Why is Charleston the Capital of West Virginia?

Why is Charleston the Capital of West Virginia?
Why is Charleston the Capital of West Virginia?

The capital of West Virginia is Charleston, having become the capital in 1877.

Within this post, we will talk about where exactly the capital of West Virginia is located, a brief history of Charleston, when and why it became the capital, and some fun things to do in the area.

Where Is The Capital Of West Virginia Located?

Where is the Capital of West Virginia Located
Where is the Capital of West Virginia Located

The capital of West Virginia is located in Charleston. It is geographically located in the Allegheny Mountains at the meeting point of the Kanawha and Elk rivers. It is in the south-central part of West Virginia.

West Virginia is bordered by Kentucky and Virginia in the south and Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio in the north.

The closest city to Charleston is Huntington (53 miles away), Gallipolis (59 miles away), and Buckley (61 miles away).

The largest city in West Virginia is Charleston.

Brief History of Charleston

Charleston, West Virginia, USA downtown skyline on the river at dusk.
Charleston, West Virginia, USA downtown skyline on the river at dusk.

The land of which Charleston currently stands was first purchased by Colonel George Clendenin in 1787, and from there a settlement was developed. Thomas Jefferson signed a patent for the land, and following that, Fort Lee was built there in 1788.

Charleston is the county seat of Kanawha County in what was once the state of Virginia. Fort Lee was created to serve as protection for the settlers, who had encroached on Indian hunting grounds, resulting in stiff resistance as they did so. 

The name of the town was first named Charles Town after Colonel George Clendenin’s father, but in 1819 it was renamed to Charleston.

Due to its location along the migration route to the Ohio river, Charleston quickly became a popular point for transshipment. When the first steamboat arrived in 1824, Charleston became an important and historic center for the production of salt.

However, many problems ensued in Charleston during the American Civil War. The Confederate general William Loring was able to defeat the union general Joseph A.J. Lightburn and occupy Charleston for almost two months. These Confederate forces ended up destroying most of the salt works once they had taken supplies.

Finally, Charleston became the state capital in 1870, however, it would take another seven years before the capital could move there permanently.

When did Charleston become the Capital of West Virginia?

Charleston became the capital of West Virginia in 1877.

West Virginia was originally a part of Virginia, and it achieved statehood in 1863. It then took seven years before Charleston was nominated as the state capital, and another seven before it was approved by popular vote in 1877.

Prior to that, the capital was Wheeling, and it was only in 1885 when it was finally moved.

Before the capitol was in Charleston, it was first in Wheeling. Between the years of 1863 and 1870, it was located in the Linsly Institute Building. Then, between the years of 1870 and 1875 it was moved to downtown Charleston. Once again, it was moved back to Wheeling, before being returned to Charleston in 1885: there it still remains to the present day. It cost just under $10 million to build the current capitol, and it is one of the best sights in the whole city.

Why is Charleston the Capital of West Virginia?

Daniel Boone Park in Charleston West Virginia during the fall season
Daniel Boone Park in Charleston West Virginia during the fall season

There are many reasons as to why Charleston is the capital of West Virginia.

One of the reasons is that it is strategically located in an area which is rich in natural gas, petroleum, bituminous coal, and salt. These resources supplied a large chemical manufacturing industry in the valley, and Lucite, Nylon, and other base chemicals were also developed in the area.

It was partly due to this production and the location that Charleston was chosen as the capital. Along with that, the constant shuffling between Wheeling and Charleston resulted in legislators allowing state voters to finally settle on a capital. Supporters of Charleston traveled with a circus to give their sales pitches along the way, giving speeches to black citizens to vote for Charleston. Whilst Clarksburg and Martinsburg launched promotional campaigns, the hailing winner was Charleston: with over half of the votes.

Features of Charleston, West Virginia

The size of Charleston is approximately 84.54 km², with a population of around 47,273 (as of 2020).

Nowadays, Charleston has a strong emphasis on government and health care, although it still manufactures the chemicals that it produced in the beginning. There are plenty of things to do in the city, from museums to galleries to quaint coffee shops.

As you take a stroll through the capital, you will notice that Charleston, both old and new seem to blend together timelessly: the history and beauty will surround you.

Best Places to Visit in Charleston, West Virginia

The Charleston State Capitol

Of course, the State Capitol and all its beauty is one of the best places to visit in Charleston – after all, it does have a limestone exterior and 300-foot dome topped with 23.5 karat gold leaf. To see where it all began, make sure to pay a quick visit to the banks of the Kanawha River and the Capitol.

West Virginia State Museum

For those looking to catch up on the history of the State, be sure to visit the West Virginia State Museum. Here, you can go back to prehistoric times and immerse yourself in displays of fossils and coals, following history all the way up to the present day.

Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences

The Clay Center is where you will find the home of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Here, you can attend concerts and performances of all musical genres, along with attending a show by Broadway in Charleston.

Capitol Street and Capitol Market

If you’re looking to step back in time, then make sure to take a stroll through old-time Charleston. Here, there are seemingly endless well-maintained historical buildings, along with quaint cafes, beautiful galleries, quirky bookstores, and boutique artisan shops. Grab a pizza and sit along the tree-lined brick sidewalks, taking in the beauty of the city.

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!