A month ago I found myself in a sterile doctor’s office in West Virginia, having traveled an hour to get there because it was the closest treatment option for what ails me. Through the equally sterile blinds I noticed a huge dilapidated and obviously old building across the street on a hill. “What’s that huge building?” I asked a nurse. She didn’t know. I investigated and discovered a perfect day trip from Athens, OH.
The Julia-Ann Square Historic Walking Tour
It was cold in February, so I slowly drove through the area. Houses spanned architectural periods from pre 1850 to the early 1940s. Some were clearly restored to their original beauty while others (only a few) are dilapidated and worn, skeletons of former majesty but amazing nonetheless. Some otherwise magnificent houses were in varying states of rehabilitation. One, on a side street was wrapped almost entirely in Lowes brand house wrap almost as if it’s gestating or whatever happens in a cocoon. Alas, much of the rehab works seems to have stalled with the economy.
So I returned to Parkersburg for yet another doctors appointment and the weather was nice enough for a stroll through the Julia Ann square Historic District. You’ll find white plastic containers with walking tour guides, or at least you will in the summer. As of mid-March the brochures were still in hibernation. That didn’t stop me from walking around with my sis enjoying a slice of history. Many houses place brass plaques by the sidewalk displaying brief details like build date and initial owner.
One of the neighborhood denizens noticed our appreciation and came out of his house with a couple of the aforementioned guides. Bud Ludford isn’t just a member of the Historic Walking Tour, he’s the creator. (Said in the Hair Club for Men voice…) Bud gave us an impromptu tour of his turn of the century house on Ann Street. The entire house is decorated in period perfect, and often original furniture and pictures. The parlor, replete with a working Victrola wax cylinder player and other appropriate bric-a-brac takes you to another era.
Bud explained that in the summer, homeowners often invite tour-takers inside to show off their houses and provide details missed in the walking tour guide book. Houses on the tour date from 1840 to 1942 and are all exemplary of their respective periods. There are benches regularly spaced along the walk, usually pointing at beautiful houses or ornate gardens. The tour encompasses Ann Street and Juliana Street from 9th to 13th St. The only cross street with many entries is 12th.
I haven’t walked the whole thing yet, but my favorites so far are the Dils – Lecht – Creel house with its eclectic period-spanning architecture and the mighty “Castle” Van Winkle – Wix house. I’m a sucker for a good turret. Here’s a map of the Parkersburg West Virginia Historic Walking Tour. Enjoy.