West Virginia

Celebrate West Virginia Day With These 10 Fun Facts

1. West Virginia is the only state to be created by a Presidential Proclamation. On June 20th, 1863, now celebrated as West Virginia Day, West Virginia became the 35th state, thanks to a proclamation made 60 days earlier by President Abraham Lincoln.1

Reproduction of Lincoln's proclamation
Reproduction of Lincoln’s proclamation officially making West Virginia a state in 1863 (West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History)

2. Wheeling is the only city in West Virginia to be the state capitol twice. When West Virginia became a state in 1863, Wheeling was designated the first state capitol. However, it was moved to Charleston from 1870-75, returned to Wheeling until 1885 when it was permanently located back in Charleston.2

3. West Virginia is home to the newest National Park, New River Gorge, designated in 2020. The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in southern West Virginia is one of six National Parks in the state and is home to the third highest bridge in the US.3

New River Gorge Bridge Overlook
New River Gorge Bridge Overlook (Gabor Eszes, Wikimedia Commons)

4. West Virginia is the only state that is completely within the Appalachian region. While people disagree about where Appalachia officially starts and ends geographically and culturally, there is general consensus that West Virginia is entirely within the region while surrounding states can only claim partial coverage.4

Appalachian region
Appalachian region of the US (Appalachian Regional Commission, Wikimedia Commons)

5. Approximately 75% of the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive from West Virginia. According to pre-pandemic reports, the tourism industry brings in an estimated $534.5 in annual state and local taxes into the state.5

6. West Virginia holds the state record for having the most towns named after other foreign places. Driving through WV, you could come across towns like Cairo, Shanghai, or others.6

7. West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle is home to the only city in the country that extends from one state’s border to the other, while being situated in a third state. In the Northern Panhandle, the boundaries of Weirton, WV extend from Pennsylvania’s western border to Ohio’s eastern border, the Ohio River.7

Weirton, WV
Weirton, WV stretches from Pennsylvania to Ohio (Map created using Google Maps)

8. West Virginia was the first state to institute a state sales tax. Over a century ago, on May 3rd, 1921, West Virginia set a precedent by being the first state to institute a state sales tax, which has become standard in a majority of states.8

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9. West Virginia is the only state with two separate panhandles. Simply stating that you are from “West Virginia’s panhandle” is not clear enough; you’ve got to specify if you mean the Northern Panhandle or the Eastern Panhandle.

10. West Virginia is home to a secure fallout shelter intended for the entire US Congress and support staff for several decades during the Cold War. The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs had a top-secret underground bunker that was maintained for three decades during the Cold War in case the entire US Congress needed to be protected.9

The Greenbrier Resort
The Greenbrier Resort, home to a secret US Congress underground bunker (Carol M. Highsmith, Wikimedia Commons)

• Emma Wiley, originally from Falls Church, Virginia, was a former AmeriCorps member with Wheeling Heritage. Emma has a B.A. in history from Vassar College and is passionate about connecting communities, history, and social justice.