Aerial view of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

8 Must-See Historic Towns In West Virginia

The wild and wonderful state of West Virginia is rich in history, which is evident in the state gaining statehood during the Civil War. Dotted throughout the state’s Appalachian landscape are charming towns that tell the story of the state’s colonial past, Civil War history, and present-day charm. From the storied streets of Harpers Ferry, where John Brown’s Raid was a precursor to the Civil War, to the quaint streets of Shepherdstown, where the steamboat was first successfully launched in 1787, the historic towns offer a captivating look at West Virginia’s past. Whether exploring the streets in Charles Town named after George Washington’s family or experiencing historic Roman Baths in Berkeley Springs, these must-see historic towns in West Virginia offer a captivating look into the state’s and America’s history.

Harpers Ferry

 High Street in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
 High Street in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. 

The historic town of Harpers Ferry provides a glimpse into American history from the 1700s and 1800s. Situated along the confluence of the Potomac River and Shenandoah River is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, home to John Brown’s Fort in the historic Lower Town area. In 1859, John Brown and several men fought against slavery prior to the Civil War in the National Armory’s fire engine and guard house, which became the namesake’s fort. Also located in the National Park is St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, built in 1833 and situated along the Appalachian Trail.

Harpers Ferry is also known for its 100 historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can stroll along High Street to view 19th-century architecture and enjoy a bite to eat at the Rabbit Hole. Located in the historic district, visitors can enjoy a bite to eat outdoors at the restaurant while overlooking the Appalachian Mountains and the town’s historic depot. Nearby is the 1799 Inn, which was part of the Harpers Ferry National Armory. Commissioned by President George Washington in the late 1700s, the building provided lodging for Armory workers.


View of German Street in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
View of German Street in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. 

One of the oldest towns in West Virginia, Shepherdstown was established in 1762. History buffs can stroll along the Washington Heritage Trail to view historical landmarks in town, including the Entler Hotel and Historic Shepherdstown Museum. The museum showcases artifacts from the 1800s, including Civil War memorabilia. Other sites along the Heritage Trail include the Rumsey Monument, built in honor of James Rumsey who first successfully demonstrated a steamboat in town in 1787, and the Peter Burr House, the oldest standing wood frame structure in the state. Built between 1751 and 1755, the house was built by Peter Burr, the brother of Aaron Burr, Sr. and father to Aaron Burr, Jr.

In the charming historic downtown area, visitors can enjoy charming boutiques, cafes, and galleries, including the Badgerhound Studio and Gallery by West Virginia artist, Michael Timothy Davis. The area is a short walk from the Potomac River, where outdoor enthusiasts can kayak and tube, or enjoy a stroll along the C&O Canal.


Greenbrier County Courthouse in Lewisburg, West Virginia.
Greenbrier County Courthouse in Lewisburg, West Virginia. Editorial credit: /

Located in southern West Virginia, Lewisburg is a historical town known for its cultural heritage and art community. Established in 1782, the town showcases its Civil War history at the North House Museum in the historic downtown. The area is also home to the Barracks, one of the first buildings in town. Built in 1799, the Barracks is situated along the Seneca Trail Highway in downtown Lewisburg. More history and arts can be discovered at the town’s Carnegie Hall, built in 1902. One of only four Carnegie Halls in the world, visitors can enjoy artwork and performances at the historic building.

Throughout the town, art enthusiasts can visit several galleries and art collectives, including Lee Street Studios. The art collective is housed in the historic Lewisburg Elementary School, showcasing works from local artists, as well as classes taught by renowned artisans. Nearby is the historic General Lewis Inn, dating back to 1834. Travelers can enjoy the historic charm of the inn, a drink at the inn’s Thistle Lounge, or a delicious meal in the elegant Dining Room.

Berkeley Springs

Downtown Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.
Downtown Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Editorial credit: Alejandro Guzmani /

Berkeley Springs, as the name suggests, features natural mineral springs throughout the historic town. The charming town blends relaxation and natural beauty with its unique history. Berkeley Springs has been renowned for its historic Roman Baths in the Berkeley Springs State Park for centuries. In 1748, President George Washington first visited the site and aided in incorporating the town, then known as the Town of Bath, in 1776. Visitors can relax in the park’s pools and private tubs or enjoy the spring water tap. History buffs can also explore the Museum of the Berkeley Springs inside the park.

The town is also renowned for its historic downtown, featuring 154 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Berkeley Castle. Built from 1885 to 1891, the 9,300-square-foot castle is one of the most iconic buildings in town. After enjoying a stroll through downtown Berkeley Springs, enjoy coffee or lunch at Fairfax Coffee House. Located in a building from 1915, visitors can enjoy a bite of history with views of the historic town.


Town of Martinsburg, West Virginia
The Town of Martinsburg, West Virginia. Editorial credit: TJ Brown /

Situated in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia is the wild and wonderful town of Martinsburg. Founded in 1778 during the American Revolutionary War, the town became a commercial hub in the 1840s when the B&O Railroad arrived in town. The town’s railroad history is on full display at the Martinsburg Roundhouse, a railroad complex built in 1866. Visitors can tour the historic site, as well as enjoy the town’s Farmer’s Market at the Roundhouse from April through October. History buffs can also tour the nearby historic Belle Boyd House Museum, built in 1853. The Greek-Revival style building was the childhood home of Civil War spy Belle Boyd, who provided information to Stonewall Jackson during the war. 

More history can be explored near downtown Martinsburg at the historic McFarland House, located in the Main Street Martinsburg Historic Downtown District. Built in 1878, the mansion is now an event space and restaurant known for its delicious Sunday brunch. After exploring the town and enjoying a bite to eat, watch a live performance at the historic Apollo Civic Theatre. Entertaining the town since 1914, the Apollo hosts musical acts, live theater, and youth performances.


Aerial view of Wheeling, West Virginia.
Aerial view of Wheeling, West Virginia.

As the birthplace of West Virginia, Wheeling is certainly a must-visit historic town in the state. On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became a state at West Virginia Independence Hall, located in Wheeling’s historic downtown district. The only state founded during the Civil War, history buffs can learn more about local and state history on tours of Independence Hall. Located nearby is the Chapline Street Row Historic District, featuring 19th-century buildings and homes in the late-Victorian style. The area is also home to Centre Market, which boasts several shops and galleries, including Artworks Around Town. Built in 1853, Centre Market is the oldest cast iron market house in the US.

The historic town is nestled along the banks of the Ohio River, bordering the state of Ohio. Spanning the river is the historic Wheeling Suspension Bridge, the oldest vehicular suspension bridge that is still used in the country. Built in 1849, the bridge is located on the historic National Road, which played a vital role in westward expansion. Visitors can cross the bridge to Wheeling Island and enjoy boating, fishing, and the great outdoors at the Wheeling Island Marina. 

Charles Town

The Historic Courthouse in the downtown area of Charles Town, West Virginia.
The Historic Courthouse in the downtown area of Charles Town, West Virginia. Editorial credit: George Sheldon /

Named after Charles Washington, George Washington’s younger brother, the historic town of Charles Town offers a look into America’s colonial past. Although the town was founded in 1786, Charles Washington’s home, Happy Retreat, predates the town. Built in 1770, history buffs can tour the founder’s home, then stroll along the streets in the historic downtown that are named for the Washington family, such as George Street. 

Charles Town’s historic district features well-preserved 18th and 19th-century architecture, including the Jefferson County Courthouse, where John Brown was tried in 1859 for his raid in Harpers Ferry. Nearby is the Jefferson County Museum, showcasing items from John Brown’s raid, Civil War memorabilia, and local historical pieces, such as the Charles Town Races. After exploring the rich history of Charles Town, enjoy a bite downtown at Ortega’s Taco Shop. Located next to the County Courthouse, Ortega’s is known for their authentic tacos and locally sourced ingredients.


View of the downtown area of Morgantown, West Virginia.
View of the downtown area of Morgantown, West Virginia.

Situated along the Monongahela River, Morgantown offers a natural escape with historical architecture. Located near the banks of the river in the downtown district is the Morgantown History Museum, showcasing a vintage printing shop, local pottery, and an exhibit on hometown actor Don Knotts. A statue of the actor can be seen outside of the Metropolitan Theatre, built in 1924. The theater features live musical performances, theatrical productions, and other events in what is known as “West Virginia’s Most Beautiful Playhouse.” Another historical place to visit in downtown Morgantown is the Old Stone House, built in 1795 and the county’s oldest stone dwelling. 

Morgantown is also proud of its glass production history, which is visible at the Seneca Center. Now a shopping mall, the complex was built in 1896-1897 as the former Seneca Glass Company building. The building’s history is evident in the old furnace, original tools, and murals of the glassmaking process that are on display for all to see.

Wild And Wonderful Historic Towns

These historic towns in West Virginia offer a unique view into American history. From West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling, where West Virginia gained statehood, to strolling through the streets of Main Street Martinsburg Historic Downtown District, these must-see historic towns are worth visiting for any history buff. For those looking to enjoy the great outdoors while soaking up history in Berkeley Springs, watch a show in the historic Metropolitan Theatre in Morgantown, or explore the region’s railroad history in Martinsburg, these West Virginia historic towns offer something for everyone.

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