New book reveals little-known history of state Capitol

By Chris Dickerson | Aug 15, 2012


CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Capitol is one of the most recognizable buildings in the state, but a new book brings together for the first time much information that will surprise many West Virginians.

"Although they admire the beauty of the gold dome, many people don't realize how close the Capitol might have come to losing that dome or collapsing in the middle not too many years ago," said Jim Wallace, author of "A History of the West Virginia Capitol: The House of State."

"They also don't realize that the Capitol Complex might have had another U-shaped building to complement the Capitol instead of a series of buildings that former state officials have derided for what one called 'Holiday Inn modern' architecture and another referred to as Soviet-style architecture."

Published by The History Press, "The House of State" is the most comprehensive history of the Capitol since the 1980s and brings that history right up to 2012, the 80th anniversary of its dedication. It also explains how the long-running battle between Wheeling and Charleston over which would be the capital was an extension of political divisions of the Civil War and how the state actually was fortunate that fire destroyed a previous Capitol in downtown Charleston in 1921.

"This book is not only a history of how the current Capitol and the complex around it came to be the way they are, but it also is a guide for visitors to the many artistic features of the building and its campus," Wallace said. "The Capitol is a masterpiece from legendary architect Cass Gilbert, but state officials began deviating from his plans before the building was finished."

As a writer and reporter, Wallace has spent more than two decades covering state government. Currently, he is senior counsel for public relations for TSG Consulting in Charleston. Previously, he worked as a statehouse reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail after serving several years as an award-winning news director of West Virginia Public Radio. Prior to that, he was news director at WWVA/WOVK radio in Wheeling and worked in radio news at several Ohio stations.

Wallace is a graduate of The Ohio State University and has a master's degree from West Virginia University. His first book, also published by The History Press in 2010, was "The Olmsted Story: A Brief History of Olmsted Falls and Olmsted Township," which was about his hometown in Ohio.

"A History of the West Virginia Capitol: The House of State" is available at local bookstores, independent retailers and online. A book-signing event with the author is scheduled for Aug. 25 from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at Taylor Books, 226 Capitol St., Charleston.

More News

The Record Network