Lewisburg, West Virginia

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Lewisburg is probably everything you’d imagine the perfect small town to be.  It’s full of history, packed with restaurants and shops, has an inviting downtown district, and picturesque countryside spreads out in every direction.

Unlike Beckley, the next small city on Interstate 64 (and also my old hometown — more on that later), Lewisburg has done a good job of not tearing down the old downtown buildings that provide a lot of its charm.  Instead, antique and craft shops have moved in, along with restaurants and cafés.  Some of them aim to satisfy a more sophisticated visitor (in part, because the five-star Greenbrier Resort is nearby in White Sulphur Springs).  But, there’s something for just about everyone.

Downtown is just a few blocks long, and a few blocks wide, so exploring on foot is easy.

As I wandered down some back streets, I took notice of Mount Tabor Baptist Church.  The cornerstone says it was established in 1796, built in 1833, remodeled in 1900, and rehabilitated in 1981.  That’s quite a history, and many of Lewisburg’s other buildings are equally dated.

One of Lewisburg’s oldest buildings is known as “The Barracks”.  The old 2-story log and stone building stands right next to Jefferson Street (US 219), so you’ll see it as you head into town.  The Barracks was built in 1770, and was used as a storehouse for arms and ammo during the War of 1812.

Four years after The Barracks was built, 1,100 men gathered here (at Fort Union, as Lewisburg was known at the time) under the command of General Andrew Lewis.  From here, their march to Point Pleasant, a 160 mile journey, began.  At Point Pleasant, Lewis and his men defeated Shawnee Chief Cornstalk and his warriors.

Across the street from The Barracks, you’ll find General Andrew Lewis Park, named after the town’s surveyor and aforementioned military leader.  The park isn’t anything special — just a parking lot and some picnic tables, but it does include a small stone building, which houses the spring that provided the town’s original water supply.

There’s also a bell that dates back to 1877, made by Henry McShane & Co., of Baltimore.  A small plaque says it was originally installed at Lewisburg Graded School in 1878.  The wheel that swings the bell is chained down, but if you want to ring it, all you have to do is swing the clapper manually.  It’s quite loud.

One of Lewisburg’s most impressive buildings is Carnegie Hall, built in 1902 by steel baron and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  This is just one of four Carnegie Halls still in continuous use worldwide (the others are in New York, Pennsylvania, and Scotland).

The former Greenbrier College for Women is a huge building, right next door to Carnegie Hall.  The beautiful old building was also once known as the Lewisburg Female Institute, and after the college closed in 1972, it was transformed into the “Greenbrier Center”, a facility for the mentally disabled.  I’m not certain what it’s used for, today.

I’ve seen signs that say “Drains to Bay” and “Drains to River”… but “Drains to Cave” is a new one.

There are a couple of privately owned and operated caves near Lewisburg. Lost World Caverns is just north of town (off Fairview Road, after you cross I-64), and Organ Cave is just a few miles east of Lewisburg, and south of Ronceverte (on WV Rte. 63).

Since I have visited Lewisburg many times in the past, I didn’t spend a lot of time in town.  I had other goals for the day, including Talcott, Hinton, and eventually, my old hometown of Beckley, for the night.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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