November 13, 2019

Guest Post: Tour of the Statues of the West Virginia State Capitol

Guest Post:  Tour of the Statues of the West Virginia State Capitol

by Renate Pore
images ©2019 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


The classical-style West Virginia State Capitol sits on a scenic site facing the Kanawha River.  The building was constructed in three stages between 1924 and 1932, and is one of the most beautiful and impressive buildings in West Virginia.  The architect behind it was Cass Gilbert, who also designed the U.S. Treasury Annex and the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.  The top of the building is graced by a shining dome of 23.5 carat gold leaf.  At the time of my visit, the dome was wrapped in plastic for repairs.  If you visit, don’t expect to see the dome in all its shining glory until 2021.

Also located on the State Capitol grounds are the History Museum and Governor’s Mansion.  The Great Hall of the History Museum displays hand-made quilts in honor of the state’s tradition of quilting and other folk art.


A jaunty General Stonewall Jackson stands on the lawn of the West Virginia State Capitol.  Jackson was born in western Virginia and won fame fighting for the Confederacy even though his home would be one of 55 counties seceding from Virginia to join the Union Cause.  Commissioned in 1910 by the Daughters of the Confederacy, the statue was created during the Jim Crow Era when states and localities were passing laws to enforce segregation.  Because of its association with a shameful period in the nation’s history, there have been some calls to remove the statue from its place of honor and relegate it to the State Museum.  So far, however, Stonewall Jackson still stands.

“Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” is another statue commemorating West Virginia’s Civil War history.  It stands on the south side of the State Capitol and shows a grieving President Lincoln, sleepless because of the pressing burdens of the Civil War.  West Virginia became a state in 1863 because the people of western Virginia identified more with the North than with the slaveholding confederate states of the South.

On the west end not far from Stonewall Jackson stands the statue commemorating 32,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines from West Virginia who fought for the Union cause in the Civil War.  Some years ago when the bronze statue was repaired, it was coated with a plastic substance which gives it its orange look. The strange hue was very upsetting to the locals who were used to the seeing their statues in greenish bronze.

West Virginia is coal, and coal is West Virginia.  A burly coal miner in a hard hat graces the northwest side of the Capitol.  The base of the statue depicts scenes from the coal-mining era--from the days of pick and shovel to continuous miners.  Today, coal mining is a dying industry and coal miners are working-class heroes from another time.  About 13,000 people continue to be employed in underground or mountain-top-removal mining.

The West Virginia Veteran’s Memorial is a two-story oval monument honoring more than 10,000 West Virginians who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending the nation in twentieth-century conflicts.  Composed of four limestone monoliths surrounded by a reflecting pool, the interior walls are faced in polished black granite etched with the names of these men and women.  The Memorial was designed by P. Joseph Mullins, who also sculpted the four figures representing the four major twentieth-century conflicts and the four major branches of military service.  The statue in the photo depicts a sailor from World War II.

The “West Virginia’s Female Veteran” statue is also part of the West Virginia Veteran’s Memorial described in #6.   The statue of the woman warrior was the last piece added to the memorial.  It became controversial when the sculptor decided to depict the woman in fatigues.  Female veterans wanted a statue showing a woman in dress uniform.  To accommodate everyone, engraved copper plates around the base of the statue depict women in more formal dress.

This statue of Booker T. Washington stands on the north side of the State Capitol.  Booker Taliaferro Washington lived about 10 miles southeast of Charleston in Malden, West Virginia.  He was an educator, author, orator, and advisor to United States presidents.  The last of the black American leaders born into slavery, he became a leading voice against the oppression of former slaves and their descendants during the Jim Crow Era.

This bust of Anna Jarvis stands next to the information desk on the main floor of the West Virginia State Capitol.  Jarvis grew up in Grafton, West Virginia, and is credited as the founder of Mother’s Day in the United States.  After the death of her mother, she organized an aggressive campaign to establish a National Mother’s Day, and thanks to her efforts, by 1911 almost every state in the nation was celebrating Mother’s Day.

(Renate Pore migrated from California to West Virginia in the late 1960s.  Although there is no place like California, Renate got hooked on West Virginia--the semi-rural life style, the mountains, the breathtaking spring when all the trees suddenly burst out in bloom and the serene days of fall when the weather is just like California.  Renate felt West Virginia could use her skills and talents and has had a long and satisfying career as a health care activist badgering federal and state  policymakers to do the right thing on health care.  Renate is retired now but working on events to celebrate the Centennial of the 19th Amendment--women's right to vote--and its ratification in West Virginia.  She is a political junkie and looks to California to lead us to a new and better place.  Renate lives in Charleston with her sweet, shaggy, red-haired boy, Ollie.)

More things to do in Charleston, West Virginia.

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October 7, 2019

Traveling Solo in Hong Kong

Traveling Solo in Hong Kong

Though for the first-time visitor Hong Kong has an anticipatory aura of mystery, of being one big American Chinatown, it is in reality in league with the most sophisticated 20th-century cities. This tiny 29-mile-square island is a crossroads of people and cultures. It is the world’s third-largest port, tightly packed with skyscrapers and glitzy high-end shops, and many residents speak English. It also is reputed to be the most densely populated spot in the world--in the Shamshuipo section of Kowloon people are squeezed in at the rate of 165,000 per kilometer. 
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article and image c2019 Carole Terwilliger Meyers