With all the charm of a small town, Summersville, West Virginia, has a surprising array of one-of-a-kind museums that will lure history buffs — and anyone else who likes a good story.
You can drive there in less than five hours from Washington D.C.; a short hop off West Virginia Highway 19 and you’re in Summersville in five minutes.
Mighty Good Museums
Patterson House Museum. Built in the 1850s by Henry Patterson, then caught between opposing armies during the Battle of Carnifex Ferry on Sept. 10, 1861, the house-turned-museum features Civil War relics as well as a small gift shop. The structure, which still bears battle scars, is located in the Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park on the rim of the Gauley River Canyon. Part of The Civil War Discovery Trail, the park also features picnicking and hiking trails.
Martin Hamilton House. Built in 1892, the one-story frame dwelling features clapboard siding and a corrugated metal roof. An eight-foot addition was built in 1936. Donated to the Nicholas County Historical and Genealogical Society in 1985, it’s now a museum and genealogical library. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum houses collections reflecting the life of the average Nicholas County farm family at the turn of the century.
One-Room Schoolhouse. Did you know Nicholas County and the Summersville area once had more than 1,000 one-room schoolhouse teachers? Located at the Nicholas County Veterans Memorial Park, the One-Room Schoolhouse serves as a tribute to them. Amid the vintage desks and other memorabilia, you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time—and back to school. The memorial park also features picnic shelters, a pool, concessions, tennis courts and a skate park. (A good spot for sighting osprey, too!)
Old Main Arts & Heritage Center. Managed by the Nicholas Old Main Foundation, the center is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Formerly the Nicholas County High School from 1913-1978, the center now hosts craft shows, class reunions and other community events. It also features vintage photos and collections of books — including the recent addition of a dictionary from the 1800s.
Take a Dip
From swimming to fishing, motor boating to jet skiing, kayaking to nearby camping, Summersville Lake is a hot-weather haven. The largest lake in West Virginia, it offers 60 miles of shoreline and almost 2,790 acres of water. The lake’s clear waters are also attractive to scuba divers, with an average summertime visibility of 20-45 feet.
A full-service marina offers launch ramps and boat rentals, including pontoons, canoes or flat-water kayaks.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, panfish, catfish and trout are stocked in the spring and fall, and the lake also hosts West Virginia Bass Federation tournaments in late summer and fall.
Don’t Miss This:
Fat Eddie’s At the Dam has been staple for lake-goers since 1999. Fat Eddie’s has the town’s best hot dogs and ice cream, with special treats for canine customers, too. Fat Eddie’s is on track to break last year’s hot dog sales of 60,000.