Clarksburg, West Virginia is the county seat of Harrison County in the north-central portion of the state. The first settlers to the region came to the Clarksburg area in 1772, with the city founded in 1785 in Virginia. Named for General George Rogers Clark, who earned his fame through his battles against the British and Indians in the Indians War and in the American Revolution, Clarksburg was an early settlement that saw growth after the completion of the Northwestern Turnpike through the city in 1836. In 1856, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was extended west from Grafton to Clarksburg, which set off a commercial and industrial development boom. The glass and coal industries played a vital role in the growth of the city. During the 1910s and 1920s, Clarksburg was characterized a boom town, increasing in population from 4,050 in 1900 to 28,866 by 1930. The population peaked at 32,014 in 1950, decreasing to 16,578 today and is considered a rust belt town.
The population has begun to stabilize, especially since the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division was relocated to a near-1,000 acre tract of land north of Clarksburg in 1995. The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System was located in the vicinity in 1999, followed by the Department of Defense Biometrics Identity Management Agency. Other high-tech corporations, including Boeing, have helped diversify employment along the Interstate 79 High Tech Corridor between Clarksburg, Fairmont and Morgantown.
I’ll start with several photographs taken from atop the abandoned Waldo Hotel. There is an amazing amount of density visible, but remember that the population was booming at the time that most of this development occurred.
The Harrison County Courthouse is at center.
Due to a lack of available land, a massive parking garage lies at the northern edge of downtown. It is mostly empty during the day.
We begin the tour of downtown with the Clarksburg Federal Center. Constructed in 1999, the three level building houses eight federal government agencies and cost $6.9 million. The exterior features iron spot brick, with custom white ground-face concrete with alternating courses, giving it the appearance of a limestone facade. The facade incorporates a mock Federal architectural design, with glass-fiber reinforced concrete cornices at the floor-level that match the appearance of the ground-face concrete facade. The interior features patterned terrazzo floors, wood paneling and coffered ceilings. In the photograph below, it is the building to the center-left.
If the Federal Center wasn’t all that entertaining, the Empire National Bank Building will be. An example of the Renaissance Revival architecture, the seven-story corner building is flanked with Corinthian columns on the first level, and brownstone with detailing on the first two levels, and brown brick on the upper levels. The top floor features an antbellished, bracketed cornice.
The Empire Bank was founded in 1903, due to the growth of the business, a prominent headquarters was needed. Construction began in 1906 and was completed one year later on what had been the Oliver Boughner store from 1872 to 1902.
The Goff Building is designed by noted architect Frank Pierce Milburn, and the Renaissance Revival office tower was completed in 1911. It was the last of five buildings that Nathan Goff, Jr. had commissioned for the city. The Goff Building was designed to represent two classical columns, with a distinct base, shaft and cap. In the photograph below, it is the structure adorned with red brick with varying stonework. It is also representative of the density along Main Street.
A compressed view, with the courthouse hidden between the Goff Building and the Union National Bank.
The Goff Building is to the right.
Near to the Goff Building is the Union National Bank Building, the city’s tallest, and was constructed in 1911-1912. In 1905, the Union National Bank purchased People’s and Traders Bank, and had relocated into the former Traders Bank Building. On January 20, 1911, the building was destroyed by fire, and the president of the bank, W. Brent Maxwell, commissioned the construction of a new bank building.
The replacement, a ten-story Renaissance Revival structure, was designed to represent a classical column. The first two levels represented the base, while the middle six floors representing the shaft, and the ornate two levels representing the cap. The building has a front entrance flanked by Greek Doric fluted columns, with the pattern continuing along the first story windows. The first level features a cap of classical motifs surmounted by a cornice. The top level contains a tabernacular bracketed stone pediments on alternating windows, with an elaborate cornice embellished with medallions as a cap.
In 1961, the Union National Bank purchased Merchant’s National Bank, and in 1966, annexed the seven story Prunty Building, built in 1914, as an annex. The Prunty Building was constructed by Curtis E. Prunty.
In the below photograph, the Union National Bank Building dominates the leftward scene.
Scenes along South Third Street.
A compressed view of Main Street.
Department of Defense Biometrics Identity Management Agency!
There was a church at this site.
The VFW Post No. 573 Building, at 430 West Pike Street, was built in 1953 and is a two-story building with an arched bay front.
On a bit of a sadder note, the Robinson Grand Theatre sits neglected on the western edge of downtown.
The exterior features a Neo-Gothic facade with touches of Classical design, with a dark red brick and terra-cotta facade.
In 1912, the Clarksburg Theatre Company was formed by a group of prominent businessmen in order to construct a $40,000 theatre on the north side of Pike Street that was not far in distance from the Masonic Temple. A grand opening was held on February 5, 1913 and was operated by Rueben Robinson and later by his brother, Claude Robinson. In 1915, an $18,000 pipe organ was installed and acclaimed as an organ with “a human voice.” During that year, the theater was equipped to show motion pictures, and was the 13th theater in the United States to be wired for sound when it was installed in 1927.
On May 31, 1939, the Robinson Grand was gutted by fire but restored by 1940.
But what about the Waldo Hotel? I have covered it previously at my partner site, Abandoned. The Waldo Hotel was constructed from 1901 to 1904, and the Beaux-Arts style hotel stands seven stories tall. Designed by Harrison Albright of Charleston and financed by Judge Nathan Goff, Jr., the building was named for his father, Waldo P. Goff. When it opened, the hotel was one of the most architecturally ornate in the state, and contained a 47-foot by 56-foot lobby with a mosaic tiled floor, surrounded by wrap around balconies.
Goff, a millionaire lawyer and businessman, had served as a member of Congress, Secretary of the Navy during the Hayes administration, an attorney and a federal appellate judge. When he died in 1920, the hotel was passed onto his sons, Guy D. Goff and Waldo Goff. In 1923, Guy Goff occupied a suite of rooms on the 4th floor, and was declared his official residence when he served a term in the United States Senate from 1925 to 1931. The Waldo served as a meeting place for conservative Republican Senators who had wanted to block the presidential nomination of Herbert Hoover, and attempting to best him with Goff. That movement ultimately failed.
The photographs of the Waldo are from an earlier excursion to the region. Click through to the Waldo Hotel for many more photographs.
I finished the tour of downtown Clarksburg with a parting photograph Pike Street looking eastward towards the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church.
Next city to be covered on the Mountain State Tour is Elkins!
- Clarksburg, West Virginia
- Clarksburg Federal Center: Constructed in 1999, the three level building houses eight federal government agencies and cost $6.9 million.
- Empire National Bank Building: The Empire National Bank Building is located at West Main and 4th Street and is an example of Renaissance Revival architecture.
- Goff Building: The Goff Building is designed by noted architect Frank Pierce Milburn, and the Renaissance Revival office tower was completed in 1911.
- Robinson Grand Theatre: An architectural landmark that is currently abandoned.
- Union National Bank Building: Built in 1911-1912, the Union National Bank Building is the city’s tallest.
- Waldo Hotel at Abandoned: The Waldo Hotel is a defunct hotel in downtown and is currently threatened with demolition.