We bet you didn’t know that…

1. It may be the largest city in the state, but it’s still the 19th smallest state capital. It’s right behind Trenton, NJ and in front of Lincoln, NE.

2. The main industry of Charleston and the Kanawha Valley used to be salt. As larger salt reserves were found out west, Charleston’s salt became a primary draw for the chemical industry.

3. The first permanent European settlement in the area, Fort Lee, was established in 1787. It sat at what is now the intersection of Kanawha Boulevard and Brooks Street.

4. It’s believed Charleston is named after Col. Savannah Clendenin’s father, Charles. Col. Clendenin was an early land owner in the area.

5. Charleston was originally Charles Town, but shortened its name to avoid confusion with Charles Town in what is now the state’s Eastern Panhandle.

6. That Charles Town was named after George Washington’s younger brother.

7. When Daniel Boone was elected to the Virginia State Legislature in 1791, it’s said he walked the entire distance to Richmond. According to Google Maps, that would take you 109 hours to walk today.


8. The Battle of Charleston in 1862 was a Confederate victory but was ultimately short-lived. Just six weeks later Union troops regained control and occupied the city for the rest of the Civil War.

9. When it opened, the Charleston Town Center was the largest downtown mall east of the Mississippi River.

10. Charleston’s first indoor mall, the Arcade, was built in 1884. It was demolished in 1998.

11. The discount store chain Hecks was founded in Charleston. The name comes from it’s four founders: Fred Haddad, Tom Ellis, Lester Ellis, and Douglas Cook.

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

12. The Shoney’s Restaurant chain also began in Charleston. Alex “Shoney” Schoenbaum opened the Parkette Drive-In next to his father’s bowling alley in 1947.

13. In August of 1968, 35 people died when Piedmont Airlines Flight 230 crashed in thick fog on approach to Kanawha (now Yeager) Airport.

14. The Sunrise Mansion closed to the public when the discovery museum based there moved with the opening of the Clay Center in 2003. It’s now privately owned.

15. The mansion was built in 1905 by West Virginia’s ninth governor, Democrat William A. MacCorkle. MacCorkle’s primary legacy are Sunrise Mansion and the avenue that bears his name.

The Sunrise Mansion (Wikipedia/Public Domain)

The Sunrise Mansion (Wikipedia/Public Domain)

16. The Elk River is the only known home of a critically-endangered fish, the Diamond Darter. It’s unclear what effect the Freedom Industries chemical spill will have on the species.

17. 21,000 people turned out for one Charleston High School/Stonewall Jackson High rivalry game at Laidley Stadium in the 80’s. The typical high school game today draws about 2,000.

18.That legendary rivalry ended in 1989 with the opening of Capital High School. It lasted 49 years.

19. Several sites were considered for Capital High School, including a lot near Laidley Field and a site on Greenbrier Street near Yeager Airport. The later was abandoned after a plane crash.

20. The University of Charleston was originally called the Barboursville Seminary of the Southern Methodist Church when founded in 1888. It was eventually renamed Morris Harvey College in 1901 and became UC in 1978.

21. Still a private school, UC offered itself to the state in 1975 after a budge crisis. The state refused the gift.

(via West Virginia Division of Culture and History)

(via West Virginia Division of Culture and History)

22. The Vandalia Gathering, held every Memorial Day weekend at the State Capitol, is named after a proposed British colony that Ben Franklin tried to organize in the 1760’s.

23. That colony would have included most of present-day West Virginia and Kentucky. It was named after King George’s wife, Queen Charlotte, who claimed to descend from the Vandals (who by the way, destroyed the Roman Empire).

24. The last Charleston Sternwheel Regatta was held in 2008, even though its reported the city has the largest population of privately-owned sternwheelers.

More: 11 Old Things in Charleston That Are (Remarkably) Still There