Musings in West Virginia: Clarksburg

Musings in Clarksburg, West Virginia, including stops at the Waldo Hotel, a school and the Holy Rosary Catholic Church.

Clarksburg, West Virginia can be best described as a city raised around the glass and coal industry, having been an important stop along the Northwestern Turnpike, now known as U.S. Route 50. The Turnpike was chartered in 1827 and reached Clarksburg nine years later. The city further prospered when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was extended west from Grafton in 1856, where a large railroad yard was constructed. The St. Louis main, as it later became known, allowed the railroad to ship goods to and from the east coast and the Midwest.

As a result, the population of Clarksburg gained to a peak of 32,000 in 1950, which correlated with a peak in industrial output for the region. Glass industries dotted the sharp valleys surrounding the city, fueled by a cheap source of fuel — coal from the mines in the northern half of the state, and the area became a hub of banking and commerce. But the mechanization of the industries in the latter 20th century, along with the exporting of employment to locales with cheaper labor costs and the decline of the domestic glass industry, left Clarksburg with a size under 17,000. Poverty extends out in almost every neighborhood, and the downtown — while structurally imposing, contains much vacancy and deterioration.

Not all is gloom and doom, like the above Clarksburg Central Junior High School, as several notable buildings are being restored or are slated for restoration. The service industry continues to thrive on the fringes of Clarksburg, providing much needed employment for an area with a devastated industrial base. For instance, the former Waldo Hotel in downtown, completed in 1904, was one of West Virginia’s most luxurious hotels, becoming a site known for its lavish weddings, social events and political gatherings. It later became an apartment complex and was shuttered by the time the McCabe Land Company purchased it for a mere $150,000 in 2000. It was sold a year later to the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, who announced a goal of restoring the Waldo into a hotel and conference center.

The only work to have been completed so far involved the removal of the radiators and associated piping throughout the building.

Nearby is the former Holy Rosary Catholic Church, established in 1906 to meet the needs of the Slovaks, Poles, Crotians and Slovenians. The parish also included many Hungarians and Greek Rites. The Slovak church was unique due to its demographic, and as a result, worshippers would travel upwards of 50 miles or more to attend.

The church construction was completed on September 30, 1909, when the cornerstone was laid. Due to a dwindling population and an increasingly poorer income base, Holy Rosary closed in 1984 and was merged into the Immaculate Conception parish of Clarksburg and the Sacred Heart parish of Chester.

Click through for more photographs and history of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church!

Stay tuned for the last in the summer road trip updates, with a post from several abandonments in southern West Virginia! Have a great Thanksgiving holiday everyone!

1 Comment

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I just moved to Clarksburg West Virginia for work ~ ironic. The abandoned homes and buildings break my heart. If wall could talk.

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