CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) – West Virginia is rich with history, from the Civil War to inventing some world-changing things. But there are also things about West Virginia that are just pretty cool. Here are a few you can throw out at your next dinner party or tailgate.
Backup U.S. Capitol
Perhaps the most known fact on this list, West Virginia is home to the backup location for Congress in the event of an evacuation of the current Capitol building in Washington, D.C. An Emergency Relocation Center, a bunker or bomb shelter, was built at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier County in the 1950s. The Greenbrier Bunker or “Project Greek Island” was secretly built in conjunction with an above-ground addition to the hotel during the Cold War. It was kept in a constant state of readiness for 30 years in case Congress needed to be moved. It was built to hold all 535 if needed.
The bunker was declassified in 1992 after an investigative reporter exposed it in The Washington Post. Now, it is open for tours and is also one of West Virginia’s 16 National Historic Landmarks.
In addition to housing the Greenbrier Bunker, the Greenbrier resort was also a stepping stone for one of America’s most famous chefs. Chef Boyardee from America’s favorite canned ravioli and Spaghetti-Os got one of his American culinary starts at the Greenbrier, where he oversaw catering for the wedding reception of President Woodrow Wilson. The Chef Boyardee website has this experience listed on its founder’s resume.
Despite West Virginia being landlocked, it has had jellyfish confirmed in 26 different counties. The freshwater jellyfish that live in the Mountain State aren’t the stinging ocean orbs that you typically think of; they are only about the size of a small coin, are almost completely transparent and are harmless to humans. While this is a fun, West Virginia fact, freshwater jellyfish are not state-specific and are actually present in 44 out of 50 states.
From medical practice rules relating to women to how to throw away a refrigerator, West Virginia has several strange laws that are punishable by fines as low as $1. Have you worn a hat in a theater? or interrupted a Fourth of July celebration? You may have unknowingly broken the law while doing so. Read a full list of strange laws in West Virginia that you may have broken without even knowing.
Hepzibah and Hepzibah
West Virginia has some creative names, like Big Ugly and Booger Hole, but that doesn’t mean that some West Virginians didn’t get lazy when naming places in the state. In fact, West Virginia has two towns named “Hepzibah” that are only a 30-minute drive apart. The most confusing part is that even though they are spelled exactly the same, they are pronounced totally differently. The town in Harrison County is called HEP-zee-baw and its neighbor in Taylor County is called HEP-zee-bee.
Weirton spans the whole state
West Virginia has a city that is so big that it spans the whole state…or maybe just a panhandle that’s so thin that one town can reach both sides. Weirton in West Virginia’s northern panhandle, spans from one side of the state to the other, from the Ohio border to the Pennsylvania border. Even though it spans the whole state, Weirton is actually less than 20 square miles with a population just under 20,000.
In the 1950s, a West Virginia high school athlete was so impressive that the state legislature claimed him…literally. Rod Thorn, who was born in Princeton, West Virginia in 1941, was a standout basketball and baseball player who was being recruited by West Virginia University and Duke University. When it looked like Thorn was leaning toward choosing Duke, the West Virginia Legislature passed an unprecedented resolution declaring him a state natural resource, according to WV Public Broadcasting.
Thorn went on to become an All-American for WVU and had careers career as an NBA athlete, coach and manager.
West Virginia University Snakes
The infamous West Virginia Mountaineers were known as something entirely during their first year of football in 1891. The “snakes” as they were known during their first season suffered an embarrassing defeat 72-0 to Washington & Jefferson, according to WVU Sports. The name was changed when someone on campus realized that “Snakes” was not the most flattering mascot name. But that change did not stop rival Pitt from continuing to use the mascot name as a derogatory reference for years after.