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Charleston, West Virginia

Coordinates: 38°20′50″N 81°38′0″W / 38.34722°N 81.63333°W / 38.34722; -81.63333
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Flag of Charleston
Official seal of Charleston
Charlie West[1]
Interactive map of Charleston
Charleston is located in West Virginia
Charleston is located in the United States
Coordinates: 38°20′50″N 81°38′0″W / 38.34722°N 81.63333°W / 38.34722; -81.63333
Country United States
State West Virginia
 • TypeStrong-Mayor Government
 • MayorAmy Shuler Goodwin (D)
 • City Council
Members list
 • City ManagerBenjamin Mishoe, Esq.
 • City32.64 sq mi (84.54 km2)
 • Land31.50 sq mi (81.59 km2)
 • Water1.14 sq mi (2.95 km2)
Elevation597 ft (182 m)
 • City48,864
 • Estimate 
 • RankUS: 828th
WV: 1st
 • Density1,551.2/sq mi (598.9/km2)
 • Urban
153,199 (US: 214th)
 • Metro
255,020 (US: 191st)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
25301, 25302, 25304, 25305, 25311, 25314, 25317, 25321-25339, 25350-25358, 25362, 25364, 25375, 25387, 25389, 25392, 25396
Area code(s)304/681
FIPS code54-14600[6]
GNIS feature ID1558347[3]

Charleston is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of West Virginia and the county seat of Kanawha County.[7] Located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha rivers, the city had a population of 48,864 at the 2020 census and an estimated population of 48,018 in 2021.[4][5] The Charleston metropolitan area had 308,248 residents in 2020.

The first permanent settlement in the Kanawha Valley, Fort Morris, was built approximately 20 miles upstream of Charleston at the confluence of Kellys Creek near the burned ruins of Walter Kelly's cabin in the fall of 1773 by William Morris prior to Lord Dunmore's War, and was used extensively during the American Revolution.[8] The town of Charleston was incorporated by the Virginia House of Delegates in 1794 with the trustees being William Morris, Leonard Morris, and Daniel Boone.[9] Early industries important to Charleston included salt and the first natural gas well.[10] Later, coal became central to economic prosperity in the city and the surrounding area. Today, trade, utilities, government, medicine, and education play central roles in the city's economy.

Charleston is the home of the Charleston Dirty Birds of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, and the annual 15-mile (24 km) Charleston Distance Run. Yeager Airport and the University of Charleston are in the city. West Virginia State University is in the local area as well as West Virginia University and Marshall University satellite campuses.



Zero Milestone

After the American Revolutionary War, pioneers began making their way out from the early settlements. Many slowly migrated into the western part of Virginia. Capitalizing on its many resources made Charleston an important part of Virginia and West Virginia history. Today, Charleston is the largest city in the state and the state capital.

Charleston's history goes back to the 18th century. Thomas Bullitt was deeded 1,250 acres (5 km2) of land near the mouth of the Elk River in 1773. It was inherited by his brother, Cuthbert Bullitt, upon his death in 1778, and sold to Colonel George Clendenin in 1786. The first permanent settlement, Fort Lee, was built in 1787 by Col. Clendenin and his company of Virginia Rangers. This structure occupied the area that is now the intersection of Brooks Street and Kanawha Boulevard. Historical conjecture indicates that Charleston is named after Col. Clendenin's father, Charles. Six years later, in 1794, the Virginia General Assembly officially established Charlestown.[11] On the 40 acres (160,000 m2) that made up the town in 1794, 35 people inhabited seven houses.

Charleston is part of Kanawha County. The origin of the word Kanawha (pronounced "Ka-NAH-wah"), Ka(h)nawha, derives from the region's Iroquoian dialects meaning "water way" or "Canoe Way" implying the metaphor, "transport way", in the local language. It was and is the name of the river that flows through Charleston. The grammar of the "hard H" sound soon dropped out as new arrivals of various European languages developed West Virginia.[12] The phrase has been a matter of Register (sociolinguistics). A two-story jail was the first county structure to be built, with the first floor literally dug into the bank of the Kanawha River.

Daniel Boone, who was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of the Kanawha County militia, was elected to serve in 1791 in the Virginia House of Delegates. As told in historical accounts, Boone walked all the way to Richmond, the state capital. Boone served alongside Major William Morris Jr at the House of Delegates representing Kanawha.

19th century growth[edit]

Gilliland Log Cabin

By the early 19th century, salt brines were discovered along the Kanawha River, and the first salt well was drilled in 1806.[13] This created a prosperous time and great economic growth for the area. By 1808, 1,250 pounds of salt were being produced a day, and the Farmers' Repository newspaper began publication.[14] An area adjacent to Charleston, Kanawha Salines (now Malden) would become the top salt producer in the world. The brines were heated over open flames causing the water to evaporate and leaving behind a residue of salt crystals. Much of the work was done by enslaved peoples. Historian Cyrus Forman estimated at the height of production as many as 3,000 slaves worked at more than 60 salt furnaces which operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week.[15] The Holly Grove Mansion was established during this period.[13] In 1818, the Kanawha Salt Company, the first trust in the United States, went into operation. In the same year, "Charlestown" was shortened to "Charleston" to avoid confusion with another Charles Town in eastern West Virginia, which was named after George Washington's brother, Charles Washington.[16] A lyceum was established around 1841.[17]

Captain James Wilson, while drilling for salt, struck the first natural gas well in 1815. It was drilled at the site that is now the junction of Brooks Street and Kanawha Boulevard (near the present-day state capitol complex). In 1817, coal was first discovered and gradually became used as the fuel for the salt works. The Kanawha salt industry declined in importance after 1861, until the onset of World War I brought a demand for chemical products. The chemicals needed were chlorine and sodium hydroxide, which could be made from salt brine.

The town continued to grow until the Civil War began in 1861. After the Virginia Secession Convention of 1861 and a referendum, the state of Virginia seceded from the Union. However, Charleston, like much of western Virginia, was divided in loyalty between the Union and the Confederacy. On September 13, 1862, the Union and Confederate armies clashed in the Battle of Charleston. The Confederates won, but they could not hold the area for long. The Union soldiers returned in force just six weeks later and retook the city.[13] Charleston would remain under Union control for the remainder of the war.

The second capitol building of West Virginia was built in 1885 after Charleston was declared the capital city. It burned down in 1921.

In addition to the dispute over slavery, the North wanted to separate West Virginia from the rest of the state for economic reasons. The heavy industries in the North, particularly the steel business of the upper Ohio River region, were dependent on coal from the western Virginia mines. Federal units from Ohio marched into western Virginia quite early in the war solely to capture the coal mines and control transportation in the area.[citation needed] The Wheeling Convention of 1861 declared the Ordinance of Succession, and the Confederate state government in Richmond, to be illegal and void, and formed the Unionist Restored Government of Virginia. The Restored Government and the United States Congress approved the formation of the state of West Virginia, which was admitted on June 20, 1863, as the 35th state, and the Restored Government of Virginia moved to Alexandria.[16]

Although a state now existed, choosing a state capital location proved to be difficult. For several years, the West Virginia capital intermittently traveled between Wheeling and Charleston.[18] In 1877, however, the citizens voted on a permanent location. Charleston received 41,243 votes, Clarksburg received 29,442 and Martinsburg received 8,046; Wheeling was not considered. Charleston won, and eight years later the first state capitol building was opened there.[13]

The West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society was headquartered in Charleston in 1890.[19][20] In 1891, the West Virginia Colored Institute, now known as West Virginia State University, was established. The following year, Capitol City Commercial College was founded.[21] Charleston's Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was completed in 1897.

20th century[edit]

An African American neighborhood in Charleston, 1938

Charleston became the center of state government. Natural resources, such as coal and natural gas, along with railroad expansion, also contributed to growth. New industries such as chemical, glass, timber and steel migrated to the state, attracted by the area's natural resources. The city established a chamber of commerce in 1900.[21] There was a large amount of new construction in Charleston during this period. A number of those buildings, including churches and office buildings, still stand in the heart of downtown along and bordering Capitol Street. The State Bureau of Archives and History was established in 1905, and the Charleston Public Library was established in 1909.[19][22]

The city's first chemical manufacturer began operation in 1913.[13] Three years later, the Libbey-Owens-Ford glass manufactory was built,[23] as well as Charleston High School. Another large manufacturer, Owens Bottle Company, opened in 1917. Charleston City Hall was built in 1921. In the same year, a fire at the capitol building resulted in a new, hastily built structure being opened, but it too burned down in 1927. A Capitol Building Commission, created by the legislature in 1921, authorized construction of the present capitol. Architect Cass Gilbert designed the buff-colored Indiana limestone structure in the Italian Renaissance style, with a final cost of just under $10 million. After the three stages of construction were completed, Governor William G. Conley dedicated the West Virginia State Capitol on June 20, 1932. Charleston Municipal Airport was established in 1909.[16] In 1934, the city library expanded to become the Kanawha County Public Library system.[22] In 1935, Morris Harvey College relocated to Charleston from Barboursville, West Virginia.[24]

A chemical plant near Charleston in 1939

Charleston Municipal Auditorium was completed in 1939.[13] During World War II, the first and largest styrene-butadiene plant in the U.S. opened in nearby Institute, providing a replacement for rubber to the war effort.[25] After the war ended, Charleston was on the brink of some significant construction. One of the first during this period was Kanawha Airport (now Yeager Airport, named after General Chuck Yeager). Built in 1947, the construction encompassed clearing 360 acres (1.5 km2) on three mountaintops and moving more than nine million cubic yards of earth.[11] Kanawha Boulevard, a riverfront four-lane road, was also built in the early 1940s.[13] The Charleston Civic Center opened in 1959.

Capitol Street, June 1973

Charleston began to be integrated into the Interstate Highway System in the 1960s when three major interstate systems—I-64, I-77 and I-79 were designated, all converging in Charleston. In 1961, the Kanawha River flooded much of the lower-lying parts of Charleston.[16] In 1973, Morris Harvey College was renamed to be the University of Charleston.[24]

President Bill Clinton addressing a crowd in Charleston in 1993

In 1983, the Charleston Town Center opened its doors downtown. It was the largest urban-based mall east of the Mississippi River, featuring three stories of shops and eateries. Downtown revitalization began in earnest in the late 1980s. Funds were set aside for streetscaping as Capitol and Quarrier streets saw new building facades, trees along the streets, and brick walkways installed. For a time, the opening of the Charleston Town Center Mall had a somewhat negative impact on the main streets of downtown Charleston, as many businesses closed and relocated into the mall. Also in 1983, West Virginia Public Radio launched a live-performance radio program statewide called Mountain Stage.[26] What began as a live, monthly statewide broadcast went on to national distribution in 1986 through National Public Radio and around the world on the Voice of America satellite service.

The new Robert C. Byrd Federal Building, Haddad Riverfront Park and Capitol Market are just a few new developments that have helped growth in the downtown area during the 1990s. Charleston launched its city website in 1998.[27][28]

21st century[edit]

2003 marked the opening of the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences.[11] The center includes the Maier Foundation Performance Hall, the Walker Theatre, the Avampato Discovery Museum and the Juliet Art Museum. Also on site is the ElectricSky Theater, a 175-seat combination planetarium and dome-screen cinema. Movies shown at the theatre include educational large format (70 mm) presentations and are often seen in similar Omnimax theatres. Planetarium shows are staged as a combination of pre-recorded and live presentations. The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame was established in 2005.[29]

Many festivals and events were also incorporated into the calendar, including Multifest, Vandalia Festival, a July 4 celebration with fireworks at Haddad Riverfront Park, and the already popular Sternwheel Regatta, which was founded in 1970, provided a festive atmosphere for residents to enjoy. In 2005 FestivALL Charleston was established and has grown into a ten-day festival offering a variety of performances, events and exhibits in music, dance, theatre, visual arts and other entertainments.

Charleston has one central agency for its economic development efforts, the Charleston Area Alliance. The Alliance works with local public officials and the private sector to build the economy of the region and revitalize its downtown. Charleston also has an economic and community development organization focused on the East End and West Side urban neighborhood business districts, Charleston Main Streets.


Satellite image of Charleston taken from the International Space Station

Charleston is located in west-central Kanawha County at 38°20′58″N 81°38′0″W / 38.34944°N 81.63333°W / 38.34944; -81.63333 (38.349497, −81.633294).[30] It lies within the ecoregion of the Western Allegheny Plateau.[31]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 32.66 square miles (84.59 km2), of which 31.52 square miles (81.64 km2) are land and 1.14 square miles (2.95 km2) are water.

The city lies at the intersection of Interstates 79, 77, 64, and also where the Kanawha and Elk rivers meet. Charleston is about 117 miles (188 km) southeast of Chillicothe, Ohio, 315 miles (507 km) west of Richmond, Virginia, 228 miles (367 km) southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 247 miles (398 km) east of Louisville, Kentucky, and 264 miles (425 km) north of Charlotte, North Carolina.


Homes in the East End Historic District

The following are neighborhoods and communities within the city limits:

  • Charleston Heights (Westmoreland/Hillsdale)
  • East End
  • Edgewood
  • Elk City
  • Forest Hills
  • Fort Hill
  • Kanawha City
  • Louden Heights
  • North Charleston
  • Riverview
  • Shadowlawn
  • South Park
  • South Hills
  • South Ruffner
  • West Side


Charleston has a four-season humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) with continental climate (Dfa) elements.[32] Especially in winter, Charleston's average temperatures are warmer than the rest of the state, due to the city being west of the higher elevations. Spring is the most unpredictable season, and spring-like weather usually arrives in late March or early April. From the beginning of March through early May, temperatures can vary considerably and it is not unusual at this time for day-to-day temperature fluctuations to exceed 20 °F (11 °C). Temperatures warm up considerably in late May, with warm summer-like days. Summer is warm to hot, with 23 days of highs at or above 90 °F (32 °C),[33] sometimes reaching 95 °F (35 °C), often accompanied by high humidity. Autumn features crisp evenings that warm quickly to mild to warm afternoons. Winters are chilly, with a January daily average of 34.4 °F (1.3 °C), and with a mean of 16 days with maxima at or below the freezing mark.[33] Snowfall generally occurs from late November to early April, with the heaviest period being January and February. However, major snowstorms of more than 10 inches (25 cm) are rare. The area averages about 3.5 inches (89 mm) of precipitation each month. Thunderstorms are frequent during the late spring and throughout the summer, and occasionally they can be quite severe, producing the rare tornado.

Record temperatures have ranged from −17 °F (−27 °C) on December 30, 1917, to 108 °F (42 °C) on August 6, 1918, and July 4, 1931.[33] However, decades can pass between temperatures of 100 °F (37.8 °C) or hotter, and the last such instance was July 8, 2012.[33] The record cold maximum is 4 °F (−16 °C) on December 22, 1989 (during the December 1989 United States cold wave), while, conversely the record warm minimum is 84 °F (29 °C) on July 29, 1924.[33] The hardiness zone is 7a.

Climate data for Charleston, West Virginia (Yeager Airport), 1991–2020 normals,[a] extremes 1892–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 81
Mean maximum °F (°C) 68.2
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 43.9
Daily mean °F (°C) 35.0
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 26.1
Mean minimum °F (°C) 5.5
Record low °F (°C) −16
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.27
Average snowfall inches (cm) 10.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 14.8 13.7 14.8 13.4 14.1 12.5 12.8 10.6 9.0 10.1 11.0 14.2 151.0
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 7.6 6.2 3.9 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 1.5 4.1 23.9
Source: NOAA[33][34]


Historical population
2021 (est.)48,018[5]−1.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[35]
2020 Census[4]

2020 census[edit]

As of the 2020 census, there were 48,864 people and 21,779 households residing in the city. There were 25,766 housing units in Charleston. The racial makeup of the city was 74.7% White, 14.8% African American, 2.6% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 1.1% from other races, and 6.6% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2% of the population.

There were 21,779 households, of which 36.8% were married couples living together, 34.7% had a female householder with no spouse present, 22% had a male householder with no spouse present. The average household and family size was 2.94. The median age in the city was 41.7 years with 18.9% of the population under 18. The median income for a household in the city was $54,101 and the poverty rate was 17.5%.[36]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[37] of 2010, there were 51,400 people, 23,453 households, and 12,587 families residing in the city.[failed verification] The population density was 1,630.7 inhabitants per square mile (629.6 inhabitants/km2). There were 26,205 housing units at an average density of 831.4 units per square mile (321.0 units/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.4% White, 15.5% African American, 0.2% Native American, 2.3% Asian, 0.3% from other races, and 3.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.4% of the population.

There were 23,453 households, of which 24.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.6% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 46.3% were non-families. 39.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.83.

The median age in the city was 41.7 years. 20.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.9% were from 25 to 44; 29.9% were from 45 to 64; and 16.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.6% male and 52.4% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census of 2000, there were 53,421 people, 24,505 households, and 13,624 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,690.4 people per square mile (652.7 people/km2). There were 27,131 housing units at an average density of 858.5 units per square mile (331.5 units/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 80.63% White, 15.07% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 1.83% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.30% from other races, and 1.91% from two or more races. 0.81% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race. The five most common ancestries were German (12.4%), English (11.6%), American (11.4%), Irish (10.6%), and Italian (3.9%).

There were 24,505 households, out of which 23.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.9% were married couples living together, 13.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.4% were non-families. 38.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.82.

The age distribution was 20.7% under 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 27.9% from 25 to 44, 25.3% from 45 to 64, and 17.6% who were 65 or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 87.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,009, and the median income for a family was $47,975. Males had a median income of $38,257 versus $26,671 for females. The per capita income for the city was $26,017. About 12.7% of families and 16.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.5% of those under age 18 and 11.3% of those age 65 or over.


West Virginia State Capitol

The City of Charleston recognizes the Charleston Area Alliance as its economic development organization.[38] Notable companies headquartered in the Charleston area include Appalachian Power, owned by American Electric Power[39] of Columbus, Ohio; Charleston Gazette, Gestamp, Tudor's Biscuit World and United Bank.

Notable companies founded in Charleston include Shoney's restaurants and Heck's / L.A. Joe discount department stores.


Annual events and fairs[edit]

The Art Deco Charleston Municipal Auditorium was constructed in 1939

Charleston is home to numerous annual events and fairs that take place throughout the city, from the banks of the Kanawha River to the capitol grounds.

The West Virginia Dance Festival, held between April 25 and 30, features dance students from across the state that attend classes and workshops in ballet, jazz and modern dance. At the finale, the students perform in the West Virginia State Theatre; these are free to the public.

Beginning in 1982, Symphony Sunday, held annually usually the first weekend in June, is a full day of music, food, and family fun, culminating in a free performance by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and a fireworks display following. Throughout the day, local performing community dance and music ensembles present a series of their own selected pieces with the final performance being by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The local performing community dance and music ensembles that perform for Symphony Sunday include the Kanawha Valley Ringers, the West Virginia Kickers, the Charleston Metro Band, the West Virginia Youth Symphony, the Mountain State Brass Band, and the Kanawha Valley Community Band. The now-defunct Charleston Neophonic Orchestra has also performed at the event.[40]

The NPR program Mountain Stage was founded in Charleston in 1983. The live performance music program, produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and heard on the Voice of America and via NPR Music, records episodes regularly at the Culture Center Theater on the West Virginia State Capitol grounds.

Twice a year, in late April and again in early November, the West Virginia International Film Festival occurs,[41] where many domestic and international films are shown that range from full-length feature films, shorts, documentaries, animation and student films.

Charleston hosts the annual Gazette-Mail Kanawha County Majorette and Band Festival for the eight public high schools in Kanawha County. The festival began in 1947 and has continued on as an annual tradition. The festival is held at the University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field in downtown Charleston. It is the state's oldest music festival.

On Memorial Day weekend, the Vandalia Gathering[42] is held on the grounds of the state capitol. Thousands of visitors each year enjoy traditional music, art, dance, stories, crafts and food that stems from the "uniqueness of West Virginia's mountain culture."

Since 2005, FestivALL[43] has provided the Charleston area with cultural and artistic events beginning on June 20 (West Virginia Day) and including dance, theater, and music. FestivALL provides local artists a valuable chance to display their works and help get others interested in, and involved with, the local artistic community. Highlights include an art fair on Capitol Street and local bands playing live music at stages set up throughout downtown, as well as a wine and jazz festival on the campus of the University of Charleston featuring local and nationally known jazz artists and showcasing the products of West Virginia vineyards.

The Charleston Sternwheel Regatta is an annual river festival held on the Kanawha Boulevard by Haddad Riverfront Park on the Kanawha River. Founded in 1970, it was originally held during Labor Day weekend each year until its discontinuation in 2008, but after its revival in 2022, it is now held during Independence Day weekend. The event has carnival-style rides and attractions and live music from local and nationally known bands.[citation needed]

Historical structures and museums[edit]

The Kanawha County Courthouse

Charleston possesses a number of older buildings that represent a variety of historical architectural styles. About fifty places in Charleston are included on the National Register of Historic Places.[44] A segment of the East End consisting of several blocks of both Virginia and Quarrier Streets, encompassing an area of nearly a full square mile, has been officially designated as a historical neighborhood. This residential neighborhood has many houses dating from the late 19th and early 20th century as well as a few art deco style apartment buildings dating from the 1920s and early 30s.

Downtown Charleston is home to several commercial buildings that are between 80 and 115 years old, including such notable structures as the Security Building (corner of Virginia and Capitol Street), 405 Capitol Street (the former Daniel Boone Hotel), the Union Building (at the southern end of Capitol Street), the Kanawha County Courthouse, the Public Library (corner of Capitol and Quarrier Streets) and the Masonic Temple (corner of Virginia and Dickenson Street). Also of note are several historic churches grouped closely together in a neighborhood just to the east of downtown; Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (one of the two cathedrals of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston), First Presbyterian Church, Kanawha United Presbyterian Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, Charleston Baptist Temple, St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Christ Church United Methodist.

Additional historic buildings can be found throughout the city, particularly in the broader East End, the West Side and Kanawha City. Some of these buildings include the Avampato Discovery Museum, (now part of the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences), Sunrise Museum, (now part of the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences), West Virginia State Museum, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, St. Marks United Methodist Church, the Capitol Theater, and the Woman's Club of Charleston.[citation needed]


In 1983, the Charleston Town Center became the largest downtown mall east of the Mississippi River,[45] the Town Center mall is a three-story shopping and dining facility, formerly with 130 specialty stores, 31 now remain open. The closure of Macy's in 2019 meant J.C. Penney would be the sole remaining commercial anchor pad in the mall after Sears closed in 2017. The fourth and final anchor pad is currently a branch for Encova Insurance; it had previously been occupied by various other insurance companies since Montgomery Ward left the mall in 2000. In May 2021, it was announced that Hull Group, based out of Augusta GA, will add the Town Center to its roster of malls in the eastern US and will work towards redeveloping the mall.[46]

There are five major shopping plazas in Charleston, two in the Kanawha City neighborhood – The Shops at Kanawha and Kanawha Landing along with three in the Southridge area, divided between Charleston and South Charleston — Southridge Centre, Dudley Farms Plaza, and The Shops at Trace Fork.

Parks and recreation[edit]

  • University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field — Used for football, soccer, track, and festivals
  • GoMart Ballpark — Stadium of the Charleston Dirty Birds
  • Cato Park — Charleston's largest municipal park, including a golf course, Olympic-size swimming pool and picnic areas
  • Coonskin Park — Includes swimming pool, boathouse, clubhouse with dining facilities, tennis courts, putt putt golf, an 18-hole par 3 golf course, driving range, and fishing lake. Schoenbaum Soccer Field and Amphitheatre inside the park is the home of West Virginia United soccer team
  • Daniel Boone Park — A 4-acre (16,000 m2) park with a boat ramp, fishing and picnic facilities
  • Danner Meadow Park
  • Kanawha State Forest — A 9,300-acre (38 km2) forest, including 46 campsites (in the community of Loudendale)
  • Magic Island — An area at the junction of the Elk River and the Kanawha River, near Kanawha Boulevard.
  • Davis Park
  • Haddad Riverfront Park
  • Ruffner Park
  • Joplin Park (South Charleston)


Club Sport Founded League Venue
Charleston Dirty Birds Baseball 2005 Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (Independent) GoMart Ballpark
West Virginia United Soccer 2003 USL League Two Schoenbaum Stadium
West Virginia Wildfire Women's American football 2008 Women's Spring Football League TBA

The West Virginia United is a soccer team that plays its home games at Schoenbaum Stadium in Charleston. The team plays in the USL League Two (USL2) — the fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid — in the South Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference


Charleston City Hall, West Virginia, in 2009

Charleston functions under the Mayor-Council form of city government. The Mayor is the designated chief executive officer of the city with the duty to see that all of the laws and ordinances of the city are enforced. The mayor gives general supervision over all executive departments, offices and agencies of the city government and is the presiding officer of the council and a voting member thereof. The mayor, Amy Goodwin, was sworn in Monday, January 7, 2019, and is the first female mayor in the history of Charleston.[47] Charleston also has a city manager who is appointed by the mayor and approved by the council. The city's current city manager is Benjamin Mishoe, who assumed office in 2023. The city manager has supervision and control of the executive work and management of the heads of all departments under his or her control as directed by the mayor, makes all contracts for labor and supplies, and generally has the responsibility for all of the business and administrative work of the city.

The Charleston City Council has 26 members. Twenty of the council members are elected from a specific ward within the city, and an additional six members are elected by the city at-large.

General Elections for Mayor, City Council and other city officers take place in November every four years, coinciding with midterm election races for Congress and the state legislature (Primary Elections are held in May). The most recent election was in November 2022. Prior to 2018, elections were held in off-cycle years with primary elections held in March and general elections held in May.[48]

List of mayors of Charleston, West Virginia
  • Jacob Goshorn, 1861 (elected but did not serve)[49][50]
  • John A. Truslow, circa 1865[50]
  • John Williams
  • George Ritter, 1868–1869[50]
  • John W. Wingfield, 1870[50]
  • H. Clay Dickinson, 1871 (died in office)[50]
  • John P. Hale, 1871[51]
  • John Williams, 1872[50]
  • C. P. Snyder, 1873[50]
  • John D. White, 1874[50]
  • John C. Ruby, 1875–1876[50][52]
  • C. J. Botkin, 1877–1881[50]
  • R. R. Delaney, 1881–1882[50]
  • John D. Baines, 1883–1884[50]
  • James Hall Huling, 1885–1886[50]
  • Joseph L. Fry, 1887–1890[50]
  • James B. Pemberton, 1891–1892[50][51]
  • E. W. Staunton, 1893–1894[50]
  • J. A. deGruyter, 1895–1898[50]
  • W. Herman Smith, 1899–1900 (died in office)[50]
  • John B. Floyd, 1900–1901
  • George S. Morgan, 1901–[50]
  • C. E. Rudesill
  • John A. Jarrett
  • James A. Holley
  • William W. Wertz, 1929
  • R. P. DeVan, 1934
  • D. Boone Dawson, 1935–1947
  • R. Carl Andrews, 1947–1950
  • John T. Copenhaver, 1951–1959
  • John A. Shanklin, 1959–1967
  • Elmer H. Dodson, 1967–1971
  • John G. Hutchinson, 1971–1980
  • Joe F. Smith, 1980–1983
  • James E. "Mike" Roark, 1983–1987
  • Charles R. "Chuck" Gardner, 1987–1991
  • Kent Strange Hall, 1991–1995
  • G. Kemp Melton, 1995–1999
  • Jay Goldman, 1999–2003[53]
  • Danny Jones, 2003–2019[54]
  • Amy Shuler Goodwin, 2019–present


University of Charleston campus

Primary and secondary[edit]

The city of Charleston has numerous schools that are part of Kanawha County Schools. The three high schools are:

Former high schools[edit]

Colleges and universities[edit]

Charleston hosts a branch campus of West Virginia University that serves as a clinical campus for the university's medical and dental schools. Students at either school must complete their class work at the main campus in Morgantown but can complete their clinical rotations at hospitals in Morgantown, the Eastern Panhandle, or Charleston. Students from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine may also complete their clinical rotations at the branch campus, after completing their first two academic years at the main campus in Lewisburg.

The city is also home to a 1,000-student private college, the University of Charleston, formerly Morris Harvey College. The college is on MacCorkle Avenue along the banks of the Kanawha River (directly across from the capitol) in the community of South Ruffner.

Within the immediate area are West Virginia State University in Institute; and the South Charleston campus of both the BridgeValley Community and Technical College and of Marshall University. The region is also home to the Charleston Branch of the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing, an independent program administered by Marshall University providing access to computer numerical control (CNC) equipment for businesses.

BridgeValley Community and Technical College also has a campus in Montgomery.

Charleston was also home to West Virginia Junior College's Charleston campus until late 2020, when it relocated to Cross Lanes.[55] WV Junior College is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools to award diplomas and associate degrees. Part of the Kanawha Valley for almost 115 years, WV Junior College was originally established as Capitol City Commercial College on September 1, 1892. The college was originally established to train students in secretarial and business skills and has undergone changes in location and curriculum through the years.



Charleston's only major newspaper is the Charleston Gazette-Mail. It was formerly two separate newspapers, the morning Charleston Gazette and afternoon Charleston Daily Mail. The city's first newspaper was the Farmers' Repository, first published in 1808.[14] Other newspapers included the 1819 Spectator and 1872 Kanawha Chronicle, a precursor to the modern Gazette-Mail.[13][14]


Charleston has a total of 11 radio stations (AM and FM) licensed in the city. Most of the stations are owned either by the West Virginia Radio Corporation or by the Bristol Broadcasting Company.

Call sign Frequency Format Description / Notes
WCHS* 580 AM News / Talk[56] 58 WCHS
WKAZ* 680 AM Oldies The Oldies format was formerly on 107.3.
WBES* 950 AM Sportstalk
WSWW* 1490 AM Sports ESPN 1490
WTSQ-LP 88.1 FM Freeform
WVPB* 88.5 FM Public Radio[57] NPR News, Classical Music, Mountain Stage, and other local and national programs.
WKVW 93.3 FM KLOVE Contemporary Christian
WXAF* 90.9 FM Religious
WZAC-FM 92.5 FM Classic Country
WYNL 94.5 FM Contemporary Christian[58] New Life Ninety Four Five
WKWS* 96.1 FM Classic Country 96.1 KWS
WQBE-FM* 97.5 FM Country[59] 97.5 WQBE. The Charleston MSA's #1 rated radio station, according to Arbitron.
WCST-FM 98.7 FM Rhythmic Top 40[60] 98.7 The Beat. Despite the station's low ERP, it still competes well with Electric 102.7.
WVAF* 99.9 FM Adult Contemporary[61] V-100
WMXE 100.9 FM Classic Hits[62] 100.9 The Mix
WVSR-FM* 102.7 FM Top 40[63] Electric 102.7
WKLC-FM 105.1 FM Rock[64] Rock 105
WRVZ 107.3 FM Country 107.3 KAZ Today's New Country

* represents radio stations that are licensed to the city of Charleston.


The Charleston–Huntington TV market, is the second-largest television market (in terms of area) east of the Mississippi River and 64th largest in terms of households in the US serving counties in central West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southern Ohio. There are four VHF and ten UHF television stations in the market. WSAZ-TV was the market's first station, going on air in 1949.[65]

Call sign Channel Description
WSAZ-TV 3 (NBC) / (MyNetworkTV on DT2)
WCHS-TV 8 (ABC) / (Fox on DT2)
WVAH 11 (Catchy Comedy)
WQCW 30 (The CW)
WTSF 61 Ashland, Kentucky (Daystar)



Yeager Airport

Yeager Airport is West Virginia's largest airport, serving more than twice as many passengers as all other airports in the state combined. It is two miles (three kilometers) north of Interstate 64 and Interstate 77, accessible via WV 114. It is also home to the McLaughlin Air National Guard Base.


Charleston station is served by Amtrak's Cardinal

Amtrak, the national passenger rail service, provides tri-weekly service to Charleston via the Cardinal routes. The Amtrak station is on the south side of the Kanawha River, at 350 MacCorkle Avenue near downtown.

Historically, until the 1960s, several daily Chesapeake and Ohio Railway trains traversed central West Virginia, making stops in Charleston. Destinations in the Mid-West included St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit and Louisville. To the east the trains terminated in either Washington, D.C. or Newport News, Virginia. These featured the Fast Flying Virginian, George Washington, and the Sportsman. Into the late 1940s, the New York Central Railroad operated passenger trains between Columbus, Ohio and Charleston.[66]


The Elk River near its mouth in Charleston in 2001.

Interstate 64 crosses the Kanawha River four times as it passes through the Charleston metropolitan area. The Elk River flows into the Kanawha River in downtown Charleston.


Interstate 64 crosses through downtown Charleston on a viaduct.

Charleston is served by Interstate 64, Interstate 77, and Interstate 79. The West Virginia Turnpike's northern terminus is at the southeastern end of the city. Two U.S. routes, US 60, and US 119, cut through the city center. US 21 and US 35 formerly ran through Charleston.

WV 25, WV 61, WV 62, and WV 114 are all state highways that are within Charleston's city limits.

Mass transit[edit]

Charleston is served by Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority.



Electricity in Charleston is provided by Appalachian Power, a division of American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio. Appalachian Power is headquartered in Charleston. Suddenlink Communications provides the Charleston area's Cable TV. Landline phone service in Charleston is provided by Frontier Communications. The city's water supply is provided by Charleston-based West Virginia American Water, a subsidiary of American Water[67] of Voorhees, NJ. The water that supplies Charleston is pumped from the Elk River and treated at the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant. Charleston's natural gas is supplied by Mountaineer Gas, a division of Allegheny Energy of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

Law enforcement[edit]

The Charleston Police Department (CPD) is the second largest police department in the state of West Virginia,[68] while being the largest municipal/city police department in the state. In 2008, Charleston Police had 168 sworn officers, 2 Animal Control Officers, and 29 civilian employees.[68]


CAMC (Charleston Area Medical Center) a complex of hospitals throughout the city.

Thomas Health is a complex of hospitals and health care centers in the Charleston area.[69]

Highland Hospital (Kanawha City) is a behavioral health facility.

Notable people[edit]

Sister city[edit]

Charleston's sister city is:[74]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2020.


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External links[edit]

Media related to Charleston, West Virginia at Wikimedia Commons