Interesting Facts About Fayetteville’s History
Packed with historic buildings, markers and cultural sites, a rewind of Fayetteville, WV's timeline reveals a rich and full history that impacted not only the New River Gorge area, but the shaping of the country. Here are some of the highlights of the town's turnback, and the relics of its always-bustling past that remain for you to visit today.
LA FAYETTE VILLE
Where does Fayetteville's name come from? It, as well as Fayette County in which it sits, is named after American Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette, a French nobleman who served as an adviser to George Washington. A commemorative statue of him peers over the town from the lawn of the historic courthouse.
That courthouse sits on what was once the farm of Abraham Vandal, for whom the town was briefly dubbed "Vandalia."
TUG OF CIVIL WAR
The Civil War was a period of particular unrest for Fayetteville. The residents gathered many times to rally for the South, but as a gateway to major roads, it was a hotly contested area. Taken and reclaimed by both sides, four battles raged in the town to control the territory.
The innovation of indirect fire saw its first trial here, successfully, during the war. A teenage soldier brilliantly applied his mathematical knowledge to calculate projected targets while he and the other shooters hid from view, instead of waiting until they were in range to see their enemies to fire. It allowed them to take cover while they fought, increasing their safety and confusing their opponents.
With the Industrial Revolution in the early 1900's, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad ran through the Gorge to reach the Fayette County coal, which was the highest grade on the planet. The Gorge was dotted with active mining towns throughout the coal boom, many of which are now only ruins, but can still be accessed by the extensive trail systems.
FROM INDUSTRIAL TO RECREATIONAL
In addition to its high-grade coal, the Fayetteville area had another abundant natural resource: whitewater thrills. In 1968, the first commercial trip took off down the New River, and two years later the first company started running rafters down the rapids on a regular basis. The area was soon after made into a National River, preserving its outdoor beauty and cementing it as a destination for outdoor adventurers for years to come.
BRIDGING THE GORGE
The highest and longest steel-arch bridge of its time, the New River Gorge Bridge added a modern architectural touch amidst the astounding natural beauty of the Gorge. Completed in 1977, the bridge still owns the title of third-longest of its kind.
In 1980, the adventure-seekers that flocked to the Gorge helped spark a unique celebration of its completion: Bridge Day. Every year, for one day only, people leap from the top of the Bridge, BASE jumping and rappelling the more than 800-foot length to the riverbed. Bridge lovers can also get a view from its underbelly catwalk with a BridgeWalk tour.
There are more than 75 historic buildings in Fayetteville's historic district, many of which you can learn about on a walking tour. A few of the highlights include the E.B. Hawkins House, a colonial mansion that is now a bed and breakfast, and the Altamont Hotel, a majestic brick building that features a Victorian wrap-around veranda.
What other historic facts about Fayetteville do you think are worth noting?