West Virginia Encyclopedia Published

January 5, 1887: New Capitol Building Dedicated in Charleston

Charleston Capitol Circa 1887

On January 5, 1887, Governor E. Willis Wilson hosted a ball and banquet to dedicate West Virginia’s new capitol building in downtown Charleston. The event marked the end of what had become a running joke in the state’s early years—the location of the capital city. In the first two decades of statehood, the capital had already been moved from Wheeling to Charleston and back to Wheeling, again.

The dedication event in Charleston marked the capital’s final journey—at least in terms of host cities.

This new Victorian Capitol was a massive stone-and-brick structure built on the site of Charleston’s first capitol. Although it wasn’t fully completed until early 1887, state employees had started moving in a year-and-a-half earlier. Its 85 rooms originally housed all state agencies. But, the size of government was growing rapidly. In 1903, a capitol annex was built across the street to accommodate some agencies, including the state archives and museum. The annex later became the Kanawha County Public Library.

In January 1921, the Victorian Capitol was completely destroyed by fire. Three years later, construction work would begin on the state’s current capitol building.