Charleston West Virginia Economic Development

Discussions on Economic and Community Development in West Virginia and the Charleston MSA as well as issues of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Am Heritage

In celebration of West Virginia Day, I would highlight two things that are meaningful to me and reflect on parts of West Virginia’s history that are important to all West Virginians. One is a person and his words; the other a structure.

First, when I think of West Virginia Day, I think of Abraham Lincoln and the way in which West Virginia became a state. West Virginia is the only state in the Union to secede from a confederate state, Virginia, during the American Civil War. The succession became official on June 20, 1863.

Some interesting historical quotes from then President Lincoln who was to sign the enabling act which would admit West Virginia into the Union.

From the “Opinion of Abraham Lincoln on the Admission of West Virginia:"

“Can the government stand, if it indulges Constitutional constructions by which men in open rebellion against it, are to be accounted, man for man, the equals of those who maintain their loyalty to it? Are they to be accounted even better citizens, and more worthy of consideration, than those who merely neglect to vote? If so, their treason against the Constitution, enhances their constitutional value!

“It is said, the devil takes care of his own. Much more should a good spirit - the spirit of the Constitution and the Union - take care of its own. I think it can not do less, and live.”

“We can scarcely dispense with the aid of West Virginia in this struggle; much less can we afford to have her against us, in Congress and in the field. Her brave and good men regard her admission into the Union as a matter of life and death. They have been true to the Union under very severe trials.

“Again, the admission of the new State turns that much slave soil to free; and thus, is a certain, and irrevocable encroachment upon the cause of the rebellion,

"The division of a State is dreaded as a precedent. But a measure made expedient by a war, is no precedent for times of peace. It is said the admission of West Virginia is secession, and tolerated only because it is our secession. Well, if we can call it by that name, there is still difference enough between secession against the Constitution, and secession in favor of the Constitution.

"I believe the admission of West Virginia into the Union is expedient.” - Abraham Lincoln, December 31, 1862, Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.

The illustration above depicts the statue of Lincoln and stands in front of the West Virginia Capitol complex on the side of the Capitol facing the Kanawha River. That statue is known as “Lincoln Walks at Midnight.”

The second thing I think of when I think of West Virginia is the state capitol complex itself. As a young man just out of graduate school, this building was my first job and first office, specifically, 3rd floor, West Wing. There was nothing more moving to me as a young man to walk into that building each day and know I was working for all 1.8 million West Virginians.

The capitol of West Virginia is “topped off” with gold; the Gold Dome. It is an amazing thing to see from I-64 passing behind the capitol or Kanawha Boulevard in front. If you are visiting West Virginia in the future, I highly recommend visiting the state capitol, and taking a tour. In it you will learn such interesting facts as:

• On July 23, 1921, Cass Gilbert whose offices were in New York City, was selected as architect of the complex. The commission found that Gilbert had more to his credit and that he came more highly recommended than any other member of his profession. His achievements were found in some of the most famous buildings in the country at the time, including the Woolworth Building in New York, which was pictured as the tallest structure in the world. To his credit were the capitol buildings of Minnesota and Arkansas, buildings of the Universities of Texas and Minnesota, the United States Treasury Annex and the United States Chamber of Commerce Building.

• Architect Gilbert took great care in planning the supreme court chambers, personally designing its furnishings and decor. Above the chambers is a rectangular opening of stained glass, and bronze carvings depicting the "Scale and Balance" and the "Book of Law" adorn the sides of the skylight. In the frieze along the top of the walls in the chamber are the quotes: "THE TRUE FOUNDATION OF REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT IS THE EQUAL RIGHT OF EVERY CITIZEN IN HIS PERSON AND PROPERTY AND IN THEIR MANAGEMENT: THOMAS JEFFERSON; FIRMNESS IN THE RIGHT AS GOD GIVES US TO SEE THE RIGHT: LINCOLN".

• Interesting numbers
- Ground occupied - sixteen acres
- Floor space - 535,000 square feet
- Outside walls - 314,000 cubic feet; 700 carloads
- Steel construction - 4,640 tons; 160 carloads
- Chandelier in dome - weighs 4,000 pounds; 15,000 candle power
- Chandeliers in legislative chambers - 10,000 pieces of rock crystal each
- Columns in porticoes - limestone; 86 tons each
- Columns in foyers - solid marble; 34 tons each
- Bronze doors on porticoes - 2,800 pounds each

- Matt Ballard


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