West Virginia’s Cultural Resources For about 11,000 years, humans have been making their mark on the land that became West Virginia. Today, there is a very diverse collection of items that documents our history and heritage. Collectively these remnants of our past are known as cultural resources. Tens of thousands of these resources have been documented and inventoried in West Virginia. These resources include prehistoric and historic archaeological sites and historic buildings, structures, objects, districts, sites, and landscapes. At the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office, inventory forms are currently kept in three formats to record archaeological resources, architectural/structural resources, and cemeteries. Ongoing development of a website which will link this information via a GIS mapped location includes discussion of how to manage information regarding resources that don’t quite fit these three formats. A bridge survey form is also being developed under the leadership of the WV Division of Highways.
Currently, there are over 1,000 National Register of Historic Places listings from West Virginia. These listings include individually nominated buildings, structures, objects, sites and over 150 historic districts consisting of groups of resources. Sixteen of the state’s historic resources have been identified as National Historic Landmarks, the highest designation for a historic property in the United States. All totaled, over 20,000 resources representing a wide range of resources and time periods in West Virginia history have been listed. Since the last plan was completed in 2001, 157 listings have been added to the National Register. These new listings range from houses, schools, courthouses, barns, and churches to bridges, locomotives, commercial buildings, historic districts, fortifications, a golf course, and a cave.
The historic district nomination has added a significant number of historic resources to the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1980s, the number of districts multiplied five-fold with nearly 60 districts added to the National Register. The number of districts continued to add up in the 1990s through 2008 to equal roughly 150 historic districts with nearly 17,000 contributing structures. Generally thought of for use in downtowns or residential areas of towns, more recently, resources in rural areas have been listed as historic districts. The first of these districts was identified as the Pickaway Rural Historic District in Monroe County and included over 3,000 acres. The Tygart Valley Homesteads Historic District was approximately 1,500 acres. In spite of this success, other historic districts across the state need to be identified, documented, and nominated, especially those related to industry and agriculture.
For the first few decades of the National Register of Historic Places, however, agricultural-related resources listed in the Register were limited to the large plantation houses. In more recent years, more modest rural structures and agricultural landscapes have been recognized as an aspect of the historic resource.
While the number of listings for the state is significant, there are many more historic resources worthy of recognition and preservation. Below is a general overview of the historic resources that can be found in West Virginia.