Residents past and present reflect on iconic businesses of the past

PARKERSBURG – The landscape of the city has changed many times over the years with businesses and industry coming and going.

In the process, landmarks, favorite businesses and destinations have been closed, demolished and erased forever, save for the memories and old photos.

Mark Lewis, president of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, has a list of lost landmarks that were special to him growing up in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“Things have changed,” Lewis said. “That’s the way the world goes.”

Members of the “You Might Be From Parkersburg If…” Facebook page recalled several of their favorite lost landmarks.

Laura Greathouse is sad her kids and grandkids won’t get to experience the Carnegie Library on Green Street, most recently Trans Allegheny Books which has been closed for almost three years. The bookstore was operated for 25 years in the former Carnegie Library built in 1905.

“Beautiful architecture,” Greathouse said. “It is sad that my kids and grand kids won’t get to see and experience it.”

Nelva Knotts said Trans Allegheny was the first place her son visited when he came home.

“He couldn’t believe they were no longer in business,” she said. “I loved browsing through all the floors. It brought back memories of the hours I spent at the Carnegie Library when I was a student at Washington Junior High School. Free entertainment and a learning experience combined.”

Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch recalls the lily pond at the City Park and the peacocks.

“You never forget the time you see one of those things,” he said.

Residents and former residents also are nostalgic for the Point of View restaurant, a favorite spot for formal dinners and parties, on Blennerhassett Heights. Beckie Buchanan said the Point of View had no comparison in the area.

Jane Kimes, who returned to Parkersburg a few years ago, was sad to discover the Point of View and Sebastian’s were no longer open.

“In my opinion that’s a huge loss for Parkersburg,” she said.

Lance Wilson, a former city police office, misses the old city building at Fifth and Market streets. Erected in 1895, the building was unceremoniously demolished in 1981 and the site is now a parking lot.

“What a beautiful old building,” he said.

Bob Enoch, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, is concerned about two existing landmarks: the Phelps-Tavenner House on West Virginia 95 and the old Civil War hospital at Fourth and Avery streets.

The hospital, a former eye clinic, is on the market for sale. It’s across the street from the site of the Boreman Mansion, home of the state’s first governor.

That building was razed years ago. It’s now a parking lot with a plaque recognizing the site.

Enoch also is concerned about Wetherell Jewelers on Market Street. The store closed in 2011 after 144 years in business.

“It has a beautiful facade on it and is in danger,” he said. “Having been for sale for a long time, the interior is pretty bad.”

Belinda Skidmore said many of the demolished buildings made the city what it used to be.

Pam Rockhold said she misses the old days of downtown.

“I really miss window shopping and walking from store to store looking to see who had the best deals and (G.C.) Murphy’s was the cream of the crop,” she said.

Tim Archer lamented the destruction of the Chancellor Hotel, now the site of the Highmark West Virginia’s headquarters. The Chancellor Hotel was built in 1901 and replaced a Methodist Church that stood on the site since 1858.

The Chancellor at one time was the premier hotel in the city. Lewis recalled going to high school dances at the Chancellor before it was razed in 1977.

“It could have been the centerpiece of a revived downtown,” Archer said.

“It was beautiful inside and so unique,” said Sussan Merriman, whose grandmother worked at the hotel for more than 30 years.

David Shockey misses the old downtown district when it was a bustling center of commerce and transportation.

“It was the pulsing heart of the town,” he said.

Couch was quick to point out there are a lot of nice things about the community now that make up for the lost landmarks. The county annually invests money into the courthouse to protect and preserve it for another 100 years, he said.

“Landmarks move on,” he said. “You hope people replace them and we take care of the things we have.”