A cheerful excursion to the WV State Penitentiary!

West Virginia State Penitentiary, 1876-1995

Yes, nothing like a visit to a forbidding state penitentiary to start the weekend! I hope you’ve been behaving yourself.

West Virginia State Penitentiary

We happened by the former prison once again while returning from a visit to my doctor in, appropriately, West Virginia. Tours had ended by the time we arrived, but as it can be a long trip, we were happy for an excuse to stop and wander around the Moundsville, West Virginia landmark to stretch our legs.

Goofily enough, though Hubby and I lived in the wonderful Mountaineer State for many years, whenever we visited it was raining, so this was the first real opportunity I’ve had to photograph the six-foot-thick hand-carved sandstone Gothic Revival walls of the Penitentiary despite the rain that was threatening (what is it, Moundsville? Do you not like me?).

Aerial 8th Street

Aerial view, 8th St. Photo courtesy Willy Nelson, who has a nice set of Moundsville photos. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Moundsville is named for the 2,000 year-old Adena/Hopewell people’s burial ground in the town’s center; part of the prison is rumoured to be built upon the burial ground, and the namesake burial mound is right across the street from the prison. Thus the men or women occupying cells at the Pen’s front had quite the concrete reminder of death added to the prison-life reminders.

Surrounding the prison, believe it or not, is the town of Moundsville itself—oodles of residences and small businesses, right across the street. As you can see from these aerial shots (circa 1950s-1970s, the date is uncertain), it’s a charming little all-American town! But there’s the state prison, big as life.

Aerial View of Moundsville 2

Note the prison at the upper right-hand corner. Aerial View of Moundsville 2, courtesy Willy Nelson. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 From Nelson’s set of aerial views of Moundsville.

The Moundsville prison was birthed during an upheaval that shook the entire nation. Continue reading