Living in Lewisburg
Nestled in the Greenbrier Valley, this historic town is thriving with charming shops, delightful restaurants, and a vibrant arts community.
Photographed by Nikki Bowman
There’s something special about Lewisburg,” says Monica Maxwell, who moved to Lewisburg five years ago from Florida. “It is an incredibly historic town surrounded by amazing recreational opportunities and some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. Combine that with its vibrant creative community and you come close to having the perfect small town.”
Many who visit Lewisburg agree that it is the epitome of a “perfect” small town. It is one of the oldest towns in West Virginia, and its main street, Washington Street, is lined with charming historic buildings that have been carefully maintained and preserved. Lewisburg beckons visitors to meander into its many gift shops, boutiques, and galleries; stop at a sidewalk café for a cup of coffee or tea; and enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants, and another for dinner. Visitors are often so enchanted that they return again and again.
Lewisburg has been undergoing a renaissance since the late 1980s, when a group of residents came together and created a vision plan for Lewisburg’s future. “We have an interesting combination of people who’ve moved here from out of state and families that have been here for several generations,” says Amy Kaczynski, the public relations manager for the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our residents and merchants have come together to help transform the town.”
Two such people are Monica and Aaron Maxwell. When they decided to relocate to Lewisburg, they purchased and remodeled the original Hanna Chevrolet Building on Washington Street to house their Harmony Ridge Gallery, an eclectic shop that showcases a diverse selection of American-made products at every price point, as well as the Birdhouse Café, a specialty coffee bar with Wi-Fi access. Monica and Aaron quickly joined the ranks of a progressive association of merchants called the Lewisburg Downtown Business Association (LDBA).
“There are many different groups, like the Lewis Foundation, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Carnegie Hall, the North House Museum, and the LDBA, who have worked together with a common vision, and that has helped propel Lewisburg forward,” says Monica. “It is because of this united front that we’ve been able to accomplish so much.”
One successful free event that was created a few years ago is “First Fridays After Five,” a time when the downtown shops stay open on the first Friday of every month until 9 p.m., serve complimentary refreshments, and provide free entertainment. “We began First Fridays as an attempt to promote the town to local folks that normally shied away from downtown because they viewed it as a tourist town,” explains Monica. “It has proven to be very effective. Our locals have reacquainted themselves with our downtown shops, restaurants, and theaters. We are also finding that regional tourists have gotten wind of the special evening and are now scheduling trips to Lewisburg around the first Friday of the month.”
Their efforts are paying off, and Lewisburg continues to grow. In 2008, two new hotels were built, and the town’s close proximity to the Greenbrier brings in a steady supply of tourists. It is also becoming a popular place for retirees.
“My husband and I chose to retire in Lewisburg because we loved the atmosphere. We kept visiting and we got to the point that we didn’t want to go home,” says Linda Babcock, who moved from Teays Valley nine years ago and serves as a part-time docent and gift shop manager at the North House Museum. “This is one of the most beautiful spots in West Virginia. I love being surrounded by all of this magnificent history, cultural advantages, and low crime rate. As a retiree, you can still have an active life with many opportunities to volunteer.”
Lewisburg was called Fort Savannah and Camp Union before being renamed Lewisburg in 1782 in honor of General Andrew Lewis, a soldier and surveyor in the Greenbrier Valley. General Lewis is best known for assembling a militia in 1774 for Lord Dunmore against the united tribes led by Chief Cornstalk. His army marched over 160 miles and defeated the Indians at the epic battle of Point Pleasant.
Another important historical event occurred on the morning of May 23, 1862, when residents awoke to find that the town had become the site of a Civil War battle between Union troops, led by Colonel George Crook, and General Henry Heth’s Confederate forces. Remnants of cannonballs and artillery can still be seen in some buildings. The battle lasted a little over an hour, leaving 80 Confederate and 13 Union soldiers dead and over 150 wounded. Each spring, hundreds of people gather in Lewisburg to reenact the battle.
Perched on a hillside with commanding views of downtown Lewisburg is North House Museum. Built in 1820, the North House Museum contains the collections of the Greenbrier Historical Society, including many of the finest examples of early Virginia furnishings and military artifacts. Guided tours take you through the house, which has served as a private residence, the Star Tavern and Hotel, and the president’s home for the Greenbrier College. During the Battle of Lewisburg, guests of the Star Tavern and Hotel watched the battle unfold from its second-story porch.
“One of our most popular stories is that of the Greenbrier Ghost, the woman who was murdered by her husband and whose “testimony” was accepted at the trial,” says Linda Babcock. “And we have a drawing that Edward Shue, who was convicted of his wife’s murder, made in prison after being found guilty, illustrating the seven women he had hoped to marry.”
Located near North House Museum is Carnegie Hall, built in 1902 by steel baron and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie as a classroom building for the Lewisburg Female Institute, which later became the Greenbrier College for Women. It is one of only four Carnegie Halls in the world. In the 1980s it was condemned and scheduled to be demolished, but a group of citizens saved the historic building. It now serves as a performing arts and cultural center. In addition to its Mainstage Series that has brought the likes of Gillian Welch and Isaac Stern, live outdoor evening concerts are held on its lawn. It also provides award-winning arts-in-education programs, classes and workshops, fine art exhibits, and an independent film series.
Lewisburg is a town made for festivals. For the past 24 years during the second week of October, Carnegie Hall holds one of its popular fundraisers—The Taste of Our Town Festival. During the festival, Washington Street is closed off, and all the restaurants and civic organizations offer samples of different types of food. In the spring, the Chocolate Festival brings thousands of people to town to sample chocolate from West Virginian and national chocolatiers.
Lewisburg’s noted art scene extends into all aspects of the visual and performing arts. Several galleries showcase local artists, and many restaurants like the Wild Bean and the Irish Pub provide venues for a wide range of musicians, from Celtic to reggae to bluegrass. The Greenbrier Valley Theater, a year-round professional theater, brings national theatrical productions to Lewisburg. In an effort to reach all income levels, a “Pay What You Can Night,” held before opening night, allows those who cannot afford the full price of a ticket to experience quality theater.
Downtown Lewisburg is a shopper’s dream. Five blocks of unique shops offer everything from shoes and clothing to antiques, toys, gifts, fine art, books, and crafts. Hazel, a trendy contemporary clothing boutique that would be equally at home in New York’s SoHo district, prides itself on providing its clientele with an impeccable selection of organic clothing, designer labels, premium denim, and fair-trade products. Next door, Yarid’s Shoes and Outlet Shop provides some of the finest footwear in the area. High Country Boutique and Gallery is another great store with a large variety of clothing and accessories. For the young at heart, Honnahlee is a magical toy store that has an incredible selection of educational and high-quality toys. Old Hardware Gallery is just one of the downtown shops that offers a wide selection of giftware, Blenko glass, home goods, and a bridal registry.
One could spend all day just perusing Lewisburg’s antique shops. Robert’s Antiques has 10,000 square feet of beautiful pieces and an incredible collection of specialty wines. Brick House Antiques and Plaid Eagle Antiques offer something for every type of collector. In addition, there are several fine arts and craft galleries that carry a diverse collection of West Virginia-made products.
“I love to be able to walk to the coffee shop and know the person serving my coffee, and then walk to the bakery and get a fresh bagel,” says Amy Kaczynski, who lives in the historic district. For a town its size, Lewisburg offers an amazing abundance of choices when it comes to food. The town is blessed with two bakeries. The Greenbrier Valley Baking Company at 110 South Jefferson Street makes delicious pastries and breads and on Pizza Nite offers gourmet pizzas. The Bakery on Court Street offers pastries, cakes and breads, and deli-style lunch specials. There’s always a crowd at Food & Friends, where the steaks and seafood were voted “Best Of” by the Food Network. The Stardust Café, which uses locally grown produce, and the Irish Pub are favorites among locals. For American cuisine in a historic setting, try the Tavern 1785. Located in the Bowers-Grove Foster House, Tavern 1785 has six fireplaces and original hardwood floors. And for delicious vegetarian and organic dishes, the Wild Bean can’t be beat.
Outdoor enthusiasts have a variety of appealing options within easy driving distance from Lewisburg. The Greenbrier River Trail, a 79-mile-long rail-to-trail conversion of the former C&O Railroad right-of-way, is one of the most scenic biking and hiking trails in the East. Lost World Caverns and Organ Cave, the second-largest commercial cave on the East Coast, are also right around the corner.
Lewisburg is home to several bed and breakfasts, and The General Lewis Inn is one of the most popular. When visitors check in at the family-owned and -operated inn, located on 301 East Washington Street, they stand in front of the same walnut and pine desk that Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson stood at when they registered at the Sweet Chalybeate Springs Hotel. The inn is packed with historically significant antiques, and in fact the inn itself is a historic landmark. The east wing of the inn that houses the restaurant was constructed in 1834. Purchased in the 1920s by Randolph K. and Mary Milton Hock and transformed into a new hotel, The General Lewis Inn is still owned and operated by that same family.
Lewisburg is one of West Virginia’s most charming renaissance towns. While it serves as an example and benchmark for other communities that are struggling with historic preservation and main street revitalization, it is the people who make it truly special. So if you’ve never visited Lewisburg, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and spend a night or two. The memories you’ll make and the new friends you’ll meet will keep you coming back. And you never know, you may join the ranks of those who decide to never leave.For more information on Lewisburg, visit www.downtownlewisburg.com.
Places to Shop
Aggie’s; 304.645.4063; www.aggiesgiftshop.net
Fenton Glass, Yankee & Woodwick Candles, Lang, Crazy Mountain, Jim Shore, Camille Beckman, Chocolates, Willow Tree and Donna Sharp.
Brick House Antiques; 304.645.4082
Enjoy exploring 9 rooms of antiques and collectibles in this historic building. Appraisals, estate sales.
Cecillia’s Bridal & Formal Wear; 304.645.3633
Fabulous selection of exclusive designer clothing, shoes and accessories for all ages. Bridal by appointment.
Cooper Gallery; 888.868.5129; 304.645.6439; www.coopergallery.com
Traditional and Contemporary Fine Art, custom framing, corporate discounts.
Do Si Do For Kids; 304.645.5270
Fun and fashionable children’s clothing for play and everyday! Quality children’s apparel, shoes accessories & unique gifts.
Edith’s Health & Specialty Store; 304.645.7998
Health, gourmet and specialty Foods, high quality supplements, and body care essentials.
Harmony Ridge Gallery; 304.645.4333; www.facebook.com/HarmonyRidgeGallery
America’s Top Artists. Jewelry, ceramics, garden art, woodwork, sculpture. Birdhouse Café offers coffee, tea, and Wi-Fi.
Hazel; 304.647.4007; www.hazelboutique.com
Contemporary women’s boutique featuring premium denim lines, dresses, sportswear, handbags and luxurious intimates.
High Country Boutique and Gallery; 304.645.5222; www.highcountrylewisburg.com
Great selection of Eileen Fisher basics coupled with American art, clothing, accessories. Global crafts and antiques.
Quality toys for all ages. Largest educational selection in WV. Areas for children to play.
Lewisburg Floral; 800.882.7850; 304.645.1440
“Where your imagination becomes reality.” Fresh flowers and plants. Wedding specialists.
New Horizon Gallery; 304.645.5600
Specializing in WV and VA functional craft art. Handmade jewelry, pottery, glass, sculpture, home furnishings.
Old Hardware Gallery; 304.645.2236; www.oldhardwaregallery.com
WV Blenko glass, Fiestaware, Byer’s Choice Carolers, unique throws, handmade jewelry, and kitchen accessories. Bridal and baby gift registry.
Open Book; 304.645.7331
Specializing in West Virginia, children, new and used books. We happily fill special book orders.
O’Shea’s All About Beauty; 304.645.3500
Hair and Body specialists, metaphysical books and CDs, knitting and spinning supplies.
Plaid Eagle Antiques; 304.645.0000
Books, children’s items, medical items, lures, jewelry, glass, crocks, quilts and primitives. Appraisals, Estate Sales.
Plants, Etc.; 304.645.6910
West Virginia and world crafts. Cards, crystals and fossils. Uncommon and out-of-print books.
Robert’s Antiques; 304.647.3404
10,000 square feet, fine antiques, oriental rugs, specialty wines, medical and electrical museum.
Sailor’s Crafts; 304.647.5176
Locally made woodwork: furniture, bowls, carvings. Nautical art, instruments and figureheads.
Serenity Now Outfitters; 877.WVFISHN; 304.647.9779; www.serenitynowoutfitters.com
Outdoor specialty and fly fishing shop. Clothing, footwear, dog supplies. Licensed and bonded guide services.
Show Your Colors; 304.645.0008
Your college gear headquarters! We carry a full line of college memorabilia.
Stonehouse General Store; 304.647.5300
West Virginia foods, wines, crafts, vintage dolls, etc. Breakfast and lunch to go.
Studio 40; 304.647.4444
A highly selective mix of contemporary wearable art, jewelry and fine craft by established and emerging American artists, along with regional art.
Sunflower Soul; 304.645.SOUL (7685)
Specializing in fun, happy, feel good gifts and clothing for men, women and children. Carry out and intimate catering available.
Tansy Clothing & Antique Shop; 304.645.2404
New and lightly worn infant, children’s and women’s clothing, formal and bridal wear. Vintage apparel and jewelry.
Tuckwiller Art Gallery; 304.645.2070; www.tuckwillergallery.com
Original artwork by professional artist Robert Tuckwiller. Beautiful landscapes of the Greenbrier Valley and beyond.
The Washington Street Gallery; 304.647.4561; www.washingtonstgallery.com
Contemporary Fine Art. Clay, Painting, Photography, Jewelry, Handcrafted Furniture and Handmade Prints.
Wolf Creek Gallery; 304.645.5270
Eclectic clothing and fashionable footwear, fine leather bags, unique jewelry, bath and beauty products and one-of-a-kind gifts.
Woody’s Art Supply; 304.647.4600
Assortment of art supplies, artwork on commission and art lessons.
Yarid’s Shoes Since 1918 & Outlet Shop; 304.647.5000; www.yarids.com
Visit our boutique of the finest footwear and accessories in the area.
Places to Eat
The Bakery; 304.645.1106
Homemade breads, pastries and specialty cakes, deli style lunch, custom catering, daily specials.
Del Sol Lounge; 304.645.1717
Relax with an array of martinis and libations in a contemporary indoor/outdoor setting. Light menu served late.
Food & Friends; 304.645.4548; www.foodandfriendswv.com
Contemporary casual dining. Voted “Best Of” by the Food Network. Serving fresh cut steaks and seafood.
General Lewis Inn; 304.645.2600; www.generallewisinn.com
Antique-filled country inn serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week.
Greenbrier Valley Baking Co.; 304.645.6159
Retail/Wholesale Bakery, serving European style pastries and bread. Lunch specials. Hand-tossed pizza, Wed.–Sat.
Irish Pub On Washington Street; 304.645.7386; irishpubonwashingtonstreet.com
Traditional Irish food and spirits. Live Celtic music. Family atmosphere and smoke-free environment.
Voted “the finest restaurant in West Virginia,” with a thoughtful selection of imported and domestic wines.
The Market; 304.645.4084
Casual outside dining with homemade sandwiches and salads. Selections of wine, beer and spirits.
Stardust Cafe; 304.647.3663; www.stardustcafewv.com
Fine dining with an eclectic flare in a cool atmosphere. Local produce, breads and pastries. Espresso, beer, wine.
Tavern 1785; 304.645.1744
American cuisine served in a casual and historical setting. Outdoor dining.
The Wild Bean; 304.645.3738; www.wildbeanbuzz.com
Coffee, tea, veggie cuisine, music, and local arts in a fun, relaxing environment.
What to Do
Carnegie Hall; 304.645.7917; www.carnegiehallwv.com
Carnegie Hall offers something for everyone with exciting performances, diverse classes and three art galleries.
Lewis Theatre; 304.645.6038; www.myspace.com/thelewistheatre
Movies daily and occasional live performances. Available for private rental. Future home of Trillium Performing Arts Collective.
North House Museum; 304.645.3398; www.greenbrierhistorical.org
Built in 1820, the North House Museum contains the large collections of the Greenbrier Historical Society.
Greenbrier Valley Theatre; 866.888.1411; 304.645.3838; www.gvtheatre.org
West Virginia’s Official Year-Round Professional Theatre, offering musical, literary and youth events.
Places to Stay
Church Street B&B; 213 Church Street; 304.645.7014; www.churchstreetbandb.com
The historic James Laing house, circa 1904, is situated in Lewisburg’s Historic District. This turn-of-the-century stone home offers guests two rooms, perennial gardens, private baths and eight fireplaces. Featuring wireless Internet and a full breakfast.
The General Lewis Inn; 301 East Washington Street; 800.628.4454, 304.645.2600; www.generallewisinn.com
An antique-filled country inn since 1929. The site of a Civil War battle, this historic inn has 25 rooms and features onsite dining. Wireless Internet access available.
The Great Oak B&B; 421 East Washington Street; 304.645.4749; www.greatoakbnb.com
Offering two airy rooms in historic downtown Lewisburg—one in the main house and one in the carriage house. King beds and choice of breakfast items.
The Homeland B&B; 644 Price Run Road, Caldwell (1 mile from downtown Lewisburg); 304.647.3404
Newly opened historic home with two rooms with private baths. Operated by the owners of Roberts Antiques.
Lee Street Inn B&B; 200 North Lee Street; 888.228.7000; 304.647.5599
Historic B&B with three guest rooms as well as a roomy private cottage, complete with full kitchen and dining area. Air conditioning, Jacuzzi, wireless Internet access, continental breakfast and landscaped gardens.
Minnie Manor B&B Inn; 403 East Washington Street; 304.647.4096
Located in Lewisburg with eight rooms, including AC, private baths and non-smoking rooms. Serving free refreshments throughout the day. Children welcome.
Rose Hill, A Bed & Breakfast; 317 Church Street; 304.520.9331
Offering two rooms in the heart of downtown Lewisburg. Antique-furnished with wireless Internet and full breakfast. Carriage House features queen bed and sofa bed, kitchen, fireplace and clawfoot tub. No children permitted between ages 8 months and 8 years.
Brier Inn and Conference Center; 540 North Jefferson Street; 304.645.7722
Extensive facility offering free wireless high speed Internet, outdoor pool, fitness center nearby, hot continental breakfast, restaurant and lounge. Suites, accessible rooms and complimentary airport shuttle service available.
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites; 222 Hunter Lane; 304.645.5750; www.hiexpress.com
Opening Late Summer 2008. Featuring indoor pool and whirlpool, fitness center, meeting room, complimentary high speed Internet and New Express Start Breakfast. Family and fireplace suites available.
Hampton Inn; 30 Coleman Drive; 800.HAMPTON; 304.645.7300; www.hamptoninn.com
One of the county’s newest lodging facilities, boasting 60 rooms and suites. Complimentary high speed Internet, indoor pool & Jacuzzi, fitness center, meeting room and hot continental breakfast. Complimentary airport shuttle.
Super 8 Motel; 50 North Jefferson Street; 800.800.8000; 304.647.3188; www.super8.com
Located off of I-64, this motel features 53 units on two floors. Offering suites, in-room safes and pets (on approval). Complimentary wireless Internet access and Super Start Plus breakfast.