April 20, 1963: W.Va. Legislature Meets at the Custom House in Wheeling

Apr 20, 2018

Credit e-WV Encyclopedia / WV Division of Tourism via Steve Shaluta

On April 20, 1963, the West Virginia Legislature met in a special ceremonial session at the old U.S. Custom House in Wheeling.

It marked the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation certifying that West Virginia would become a state.

The legislative event was a turning point for the building, which was more than a century old. During the Civil War, it’d been the capitol of the pro-Union Reorganized Government of Virginia and the location of West Virginia’s statehood debates.

After West Virginia entered the Union, the building reverted back to being a custom house until 1907, when a new federal building was constructed. Afterward, the former Custom House served as a bank, liquor store, nightclub, and offices for Hazel Atlas Glass.

During this time, it fell into serious disrepair. The 1963 legislative session was a catalyst for saving the structure. The state decided to purchase the building and lease it to the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation, which started a decades-long restoration project. Today, the old Custom House, known as West Virginia Independence Hall, is operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.