'Best little village in West Virginia'
BARBOURSVILLE -- Ask a non-resident to find the heart of the village of Barboursville, and they'll most likely point you to the Huntington Mall.
And though the mall is a very important part of the community, there is much more to "the best little village in West Virginia."
One can start a search for the heart of Barboursville by traveling the narrow, winding road to the spot that overlooks most of the 700 acres of Barboursville Community Park. The scenic overlook allows one to see how impressive the park truly is with its tennis courts, basketball courts, softball field, biking and hiking trails, and picnic shelters.
Barboursville Mayor Paul Turman Sr. is very proud of the park and what it offers residents and non-residents alike. "There's no other park like that in West Virginia," Turman said.
Longtime Barboursville resident and Village Councilman Chris Tatum called the park the best in the state. "It's one of the largest untapped resources," he said.
The main attraction of the park is Lake William, which is regularly stocked with trout, bass, catfish and bluegill. There's also a three-quarter mile walking track around the lake that is wide enough for several people to walk abreast. "As far as activities, there's something for everybody," Turman said.
The search for the heart of the village must also go through the clean streets of downtown. Turman said the village's 20 public works employees take great pride in keeping the streets as clean as possible.
Each year, those streets come alive for the village's annual Fall Fest. This year's event is scheduled for Sept. 15-17. "We've got nationally known acts for Friday and Saturday. And last year we had 65 crafters," said longtime resident Kandy Miller, who helps plan the event. "We've got good entertainment this year and good carnival food," Miller said.
But one cannot possibly think of Barboursville without thinking of Huntington Mall, which Turman said brings in nearly $3 million to the village's budget. West Virginia's largest shopping complex, the mall has 1.2 million square feet of retail space with roughly 150 stores and eateries. Huntington Mall is currently undergoing a $6 million renovation project, which is scheduled to be completed in November.
The uniqueness of Barboursville is that it combines contemporary settings like the mall with a historic downtown. Founded in 1813 by an act of the Virginia Assembly, the village of Barboursville served as the Cabell County seat for nearly 75 years. During the 1850s, Barboursville was a major port for steamboats running on the Guyandotte River. But when the steamboat era came to an end after the expansion of railroads, the county seat was moved to Huntington in 1887.
Many of the village's original structures are still standing today and visitors can see them by going on a historical walking tour of the village. Printed tour guides are available at City Hall on Central Avenue.
The heart of Barboursville may be found at the conclusion of the tour at the location known as "Fortification Hill." The current location of the West Virginia Veterans Home and Nancy Cartmill Gardens, the hill was the site of the village's first frame courthouse, as well as many other historical sites. The building that currently houses the Veterans Home was once Morris Harvey College, which later moved to Charleston and became the University of Charleston.
But "Fortification Hill" is best known as the site of the Battle of Barboursville on July 14, 1861. According to the walking tour guide, Confederate troops used the hill for a strategic location during the Civil War. But when Union troops charged the hill with bayonets attached to their rifles, something the Confederates had never seen, the Confederates retreated fearing the rifles could now shoot knives. Each year during Barboursville Civil War Days, the Battle of Barboursville is re-enacted at the Community Park. This year's event, which will commemorate the battle's 150th anniversary, is scheduled for July 15-17.
Historic downtown, the park and the mall are all important elements of the village. But spending any amount of time there quickly reveals that the true heart of Barboursville is its people.
"Everybody knows everybody," Tatum said. "People take the time to talk. It's a good place to raise a family," he said.
"It's safe, the quality of life is good. It's a great place to live," Tatum said. He calls the village "a modern-day Mayberry," referencing the setting of "The Andy Griffith Show."
Miller, who has served as the village recorder for 10 years, agrees. "Neighbors are family," she said. "We've grown and gotten more sophisticated, but neighbors still take care of neighbors. People take care of people," Miller said.
Ask Miller why she hasn't moved anywhere else and she simply replies, "Because it's Barboursville. It's the best little village in the state."