The best place to kick off a few days exploring the local history of Parkersburg, West Virginia is the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History. Located near the Ohio River, the museum features a large collection of artifacts cataloging life in the area over the past three centuries. It is a good place to familiarize yourself with the local culture before heading off to Blennerhassett Island and other historic sites.
Disclosure: A tour was provided by the Parkersburg CVB. Opinions, as always, are purely my own.
Blennerhassett Museum Collection
You’d think being named after the Blennerhassett family the museum would be centered around them, but it is not really the case. There are some artifacts from the island mansion and a few personal items, but not much more. There is, however, a great collection of items from several families important to the Parkersburg area along with objects telling the tale of shipping on the Ohio river and the oil and gas industry. The main floor is full of mostly personal items and a fine collection of oil painting portraits. There are also a few old cars and relics of the B&O railroad.
The second floor is more of a hodge podge. One section is dedicated to the steam ships which have plied the Ohio waters, but it is surrounded by household items from the early 20th century, a wedding dress collection, and a case of antique rifles. Each display is interesting in its own right and has quality artifacts, but there is no linear theme to the collection. A reorganization of the museum could tell a much better story of Parkersburg history to visitors.
The basement features the Stahl collection of ancient Indian artifacts. It is an assortment of items put together by Professor Henry Stahl in the later 1800s and early 20th century. Most of the objects were unearthed during the frequent floods of the Ohio or by local farmers plowing their fields. Stahl extensively researched and organized the arrow points and stone tools and created the displays which are now in the museum collection. It is an interesting collection and would likely benefit from some effort by a contemporary archaeologist to update the information.
One stop that shouldn’t be missed in the museum is a film about the Blennerhassett family. The small theater in the basement runs the movie throughout the day giving tourists an in depth history of the family and greatly enhances a visit to the island.
Planning a Visit to the Blennerhassett Museum
The Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History is open year round and is also where visitors can purchase tickets for the boat ride over to Blennerhassett Island on the stern wheeler Island Belle. The State Parks website does not provide a much useful information about the museum itself, but there is a bit about the island and events.
At time of writing, admission to the museum is $4 adults, $2 children. The boat ride is $10 adult, $8 kids. Follow the links below for information on visiting the island and other interesting Parkersburg historic sites.
Parkersburg, West Virginia is a place full of history. Read more about some of the interesting locations below and plan your own adventure.