The National Historic Landmarks program is more exclusive and prestigious than the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register recognizes resources that are significant to local, state, or national history. The National Historic Landmark (NHL) program only recognizes nationally significant resources and must represent an outstanding aspect of American history and culture. A resource must also retain a higher degree of historic integrity than is necessary for the National Register.

The National Park Service oversees the NHL nomination process. The State Historic Preservation Office is not directly involved in this process. Nominations are reviewed by the National Park Service and the National Park System Advisory Board twice a year at public meetings. Their recommendations are forwarded to the Secretary of the Interior for consideration and final approval.

While there are over 95,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places nationwide, there are only around 2,600 National Historic Landmarks. Today, West Virginia is home to 16 of these NHLs. They represent nationally significant associations with the history of architecture, indigenous peoples, education, politics, and labor, among other topics. Two additional National Historic Landmarks, the Mother Jones’ Prison and the Elkins Coal and Coke Company Historic District, have been demolished.

Please visit the National Park Service’s website on the National Historic Landmarks program for more information.

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Alexander Campbell Mansion – Bethany, Brooke County, listed 1994

Born in Ireland, Alexander Campbell immigrated to the United States in 1809 to join his father, Thomas Campbell, a successful preacher.  In 1811 Alexander and his father founded an independent church in western Pennsylvania. That same year, Alexander married Margaret Brown. On land provided by her father, the young couple’s house expanded over the years and included an ornate dining room and an exterior octagonal study. The home was a center of intellectual thought, hosting prominent individuals of the nineteenth century. Alexander Campbell created a new assembly of congregations, now known as the Disciples of Christ. In 1840 Campbell founded Bethany College, donating both land and money for the college and serving as college president until his death in 1866. During his lifetime, Campbell wrote a number of books, gave speeches, and participated in a number of lively debates on a variety of topics that were covered by many newspapers.

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Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church (International Mother’s Day Shrine) – Grafton, Taylor County, listed 1992

The Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church is associated with the national designation of Mother’s Day. A charter member of the church, Ann Marie Jarvis helped with the construction of Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in 1873. Ann also taught Sunday School classes. One of her daughter Anna’s favorite lessons was “Mothers of the Bible.” Anna planned a special memorial service for her mother and, in May 1907, an unofficial Mother’s Day service was held at the church. On May 10, 1908, the church hosted the first official Mother’s Day service. Anna also organized a large Mother’s Day service in Philadelphia for the same day. Over the next several years Anna oversaw a letter writing campaign to state and federal lawmakers to designate an official day recognizing mothers. Soon, every state began to recognize the holiday. President Woodrow Wilson signed a national proclamation in 1914 designating every second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

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B&O Railroad Martinsburg Shops – Martinsburg, Berkeley County, listed 2003

Within the B&O Railroad and Related Industries Historic District is the B&O Railroad Martinsburg Shops. Three of the buildings, the Machine and Woodworking Shop, the West Roundhouse, and the Car Shop, stand as unique examples of innovative nineteenth century engineering and industrial architecture. These buildings also provided the backdrop to “The Great Railway Strike of 1877.” While the strike was mostly peaceful in Martinsburg, violence was common at many other railroad centers along the line. The West Roundhouse was designed by nationally known nineteenth century civil engineer Albert Fink. A cast-iron framing system enabled it to become the first fully covered roundhouse in the United States. Both the Machine and Woodworking Shop and the Car Shop were designed by Johann Niernsee, and are considered among the most significant remaining structures of the B&O Railroad post-Civil War.

Clover Archaeological Site – Cabell County, listed 1992

This archaeological site identified with the Fort Ancient culture is believed to have been occupied between c. 1550 – c. 1600. Archaeological studies every decade between the 1940s and 1980s have led to important discoveries providing a better understanding of this culture. No specific site information is shared publicly to protect the site from looting.

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Davis and Elkins Historic District – Elkins, Randolph County, listed 1996

A pair of mansions on the campus of Davis and Elkins College, Halliehurst and Graceland, represent two important business and political figures of the “Gilded Age.” Halliehurst is a large “baronial” residence built in 1890 for U.S. Senator Stephen Benton Elkins. Its architectural style and elaborate interior details reflect his personal wealth and influence. Elkins married Hallie Davis, the daughter of his business partner and U.S. Senator Henry Gassaway Davis. Halliehurst, built in 1890, is named after Hallie. He served as a U.S. Senator from 1894 until his death in 1911. Graceland, the home of Henry Gassaway Davis, was built just to the west of Halliehurst in 1893. His estate was self-sufficient with orchards, gardens, livestock, a dairy barn, and an icehouse. During the Civil War, Davis was pro-Union and repaired the rails and facilities in the area destroyed by Confederate raiders. Davis began his political career as a member of the WV House of Delegates in 1865. In 1904 he was the Democratic nominee for vice president on the ticket with Alton B. Parker. Davis spent the rest of his life tending to his businesses and overseeing activities at Davis and Elkins College (founded in 1904).

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General Horatio Gates Home, “Traveller’s Rest” – Kearneysville, Jefferson County, listed 1972

Born in England in 1727, Horatio Gates joined the British army around 1749, eventually rising to the rank of major. Due to the English class system, Gates found further promotion impossible and left the army in 1769. In 1772, Gates relocated to Virginia (now West Virginia) and began building his “Traveller’s Rest” home the following year. In June 1775 the Continental Congress made Gates a brigadier general as the first adjutant general of the Continental Army. This position used Gates’ ability to the fullest, as he wrote the first army regulations and organized the units into armies. By 1777 now-Major General Gates was in command of the army that defeated the British in two battles at Saratoga, New York. After retiring in early 1780, he accepted Congress’ offer for him to command the Southern Army; however, he suffered a decisive defeat in August at Camden, South Carolina, and was removed from his position by the end of the year. Gates returned to Traveller’s Rest before ending his army career serving in Washington’s headquarters from 1782-83. Gates moved to New York in 1790 and died in his home there in 1806.

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Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex – Moundsville, Marshall County, listed 1964

Standing 62-feet high with a diameter of 240 feet, the Grave Creek Mound is one of the largest conical mounds in the Western Hemisphere. Built by the Adena peoples roughly between 250-150 B.C.E., it contained multiple burials at different levels within the structure. The mound was part of a large system of mounds and earthworks found throughout the area. English settlement after 1771 destroyed most of these earthworks through farming and in building the town of Moundsville. Excavations in 1838 and 1975-76 found many grave artifacts and human remains that have increased our understanding of the Adena people.

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The Greenbrier – White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, listed 1990

Today, the Greenbrier is recognized for its expansive buildings, the luxurious Dorothy Draper original and inspired interior design, and surrounding lush landscape. However, its beginnings center on the discovery of natural springs at White Sulphur in the mid-1700s. In 1816 the first private cottage was completed by New Orleans sugar plantation owner Stephen Henderson. Several U.S. presidents used the cottage as a summer retreat in the 1800s. Today known as the President’s Cottage, it serves as the hotel’s museum. Other cottages were completed by 1850 and new owners built the Grand Central Hotel, or “The Old White” in 1858. During the Civil War, both sides used the hotel as a barracks and a hospital. In 1910 the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company purchased the property and renamed it The Greenbrier. By 1914, the large central portion of the new hotel was built along with the completion of an 18-hole golf course. The Old White hotel was demolished in 1922 after failing a state fire inspection. During World War II, the new hotel housed enemy diplomats and later was used as an army hospital. The Chesapeake and Ohio reacquired the property from the army in 1946 and returned the hotel to its former magnificence. Several new wings were added during the 1950s. In 1992, news reports revealed The Greenbrier contained a secret underground bunker designed to hold Congress in the event of a nuclear war. It is now open for tours.

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Jefferson County Courthouse – Charles Town, Jefferson County, listed 2023

Originally constructed in 1837, the courthouse was heavily damaged during the Civil War. Between 1871 and 1872 it was largely rebuilt, with the interior being completely reconstructed. An addition was built on the north side of the courthouse in 1910. In 1922, the Jefferson County Courthouse became nationally famous during the trials resulting from the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921. The trials of Bill Blizzard for treason in April 1922, John and J. W. Wilburn for murder in July, and Walter Allen for treason in August were part of the closing chapter of the West Virginia Mine Wars of 1912-1922. Charles Town was selected for the venue for the trials since it was far from the coal fields and believed to be impartial. Blizzard was acquitted, the Wilburns were found guilty of murdering a mine guard, and Allen was found guilty of treason. Allen was freed on bond pending an appeal; however, Allen fled the state and was never found. Three more trials were held elsewhere before the state dismissed the remaining indictments by early 1924.

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Matewan Historic District – Matewan, Mingo County, listed 1997

Matewan was a pivotal location in the conflict between coal operators and miners during the West Virginia Mine Wars. On May 19, 1920, Baldwin-Felts detectives were hired by coal operators to evict miners and their families from company housing. The miners had been fired for joining the union. While the detectives were conducting the evictions, Chief of Police Sid Hatfield called the Mingo County sheriff and discovered that the detectives did not have warrants for the evictions. Hatfield secured warrants from the sheriff to arrest the detectives. When they later returned to board the train Hatfield tried to arrest them. The detectives told Hatfield that they had a warrant to arrest him from Wayne County. A crowd arrived to support Hatfield. Moments later gunfire erupted along the railroad and seven detectives were killed along with two miners and Mayor Cabell Testerman. Sid Hatfield and others in the crowd were acquitted of murder on March 20, 1921. Hatfield and his deputy, Ed Chambers, were shot and killed in August 1921 on the McDowell County Courthouse steps by detectives.

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Old Main, Bethany College – Bethany, Brooke County, listed 1990

Old Main is one of America’s best representations of Collegiate Gothic architecture. After a fire destroyed the main building of Bethany College in 1857, Alexander Campbell and college trustees toured various colleges to view their architecture and to speak with architects. Cincinnati architect James Keys Wilson who  had worked on the Smithsonian under architect James Renwick was chosen to design the Gothic-inspired building that the trustees and Campbell admired during their tour. Constructed with seven distinct parts between 1858-1871, each was fireproofed independently from the rest of the structure. This was fortunate, as one of the parts – Society Hall – burned in 1879 and was replaced with Oglebay Hall in 1911-12 (renamed Kirkpatrick Hall of Life Sciences in 1999). Old Main today hosts a variety of student and public activities.

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Reber Radio Telescope – Green Bank, Pocahontas County, listed 1989

In 1932, Karl Jansky, a radio engineer at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, began to detect radio emissions from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. In 1933 he published his findings and on May 5, 1933, his discovery made the front page of the New York Times. Bell Labs, however, had no use for continued study of these emissions and assigned Jansky to other projects. Grote Reber was an electronics expert and amateur astronomer from Wheaton, Illinois. After reading about Jansky’s discovery, Reber realized that regular antennas, the kind that Jansky used, would be too basic in studying the radio waves and that a parabolic reflector would work better. Reber constructed a radio telescope in his backyard in 1937. During the next ten years he was able to confirm Jansky’s discovery that stars and other hot objects in space emit low-energy radio waves and completed a radio frequency sky map in 1941. After selling his radio telescope to the National Bureau of Standards in 1948, Reber was hired by the National Radio Observatory in 1957 and was at Green Bank to supervise the reconstruction of his telescope in 1959. Reber continued his research in Tasmania until his death in 2002 at the age of 90.

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Alexander Wade House – Morgantown, Monongalia County, listed 1965

Alexander Wade, a teacher and superintendent of Monongalia County public schools lived in this red brick home from 1872-1904. During his educational career he developed a graded system for rural schools which was ultimately adopted nationwide. Born in 1832 in Indiana, Wade moved to Monongalia County as a small child. At 16, he became a teacher at a rural school. During the course of his career, he served as a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent. As assistant superintendent, Wade developed a system of grade levels (1-8), promotional exams, and graduations for rural schools. This system allowed rural students, who had sporadic attendance due to work on the farm, a way to measure their progress and to place them with other students at the same level. Appointed county superintendent in 1875, he spent the next several years advocating the use of his system, which was adopted by the National Education Association in 1879. His 1881 book, A Graduating System for County Schools, provided a manual for schools to follow. The last edition was published in 2018.

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West Virginia Independence Hall – Wheeling, Ohio County, listed 1988

Designed by Ammi B. Young and built in 1859, the United States Custom House was pivotal to statehood during the Civil War. Wheeling was the center of the movement for increased representation for the western part of Virginia. When Virginia voted to secede in April 1861, western Virginia delegates returned home from Richmond determined to protect their interests. In June 1861, the Second Wheeling Convention declared the government in Richmond illegal due to secession. To replace it, the convention created the Restored Government of Virginia and chose Francis H. Pierpont as governor. Within weeks, the United States government recognized the Restored Government of Virginia as lawful. In August 1861, the Second Wheeling Convention reconvened at the Custom House to form a new state and draft a state constitution. Between August 1861 and December 1862, voters approved both measures. The Restored Government of Virginia approved separation of the potential new state from the Commonwealth. Congress passed the petition for statehood and Lincoln signed the bill on December 31, 1862. Lincoln signed the proclamation of statehood on April 20, 1863, admitting West Virginia to the Union on June 20, 1863. After the war, the Custom House returned to its original use until the federal government sold it in 1907. In 1963, the state purchased the building from private owners. Renamed West Virginia Independence Hall, it is now a state museum open to the public.

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Weston State Hospital / Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Weston, Lewis County, listed 1990

Before the 1850s, mentally ill people were “treated” by separating them from society in facilities that were dirty and unsafe and used beatings to control the patients. By the late 1850s, humane treatment and better facilities were advocated for the treatment of mental illness. The first of these new hospitals west of the Alleghenies was located in Weston. Designed by Richard Snowden Andrews, construction began in 1861 but resumed in 1863 after West Virginia was admitted to the Union. In late 1864, the first patients arrived and lived in the south wing. As progress on the main building continued, buildings for manufacturing furniture, mattresses, towels, and farming were added to the complex. As part of their treatment, patients completed these tasks and helped make the hospital more self-sufficient. The main building was completed in 1881 and is still one of the largest hand-cut sandstone buildings in the world. The hospital closed in 1994. Privately owned, it is open for tours.

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Wheeling Suspension Bridge – Wheeling, Ohio County, listed 1975

In 1806, Congress authorized construction of the National Road. By 1818, the road reached Wheeling; however, the Ohio River made it necessary to take a ferry across to Belmont, Ohio, and further west. Plans for a bridge over the Ohio began as early as 1816, but construction methods and designs at the time did not allow for a bridge to be built without piers which restricted navigation on the Ohio River. Both the Ohio and Virginia legislatures issued a Wheeling bridge charter in 1847. Charles Ellet’s design for a suspension bridge was approved and completed in 1849. A strong storm in May 1854 destroyed the bridge. A permanent replacement bridge, also designed by Ellet, was completed in 1858. Improvements were made in 1871-72, 1886, and in 1956 when steel grating and steel floor beams were added. Spanning 1,010 feet, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge remains one of the longest suspension bridges in the United States and is the oldest vehicular suspension bridge still in use in the world.

Former National Historic Landmarks

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Elkins Coal and Coke Historic District – Bretz, Preston County, listed 1983, demolished c. 2016

In 1906, the Elkins Coal and Coke Company bought the coal mine and town of Bretz from the West Virginia Coal Company. Elkins immediately began to build a coking operation that would include 400 beehive coke ovens. In 1919, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation bought the complex and town. During the next 34 years, the property passed through a number of owners and the coking operations were used only intermittently. Mercury Coal and Coke Company bought the facility in 1953 and for the next 28 years the complex operated steadily. In 1981 the operation closed for good.

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Mother Jones Prison / Mrs. Carney’s Boarding House – Pratt, Kanawha County, listed 1992, demolished 1996

Mother Jones was a national labor organizer who became a central figure in the Paint Creek/Cabin Creek strikes in West Virginia in 1912-1913. After spending much of the early 1900s in southern West Virginia, Mother Jones returned in 1911 and called for a rally of miners in Charleston. After the most militant speech of her career, she left West Virginia and went to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress to investigate conditions at mines and camps in the state. When Mother Jones returned to West Virginia in 1913, she was arrested and charged with stealing a machine gun, attempting to blow up a train, and conspiracy to murder. She was tried and convicted in military court, but few records of her trial remain. During her trial and for three months after her conviction, Mother Jones was held at Mrs. Carney’s Boarding House in Pratt. Public pressure and U.S. Senator John Kerns of Indiana reading a letter from her on the Senate floor while introducing a resolution to begin investigations in West Virginia probably convinced the military to release her. Mother Jones continued her career until 1923 and died in 1930.