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The Capital That Started as Charles Town

The history of Charleston, West Virginia dates back to the 18th century. The first permanent settlement was Fort Lee which was built in 1787. The city got named after Colonel Clendenin’s father, Charles. The name Charles Town was later combined making the city Charleston. In the early 1800s salt brines were discovered along the Kanawha River and the first salt well was drilled in 1806. Each day 1,250 pounds of salt was being produced. Drilling for salt Captain James Wilson struck the first natural gas well in 1815. During WW I there was a demand for chemical products and chlorine and sodium hydroxide could be made from salt brine.

In the 1900s Charleston was developing. During WW II the first and largest styrene-butadiene plant in the U.S. opened here, providing a replacement for the rubber to the war effort. After the war construction started on the Kanawha Airport which is today known as Yeager Airport, named after General Chuck Yeager. In 1956 the 34th President of the U.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act and Charleston became part of that system. In the 1960s three major interstate highway systems were constructed and converged in the heart of Charleston. In 1959 the Charleston Civic Center opened its doors, providing the largest meeting and exhibit space available in West Virginia.

In 1983 the Charleston Town Center opened and is the largest urban-based mall east of the Mississippi River with three floors of shops and eateries. 2003 the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences opened it includes the Maier Foundation Performance Hall, the Walker Theater, the Avampato Discovery Museum, and an art museum. On-site there is also the Electric Sky Theater, a 175-seat combination planetarium, and dome-screen cinema.

During the year there are many festivals and events happening in Charleston including the July 4th celebration at Haddad Riverfront Park and the Sternwheel Regatta.


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