Romney, West Virginia & Route 55

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My plan for the end of Day 3 was to make a loop around the eastern panhandle, just to see what was there.  I was most excited about seeing the town of Romney, because I knew it had historical significance in the history of West Virginia, dating back before the civil war.  But, I left feeling a bit disappointed.  There wasn’t much that held my interest in Romney.  Its downtown is just a few blocks long, so I drove through (twice) then walked around.

At the intersection of US 50 and WV 28, there’s a nice old bank building…

… and across the street, the Hampshire County courthouse.

On US 50, east of town, you’ll pass the sprawling grounds of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind, which have been in Romney since their creation in 1870.

There are some significant sites in Romney which I did not visit.  Most notable is America’s first Confederate Memorial, built in 1867.  You can see it by visiting Indian Mound Cemetery, on the west end of town.  As the name suggests, there’s also an Indian Mound there, which dates back to between 500-1000 AD.

Romney has a rich Civil War history.  It’s said that the town changed hands between Union and Confederate forces 56 times during the war.  Significant sites, like the Davis History House (now a museum) and Liberty Hall (which served as Stonewall Jackson’s HQ) will probably make Romney an interesting place to visit, if you’re a Civil War buff.  Here’s a list of Romney’s pivotal dates and important places.

Romney is West Virginia’s Oldest Town, settled in 1725 and incorporated in 1762.

Before you write me and curse me out for saying Romney isn’t interesting, please understand: all I’m saying is, for someone driving through, and someone who isn’t particularly interested in the town’s Civil War history, there’s not a lot to see or do.

After visiting Romney, I continued east on US 50 for a while, before turning south on a road that eventually connected with WV Route 55.  From there, I took WV 55 west to Petersburg.

Corridor H – WV Route 55

After looping around the panhandle on tiny roads, I was amazed when I hit Route 55.  It’s a giant 4-lane freeway cutting through the mountains!  This road is part of “Corridor H” — one of the roads declared to be important for opening the Appalachian Mountains to the outside world.

The Appalachian Corridor projects have been in the works for decades, and it will likely be many more years before they are complete.  As of 2008, only 22 miles of 4-lane freeway is complete, with 14 miles under construction, and another 14 miles in the final planning stage.  The ultimate goal is to have a 4-lane road from the WV/VA state line (near the western end of I-66) to Elkins and beyond.  Construction isn’t expected tobegin on the final segment until 2018 — delayed in part, due to concerns  over potential damage to the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel’s habitat.  WVDOH has updates on the project’s progress.

This section of Corridor H (between Moorefield and Baker, WV) opened in 2003, when workers finished the Clifford Hollow Bridge.  There’s a parking area with a trail that leads to an overlook on the west end of the bridge.

The Clifford Hollow Bridge stands nearly 300 feet above the valley floor, and spans a distance of 1,522 feet.  In 2005, it received an award for its design, from the National Steel Bridge Association.  You can see pictures of its construction, here.

Corridor H will eventually become US Hwy. 48.  Currently, US 48 only exists in Virginia, between Interstate 81 and the WV state line, following VA Rte. 55.  Its “US” status is relatively new: it was designated in 2002.  And if that’s not enough crazy road trivia for you, get this!  US Route 48 has existed twice before.  From 1926-31, US 48 ran through northern California.  From 1975 to 1989, it was the old name of I-68, before it reached Interstate status. 

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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