The West Side is home to many organizations dedicated to the growth and prosperity of the community.
In the late 19th century, the West Side was home to five different plantation owners. All of whom built beautiful mansions from their earnings in the salt industry. This era gave rise to the historic areas that are now known as Littlepage, Glennwood, and Elk City. Overtime, these plantations became an ideal location for historic residences and eventually gave way to the historic commercial district.
Built on a wealth of history, the West Side is home to many uniquely ornate commercial and residential buildings. Once a home to five plantation owners, the West Side is now home to over 20,000 people, many of which are families. This family-friendly community boasts many commercial establishments that have been in the hands of multiple generations, making them a destination to people across the Kanawha Valley.
As with many main street communities across the nation, the West Side fell victim to the big-box retailers and their competitive prices. Clinging onto the businesses their families had worked so hard to create, the owners were forced to find niche products and come up with creative ways to compete with the growing trend of big-box stores.
Seeing the economic decline, three entities, the West Side Neighborhood Association, West Virginia State University (WVSU), and the City of Charleston, identified a need to reinvigorate the economic sector of the West Side. Thus, West Side Main Street was born. These entities identified the Main Street model as an ideal program for fostering economic development, given the unique historic characteristics of the commercial district. A nationwide initiative used to revitalize communities, Main Street is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that capitalizes on a community’s history and resources to tackle the complex issues of revitalizing once-booming downtown neighborhoods.
These three entities saw a unique overlap in the mission of WVSU’s Extension Service and West Side Main Street, as they both aid in the development of education, technology, economic, and social advancements in the State of West Virginia. They accomplish this by identifying resources and programs pertinent to the progression and dissemination of knowledge and services by way of research, teaching, and extension.
West Side Main Street serves the Washington St. West corridor from Pennsylvania Avenue to Rt. 21. Although this is the geographic area primarily served, the unique distribution of West Side businesses has encouraged WSMS to extend its services and programs to businesses outside of the main corridor. Many areas both on and off of the corridor have been neglected for decades, including infrastructure and private reinvestment. Along the corridor are many historic buildings in imminent danger of demolition and in need of historic rehabilitation. All of these properties must be given immediate attention to attract new investment to the district and bring a halt to the blight, economic, and social decline of the district.
In 2007 and every year since, West Side Main Street obtained national certification from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, indicating that the program is meeting all of the Trusts’ best practices and standards. Accomplishments over the past ten years have included:
- Thirty-three new businesses have relocated to the West Side, resulting in the creation of over 150 jobs
- Over $700,000 in private and public funding attracted to projects on the West Side.
- Over $7 million in new building and infrastructure improvements and façade renovations to existing buildings along the Washington Street business corridor.
- Phase 1 of the streetscape renovation is complete and Phase 2 has begun
- Establishment of a new public park on the corner of Barton Street and Washington St. W.
- Design of a public art installation that was completed through the collaboration with local schools and West Side artists
- Holiday decorations and community events along Washington Street several times during the year
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- A public mural by Charly Hamilton that depicts Washington St West is being painted on the side of Spa Elements and is to be completed In the spring of 2014
- Mural paintings were placed in each of the front facing windows of the Staats building, formerly St. Francis Hospital, to improve the overall aesthetics of the corridor and in preparation of OktoberWest
123 Washington Street West
Built 1922, Architect John Norman
This building boasts an ornate facade, with a central arched window and Tuscan columns supporting an entablature, with intricate ornamentation.
Stonewall Jackson Middle School
Washington Street West
Stonewall Jackson High School opened in 1940 and closed in 1989, then becoming the local middle school. It was named after the Civil War general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Littlepage Stone Mansion
1809 Washington Street West
Littlepage Stone Mansion at 1809 Washington Street West was built in 1845 for Major Robert Thornton by local builders Harrop L. Joy and J. Carson, whose names are carved on blocks at both ends of the house.
305 Washington Street West
The Custer Theater opened in February 1938. The Custer Theater was later known as the Lyric Theater which operated as an adult theater in the 1970’s. The building is currently used as office space for an architectural firm.