one of the front windows, so anyone walking along West Chestnut can see the rows of hot dogs being cooked inside. A hot dog with everything (which is what I inadvertently got) has a mustard base, and is then layers with a type of chili sauce and onions.

An “everything” hot dog.

I actually had no idea of the reputation Shorty’s has in southwest Pennsylvania. When I was in Washington, I just picked Shorty’s because it was one of the only older-looking restaurants downtown – and hot dogs always sound good. But as I started to look for background information online, I saw that Shorty’s had been featured in a number of publications including the Pittsburgh media (Shorty’s has its own Wikipedia article, which links to most of that information).

It’s not surprising that Shorty’s has a dedicated customer base – not only is the food good, but people seem to be generally protective of their old hot dog establishments (For me, I’m always going to be biased toward Coney Island in Cumberland, and will defend that it has the best hot dogs of anywhere – despite that there are just as many equally-great similar places).

Shorty’s is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Parking is available along just about every street in downtown Washington. Because the menu is so simple, you’ll probably have whatever you order in less than a minute. Take-out also seemed to be a popular option at Shorty’s. It is located at 34 W. Chestnut St., between Main Street and Jefferson Avenue.
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