West Virginia — Almost Heaven!

By Carole Feldman
This item appears on page 27 of the April 2021 issue.

While West Virginia (WV) conjured up grimy coal mines, a spontaneous car trip there in October 2016 showed us the opposite: warm, welcoming locals, lively music, creative craft shops, amazing scenery and even a famous luxury resort.

Seal of the State of West Virginia, on the carpet of the governor's office in the capitol. Photos by Marv Feldman

In WV’s capital of Charleston, the fantastic West Virginia State Museum clearly explained the state’s unusual, contentious origin in 1863. In Huntington, the centerpiece of the world-class, small Huntington Museum of Art (well worth a visit with its Gropius/Bauhaus art studios) was an intricate Dale Chihuly glass “tower.” And in the former coal town of Beckley, the enormous cultural center Tamarack showcased “The Best of West Virginia” with fabulous artisans’ handicrafts.

A comfortable stern-wheeler boat ride on the Ohio River from the one-time oil/gas boomtown of Parkersburg to Blennerhassett Island State Park mansion — with its fascinating history of a wealthy British couple who were involved in an alleged plot against President Thomas Jefferson — was delightful and informative.

America’s Taj Mahal in WV? Outside Wheeling, WV’s former capital, a Hare Krishna complex (Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, in Moundsville) with inlaid marble and hand-carved teakwood, stained-glass windows and French crystal was among the surprises we found in hilly WV!

Seal of the State of West Virginia, on the carpet of the governor's office in the capitol. Photos by Marv Feldman

At the tip of the Northern Panhandle, a large amount of industry surprised us, especially a visit in Newell to Homer Laughlin China Company, makers of Fiesta Dinnerware, with its dazzling endless array of colors. (We bought a set.)

Other surprises — a foreboding former “lunatic asylum” (Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, in Weston), with Nurse Ratched greeting us; million-dollar glass collections from the 1850s (in The Museum of American Glass in West Virginia, also in Weston); Carnegie Hall, seen during a tour of “cool town” Lewisburg, and White Sulphur Springs’ magnificent resort, where we spent a night, The Greenbrier, with its secret nuclear bunker.

West Virginia was worth taking the road less traveled!

Jacksonville, FL