The County Seat, Historic West Union

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West Union, the county seat of Doddridge County, was  incorporated in the mid-1800s, but did not come into its own until the first gas and oil boom in the 1890s. From that wealth sprang a town of beautiful homes and buildings that still retains its beauty and integrity today. The Downtown Historic District contains thirty contributing homes and buildings, four of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Residential Historic District includes approximately 88 contributing home.

 

The contributing homes were mostly built around the turn of the century and are in a variety of architectural styles. Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Second Empire and Bungalow are the predominant styles you will see in the Residential Historic District. The oldest home in the district was built for Sheriff Floyd Neely in 1858. It is built in the Second Empire style and still retains its original look.

 

The first stores in West Union were wooden structures that came and went with several devastating fires in the mid to late 1800s. But by the early 1900s, multi-storied brick structures started lining the streets of West Union. The most spectacular of these buildings is the Doddridge County Court House, which is invariably praised by awestruck visitors.

 

The Court House, completed in 1903, sits atop a hill that overlooks downtown West Union. Its imposing beauty dominates the backdrop of the Historic District. This three-and-a-half story Romanesque style brick and stone building was designed by J. Charles Fulton and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The Doddridge County Commission recently invested over $2,000,000 in restoring and preserving on this historic gem.

 

The Silas P. Smith Opera House is another significant building in West Union. This Romanesque and Revival style building was built in 1900 to satisfy the cultural tastes of Silas P. Smith’s wife, who grew up in a large city and was unaccustomed to what she considered the uncultured lifestyle of West Union at that time. Since it closed its doors as an Opera House the building has alternately served as a venue for other public performances, including vaudeville and political speeches, as well as apartments, offices, a museum and a library. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

 

The Charter House is an impressive two-story, red brick home with Italianate style influences. It was built in 1877 for Lathrop Russell Charter, a prominent physician and surgeon who was born in Massachusetts, attended medical school in Albany, New York and moved to West Union in 1845. The home has had very few alterations over the years, so it retains its original significance and beauty. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

 

The Stuart Mansion is a three-story, brick, Victorian home built in the very early 1900s for an attorney named Winfield Scott Stuart. Construction was completed in about 1916. Winfield was the son of Chapman J. Stuart, Lieutenant in the Civil War, a judge and Senator who was credited with naming the new state of West Virginia in 1863. The mansion has magnificent rounded towers and a wrap-around porch. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

 

By 1910 West Union had been transformed from a crude shanty-town into a thriving small city with three hotels, two boarding houses, two theaters, three banks, two glass factories, two quality clothing stores, three blacksmiths, two tanneries, three grocery stores, a Chinese laundry, a bakery, and an opera house. Most of those businesses are gone today, but West Union still has the look and feel of an early 20th century small town.