Martinsburg & Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

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Martinsburg offers a clean and tidy downtown area, that looks like a quintessential American small town.  Since it’s served by the MARC commuter train line, people who work a world away in Washington, D.C. can live here, without too much hassle.

After touring Harpers Ferry, take US 340 out of town, headed west.  Just before reaching Charles Town, head north on WV Rte. 9.  WV 9 continues through Martinsburg and Berkeley Springs, until crossing into Maryland (and becoming MD Rte. 51)

One attraction worth visiting in Martinsburg is the Roundhouse — the only iron-framed roundhouse still standing in the world today. The B&O Railroad used it until 1988.  Now, it’s open for tours, with a $5 admission fee.

Outside of Martinsburg, I passed a complex of old buildings that likely once served as a gas station and a set of motel cabins.  They’re all in rough shape now (and of course, since this is West Virginia, there’s an ugly mobile home ruining the picture, sitting right next door to the gas station).

The old Beth-O-Line Sinclair sign is still impressive, though.

Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

Berkeley Springs is definitely a tourist town, and it certainly felt like one on the hot June day of my visit.  The giant pool, which is fed by the spring, was packed with people.

The pool is just behind the gazebo, which serves as the centerpiece for the park at the center of town.  In the distance you can see the main bath house.  On the other side of the pool is the Roman bath house, which also houses a museum.

The excellent website, berkeleysprings.com, includes a number of fun facts about the town.  Among them:

– Berkeley Springs is the country’s oldest spa

Berkeley Springs State Park is the world’s smallest state park, at 4.5 acres (although I can’t find any other site that confirms this)

– Berkeley Springs was originally divided and incorporated by George Washington’s family and friends in 1776, and given the name “Bath”

– Bath is still the official name of the town that surrounds the springs, although the post office uses the name Berkeley Springs

-The water that flows from Berkeley Springs is a constant 74.3 degrees Fahrenheit.  The spring produces 2,000 gallons per minute.

Near the gazebo and the pool, there are bath houses.  You can take a bath and receive a massage for around $40.  The bath houses are operated by the state park.

The old millstone from James Rumsey’s nearby mill is on display in the park.  Rumsey invented the steamboat, while living in Bath in 1785.  The monument has stood here for 100 years, and was the first monument to Rumsey ever created.

A small creek cuts through the park.  It’s actually a mountain creek, that grows larger from the overflow of the spring.  That creek runs next to the road…

… flowing in front of the Country Inn at Berkeley Springs.  This resort hotel is right next to the park.

There are a couple of blocks of businesses up the street from Berkeley Springs Park.  As I mentioned before, this town caters to tourists, so you’ll find several restaurants and shops here.  It’s worth spending at least a half hour wandering.

As you leave town, WV 9 quickly climbs up the hill behind the spring, then winds its way through the panhandle towards Paw Paw.  Expect views like this one along the way.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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