Churches follow a standard form: nave, pews, altar… Yet there are unique features that make these architectural religious relics praiseworthy. All over West Virginia houses of worship symbolize a community’s history and values. Though the use of the structure may have changed or the building has sustained severe structural damage, the historic churches across the state merit a visit. This is why historic churches are this month’s focus for an Excuse for an Excursion.
Lewisburg – Old Stone Church
The Old Stone Church in Lewisburg is one of the most picturesque places of worship in the state. Christopher Foglesong and John Brown originally built this Presbyterian meetinghouse in a square form in 1796. Shuttered rectangular windows punctuate the two-story limestone façade. The apparent casual arrangement of windows and doorways are a result of the 1830 expansion and reorientation of the building. Four years later, the octagonal belfry was added. In 1968, a conservation firm returned the structure to its ‘colonial’ appearance and restored the high-pulpit inside.
Huntington – Bethel temple Assembly of God (Former B’Nai Israel Synagogue)
Not all religious buildings maintain their original use. In this case, the congregation of B’Nai Israel Synagogue merged with the nearby Ohav Sholom Temple in Huntington in the 1970s.
Although the building changed hands, the outstanding combination of Eastern and Georgian motifs still stands out. The juxtaposition of yellow terracotta and dark brick accentuate the triple-arched entrance and Moorish inspired horseshoe arches.
Elkins – Randolph County Community Arts Center (Former St. Brendan’s Church)
In 1999, the Randolph County Community Arts Center purchased a former Roman Catholic Church. Although the Arts Center is secular, the organization retained many of the interior elements. The former apse – which still retains a mural of Christ and the Evangelists – is now a stage for the many concerts.
Wheeling – Second Presbyterian Church
After a devastating roof collapse during the summer of 2011, the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia added Wheeling’s Second Presbyterian Church to the 2013 Endangered Properties List. The Greek Revival church dates to the mid-nineteenth century. Second Presbyterian was one of the first buildings constructed in Wheeling’s Center Market Square Historic District and adds to the area’s distinctive character.
Mullens – Wyco Church
Built in 1917, this church served the coal miners and their family in Coal Baron Major W.T. Tam’s company town. The lancet windows and recessed entrance epitomize the late Gothic Revival style. In 2003 the Rural Appalachian Improvement League (RAIL) took ownership of the church and are working to restore it. The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia added Wyco Church to the Endangered Properties list in 2009.
All over West Virginia, there are historic houses of worship worth visiting. So let the majesty of these architectural relics be your excuse for an excursion!