Parkersburg, West Virginia – it may not be a destination name you’ve heard tossed around frequently. However, if you love to discover great stories about the past and appreciate the historic architecture that kindles that romance, then this is definitely a destination worth knowing about! Plus, it may help you make a few more notches on your roadside attractions list as well!
Parkersburg, West Virginia
Just south of the Ohio River sits a small city named Parkersburg. This city, much like the river it sits on, comes with quite a big history! It’s a city at the beginning of a revival – moving forward by looking at the past. Sound like conundrum? Not when your destination sits in the midst of some pretty amazing historical sites!
I was invited to spend the weekend in Parkersburg, West Virginia on a hosted trip with the city tourism. Being a big fan of vintage artifacts, this turned out to be super interesting weekend plans for me. I can’t wait to share with you everything I saw and experienced on this trip!
Historic Sites of Parkersburg, West Virginia
The historic beginnings of Parkersburg, West Virginia can easily be found throughout the downtown areas, as well as the neighborhoods. Just a quick drive around the city and I was wide-eyed at the sights! However, to get out and really experience this history first hand, there are a few places to go.
1. Smoot Theatre
Built in 1926, you might consider this a pretty vintage building. While that certainly is true, the Smoot Theatre actually isn’t the oldest on the block. A walk around the area allowed me to gawk at so many fascinating buildings – they were so old!! But alas, we were invited inside the Smoot Theatre for an inside tour – be still my heart!
What started as a vaudeville house, whose curtains have opened for many famous performers, also spent some time as a movie theater for Warner Bros. However, through all of these changes with the times, the starstruck awe was still there when I carefully walked down the incredibly tiny steps into the basements’ dressing rooms. While I may have been expecting to see a ghost or two, I did find the old trapdoors used in the vaudeville era and some still functional showers that only washed the lower half, leaving the hair and makeup untouched for the next performance.
Along with a few original pieces of the house, the Smoot Theatre is home to many signed performer photos as well as a few unforgettable signatures left on the walls.
2. Blennerhassett Museum
Have you ever heard of the name Blennerhassett? Apparently, this duo was quite the couple and made a lasting impression on the area of Parkersburg for more than one reason – some good, some bad. However, no matter where you stand on their exoneration, their story and what they left behind is fascinating to discover.
One of the best places to hear about their story is the Blennerhassett Museum. It is a great place to watch a short film and wander the three levels of artifacts left behind from past eras, including the Blennerhassetts’. Whether it was the old paintings or the vintage automobiles, this place made the vintage geek in me go nuts!
3. Blennerhassett Island Historical Start Park
After learning more about the Blennerhassett history at the museum, we took a ferry boat over to the Blennerhassett Island and walked through a reconstruction of the couples home. Since the original home burnt down many years ago, a period correct home to match the original was built and is open for tours.
Even though it wasn’t the original, it was definitely fascinating to experience. I also picked up a few decorating ideas for my own home at the same time! What do you think about a floor to ceiling dark wood library?
Apart from touring the home, we were also given the opportunity to ride on a covered wagon around the island. This short ride made me feel like a kid again and also shed light on the other buildings of the property – one of which was said to be where Walt Whitman spent some time as he wrote a poem about the island. While this is merely speculation, I haven’t been able to confirm his travels. Although, still geeked at the thought!
4. Henderson Hall
Built in 1859, this home was full of vintage artifacts, amazing views, and some unsettling stories of the hardships that come along with the time period. As in most historical situations, it’s best to use these stories to grow and not make the same mistakes twice. The plaquards in front of each room of the house are great for providing more insight into this way of life – however, be ready because many of these stories are heartbreaking.
5. Fort Boreman
Fort Boreman is the Parkersburg, West Virginia Civil War archeological site – original to 1863. Today, it is a nice place to visit and learn about the fortification as well as the scene to a beautiful overlook of the Ohio River and city below. I will be honest and say that I had good intentions of visiting this location early in the morning to watch the sunrise, but we both know that never happened. The last afternoon was just as good.
This location includes walking trails, a playground, and an overlook. No admission was charged at the time of my visit.
6. The Ohio Riverfront
Even though I didn’t make it to see the sunrise on Fort Boreman, I did get to experience the sunset on the banks of the Ohio River. Such an experience complete with swinging chairs and a view of the bridges. If you’re lucky, a barge may be making its way up the river at the same time. . .
Make it the Weekend Plans
Creating a trip to Parkersburg, WV could easily be a weekend thing. Luckily, there are a few nice options for hotels in the area! For more space and a kitchen in the room (super handy), the Townplace Suites by Marriot is an excellent option. This is where I stayed during my trip.
However, for an all around historic trip, the Blennerhassett Hotel is also a great choice. I visited this location for brunch and was given a tour of the grounds. It certainly would make for a lovely weekend getaway.
In terms of food, there are a few options. The Blennerhassett Hotel has their own dining room and the brunch is amazing! There is also Jimmy Colombos restaurant, which houses walls and walls of vintage photographs that are fun to look at. Finally, there is the North End Tavern and Brewery, which has won several awards for their Roedy’s Red brew.
Be sure to follow along with us on Instagram to see where we go next! Have a recommendation? Tweet us your ideas on Twitter @raisingdickjane – we’d love to hear them!
Disclosure: This article contains information that was gained through a hosted trip. This means that some of these locations gave me free access, accommodations, and/or meals. All opinions are my own.