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Charleston

Charleston is the capital city of the state of West Virginia, and is located where the  Elk and Kanawha Rivers meet  in Kanawha County. In the 2000 census, it has a population of 53,421.

However, the 2006 Census Estimate has Charleston with a population of 50,846[1], and a metro area of 307,763. Charleston is the largest city in the state. It is the county seat of Kanawha County.

Early industry important to Charleston included salt and the first natural gas well.

Later, coal became central to economic prosperity in the city and the surrounding area. Today, trade, utilities, government, medicine and education play the central role in the city’s economy.

The first permanent settlement, Ft. Lee, was built in 1788. In 1791, Daniel Boone, the famed explored from Kentucky was a member of the Kanawha County Assembly.

Charleston is the home of the West Virginia Power (formerly the Charleston Alley Cats) minor league baseball team, the West Virginia Wild minor league basketball team, and the annual 15-mile (24 km) Charleston Distance Run. Yeager Airport and the University of Charleston are also located in the city.

Charleston capital building gleams in the afternoon sun

After the American Revolutionary War, pioneers began making their way out from the early settlements. Many slowly migrated into the western part of Virginia. Capitalizing on its many resources made Charleston an important part of Virginia and West Virginia history. Today, Charleston is the largest city in the state and the state capital.

Charleston’s history goes back to the eighteenth century. The Bullitt family was deeded 1,250 acres (5 km²) of land near the mouth of the Elk River in 1774. The land was later sold to Col. George Clendenin in 1786. The first permanent settlement, Fort Lee, was built in 1788 by Col. Clendenin and his company of Virginia Rangers. This structure occupied the area that is now the intersection of Brooks Street and Kanawha Boulevard. Historical conjecture indicates that Charleston is named after Col. Clendenin’s father, Charles. Charles Town was later shortened to Charleston to avoid confusion with another Charles Town in present day West Virginia.

The town continued to grow until the Civil War began in 1861. The state of Virginia seceded from the Union, and Charleston was divided between Union and Confederate loyalty. On September 13, 1862, the Battle of Charleston was fought. Although the Confederate Army was victorious, occupation of the city was short-lived. Union troops returned just six weeks later and stayed through the end of the war.

The Northern hold on Charleston and most of the western part of Virginia created an even larger problem. Virginia already had seceded from the Union, but the western part was under Union control. The issue of statehood was raised. So amid the tumultuous Civil War, West Virginia officially became a state through Presidential Proclamation. Abraham Lincoln declared the northwestern portion of Virginia to be returned to the Union, and on June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state.

While it is often said that West Virginia separated from Virginia because of differing views on slavery, the real driving factor was economics. The heavy industries in the North, particularly the steel business of the upper Ohio River region, were dependent on the coal available from western Virginia mines. Federalized military units were dispatched from Ohio to western Virginia early in the war to secure access to the coal mines and transportation

In 1983, the Charleston Town Center Mall opened its doors. It was the largest urban mall east of the Mississippi River, boasting three stories of shops and eateries. Downtown revitalization began in earnest in the 1980s as well. Funds were set aside for streetscaping and many small businesses began to open. Today, Capitol Street, Hale Street, and other bordering streets are an eclectic mixture of restaurants, shops, businesses and services that many call the centerpiece of downtown.

Charleston West Virginia on the Kanawha River

The new Robert C. Byrd Federal Building, Haddad Riverfront Park and Capitol Market are just a few new developments that have helped growth in the downtown area during the 1990s. Charleston also became known as one of the premiere healthcare spots in the state. Along with ambitious thinking, plans for even new entertainment and business venues kept Charleston moving along at a steady pace.

2003 marked the opening of the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences. The center includes The Maier Foundation Performance Hall, The Walker Theatre, The Avampato Discovery Museum and an art museum. Also on site is the The ElectricSky™ Theater, which is a 175 seat combination planetarium and dome-screen cinema. Movies shown at the theatre include educational large format (70 mm) presentations, and are often seen in similar Omnimax theatres. Planetarium shows are staged as a combination of pre-recorded and live presentations.

Many festivals and events were also incorporated into the calendar, including Multifest, Vandalia Festival, a 4th of July celebration with fireworks at Haddad Riverfront Park, and the already popular Sternwheel Regatta, which was founded in 1970, provided a festive atmosphere for residents to enjoy.

Charleston West Virginia has one central agency for its economic development efforts, the Charleston Area Alliance. The Alliance is continuing to work with local leaders and the business community to build the economy of the area and revitalize its downtown. Charleston contains a historic district referred to as the East End.

Charleston is home to numerous annual events and fairs that take place throughout the city, from the banks of the Kanawha River to the capitol grounds.

The West Virginia Dance Festival, held between April 25 and 30, features dance students from across the state that attend classes and workshops in ballet, jazz and modern dance. At the finale, the students perform in the West Virginia State Theatre; these are free to the public. Twice a year, in late April and again in early November, the West Virginia International Film Festival occurs, where many domestic and international films are shown that range from “full-length feature films, shorts, documentaries, animation and student films.”

On May 6, the Kanawha Kordsmen Barbershop Chorus performs at the Clay Center for the Arts. The 40-man cappela chorus performs music in a show titled “Songs America Sings.” On Memorial Day weekend, the Vandalia Gathering is held on the grounds of the state capitol. Thousands of visitors each year enjoy traditional music, art, dance, stories, crafts and food that stems from the “uniqueness of West Virginia’s mountain culture.” There is no fee for admission.

Since 2005 FestivALL has provided the Charleston area with a nearly week of cultural and artistic events beginning on June 20th (West Virginia Day) and including dance, theater, and music. FestivALL provides local artists a valuable chance to display their works and help get others interested in, and involved with, the local artistic community. Highlights include an art fair on Capitol Street and local bands playing live music at stages set up throughout downtown, as well as a wine and jazz festival on the campus of the University of Charleston featuring local and nationally known jazz artists and showcasing the products of West Virginia vineyards.

Museums and Historical Areas

* Avampato Discovery Museum – (Now part of the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences.)
* Sunrise Museum – (Now part of the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences.)
* West Virginia State Museum
* South Charleston Museum – (Located in South Charleston.)
* St. George Orthodox Cathedral, founded in 1892.

Charleston is home to numerous annual events and fairs that take place throughout the city, from the banks of the Kanawha River to the capitol grounds.

The West Virginia Dance Festival, held between April 25 and 30, features dance students from across the state that attend classes and workshops in ballet, jazz and modern dance. At the finale, the students perform in the West Virginia State Theatre; these are free to the public. Twice a year, in late April and again in early November, the West Virginia International Film Festival occurs, where many domestic and international films are shown that range from “full-length feature films, shorts, documentaries, animation and student films.”

On May 6, the Kanawha Kordsmen Barbershop Chorus performs at the Clay Center for the Arts. The 40-man cappela chorus performs music in a show titled “Songs America Sings.” On Memorial Day weekend, the Vandalia Gathering is held on the grounds of the state capitol. Thousands of visitors each year enjoy traditional music, art, dance, stories, crafts and food that stems from the “uniqueness of West Virginia’s mountain culture.” There is no fee for admission.

Since 2005 FestivALL has provided the Charleston area with a nearly week of cultural and artistic events beginning on June 20th (West Virginia Day) and including dance, theater, and music. FestivALL provides local artists a valuable chance to display their works and help get others interested in, and involved with, the local artistic community. Highlights include an art fair on Capitol Street and local bands playing live music at stages set up throughout downtown, as well as a wine and jazz festival on the campus of the University of Charleston featuring local and nationally known jazz artists and showcasing the products of West Virginia vineyards.

Charleston is well known for its night life, as well as excellent souther cuisine. In nearby areas such as Elkins, Parsons, Blackwater falls the opportunity for whitewater rafting, hunting, world class trout fishing and hiking also exists for the outdoorsman.

(information gleaned from Wikipedia) 


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