Exploring Fairmont’s Historic DowntownMarch 20, 2018
Here it is, another area of Marion County that is certain to reveal some insights of what makes Marion County, well, you know, Marion County.
We’ll be taking a look at the ins and outs of Marion County, those places that indubitably lend to the overall character of the people and the place. (What we refer to as ins and outs, others may call tiny towns. People from the 1800’s may refer to them as hamlets. Potato Potato. Same difference, or close enough.)
Today, we’re sticking to the amorphous parameters of this Historic District, the downtown area. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll say anything between The Rambling Root and the Times West Virginian is downtown.
The Rambling Root is a restaurant with beer, cider, mead and wine from all over the state – plus, they brew their own. Options are endless here! Aside from West Virginia craft beer on tap and in bottles, the place gives preference to foodies: inside or out. Enjoy locally sourced grub on the patio, at the bar or in the restaurant. Because everything is local and thus dependent on the season, the menu changes year round. Some previous and current deliciousness have included beer cheese and bacon fries, pork nachos and smoked catfish.
Across the street is Fox’s Pizza Den, a regional chain of wedgies. These sandwich-like creations come in taco, roast beef, steak and cheese and quite a few more. Can’t decide between a pizza and a bacon double cheeseburger? Get the best of both worlds here in one cheeseburgery pizza concoction! Although it’s a chain of sorts, you can get a local craft brew here, too. Salad, stromboli and cinnamon sticks are also options.
Noteworthy Sweets is across the street from there. (So basically what’s happening is a zigzag pattern across the street. Zig first, then zag in accordance with traffic laws.) Although there’s no beer here, they make up for it with plenty of sugar. Enjoy seasonal changes here, too: pumpkin spice cookie cake, chocolate chip cheesecake, vanilla raspberry cake, mascarpone berry cream cheese pound cake (that’s a mouthful in more than one way!), tie-dye sugar cookies and bacon brownies! Check out their lunch menu, too, what they’ve accurately termed “Culinary Compositions for the Soul:” chicken canzanese, sweet potato bacon casserole, quinoa avocado mango salad, and bratburgers to name a few.
So far, what you have here is a trifecta of sorts. Pizza place, brewery, dessert shop. It’s kismet!
The Telephone Museum is a bit hidden, located at the end of Monroe Street. The place is filled with the assorted technology of eras past. Former Bell Telephone employees who give the tours have personally experienced those eras and worked with just about everything there. This is more than a way to understand Fairmont. It’s a way to understand a different life and time. It’s a way to understand how far communication really has come.
Although we may move up and on from our past, there is no way we’ll forget our roots. That same side street is host to the Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival. This is a locally-named feast to celebrate the traditional Italian dinner on Christmas Eve. No, you don’t have to eat seven different fish dishes. Eleven. Thirteen. Whatever floats your fritti! (And the answer to that is boiling oil.) Come in the second weekend in December and enjoy a nice Italian street fair with fish, fritellas, lobster bisque, wine, and music.
Across the street and all year round, you can enjoy Arts and Antiques Marketplace. Picture it. Three floors of beautiful, delicate, practically historic stuff. Once you’re done shopping, take a class. That’s right, this place is more than a seller of art. It’s a creator. Well, really, you are. Or you could be. Enjoy painting, exploring and shopping all in one place!
Maybe it’s not so much decor you’re looking for, but those oh-so-practical necessities? Adam’s Office Supply has been taking care of the rest of the businesses in town for years. Office furniture, supplies, portfolios and just about anything else professional you can think of.
Right next door is a shop of both necessity and fun: Eye Candy Beauty Supply. You’ll find just about anything and everything hair: wigs, extensions, braiding hair and weaves. While you’re there, shop around for – what else? – eye candy (you know, fashion accessories).
A couple doors up and across the street is the Marion County Historical Society, once the sheriff’s house. It’s still connected to the jail – not the current jail, but the old jail, where there are plenty of – how do you say? – ghosts. Take a tour of the whole house, buy some West Virginia authored books and West Virginia inspired swag.
If you happen to be in town for the Mountain State History Expo in March, you can tour the Marion County Courthouse. It’s connected to the jail, which is connected to the historical society. This courthouse, while busy and bustling with justice and legal jargon, is as gorgeous and historic as it is constitutional. Inside are three massive, beautiful murals of our county’s history.
Take a stroll down the street to Main Street Yoga, where time is not strapped and people are not bees. Yoga mats are available as well as peace and tranquility. If you’re not quite ready for any of the yoga classes (like prenatal, happy hour, beginners, vinyasa), try out the reiki clinics for extra serenity.
You’re feeling good, feeling healthy. Stop by the Little Red Hen Bakery for something savory, and why not something sweet, too. You just did what I can only assume was a very strenuous shavasana. Pick a panini (mushroom, pizza, turkey bacon), have some warm applesauce and make the noble attempt to devour a sticky bun the size of your own face.
It’s nearing the bittersweet end of the downtown tour: but first a little more food, beer, and sweets. (I’m sensing a theme.) Joe n Throw is the local coffee shop that has it all on tap from local craft brews and beer to nitro cold brew (really strong (nonalcoholic) coffee that really does come from the tap). All coffee delicacies and normalcies are made with locally roasted Stone Tower Joe. However, we’ll add one more bit of downtown grandeur: pottery classes. Joe n Throw, emphasis on “throw,” houses West Fork Pottery Studio (and creations). Walk right on into the walk-in classes where you can learn to make gnomes, mugs and lots of other West Virginia clay-inspired tangibles.
So grab a tiramisu and a hippie honey latte and end this incredible tour outside. The open space of Veterans Square paired with its poignant statues of our brave fighters and protectors will give you a sense of gratitude and peace unmatched by coffee, yoga, murals, pizza, sweets or beer (but they do add to the feeling).
Stay with that feeling as you walk down to see the sight of Civil War action. Madison Street holds the Civil War Marker and the bridge piers hold the bullets. (The pockmarks can still be seen.) On April 29, 1863, Confederate Gen. William E. Jones watched as his men attacked Fairmont to destroy the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bridge (which is now at present-day 12th Street).
Next on this impromptu history route is the home of West Virginia’s eighth governor, Aretas Brooks Fleming. After practicing law as Marion County’s prosecuting attorney, he ran, got elected and served the state from 1888 to 1893. (The marker is located on the grounds of the former American Legion Home at 207 Jefferson Street.)
Now for the inevitable end of a wonderful blog and trip. It doesn’t end on a good note, but a great one and a spicy one at that! Yann’s Hot Dogs is a stand on the corner of the Robert H. Mollohan Bridge (also known as the Million Dollar Bridge). It is quite possibly the most popular hot dog place in town. There’s only one thing you need to know: Do NOT ask for ketchup. Trust me, I’m saving your life here.
I’m excited, ecstatic, pleased and super happy (basically, overjoyed and unnecessarily emotional) to tell you that this isn’t actually all there is in the Historic District. I can’t say exactly what’s going on when or where. But I can say that in the coming weeks you could be eating a lot of Mediterranean foods and wearing all new shoes…
What’s your favorite thing about downtown Fairmont?