If you study someone’s writing long enough, you begin to get a sense of what that person was like, and having based quite a few of my articles on our old friend Editor Tippett’s Weekly Register, it’s clear that he was immensely proud of his city and had the unbridled optimism of a bright-eyed college student. In 1872, he wrote, “The ‘curse of Cornstalk’ which is claimed by the superstitious to have retarded the prosperity and growth of our town, is passing away… The days of ‘Old Fogyism’ in Point Pleasant have been numbered.”
Sure enough, the years soon afterward saw the expansion of the city into Heights and the arrival of not one, but two, railroads. Yet, after the 1913 and ’37 floods, the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967, and the general decline of the town over the last half of the 20th Century, some say the curse came back with a vengeance.
Well, at the risk of sounding a bit like Editor Tippett, I must declare… Cornstalk’s Curse is gone for good! In a year when it shouldn’t have been possible, Point Pleasant is finally awakening from a long slumber and once again has a bustling downtown. It is certainly the busiest it has been in this writer’s lifetime of 22 years, and older friends have remarked that this may be the busiest it has been since the new Silver Memorial Bridge bypassed downtown.
At a time when other cities are seeing local businesses close by the dozens, Point Pleasant has welcomed nearly a dozen! Ichiban 2, McHappy’s Bakery, What’s the Scoop Ice Cream, The Vintage Vault, Kathryn’s Spa, Kate Elaine’s Floral Designs, Stuckey’s Guppies & More, Silver Market Co., and B&J’s Consignment are all wonderful additions to our downtown, joining well over two dozen other boutiques, stores, museums, and services. And, on top of that, the Mothman Museum is adding an escape room, a new gift store called Bunker 304 is coming soon, and the old Iron Gate is being renovated.
The Point Pleasant River Museum will soon be ready to begin construction of their gorgeous new museum at their new location in the heart of downtown, the Mason County Historical & Preservation Society has several grants prepared and is ready to begin rehabilitation of the Mitchell-Hartley building as soon as their 501c3 application is approved, and Main Street Point Pleasant is preparing to launch a full slate of projects as part of their new Ten Year Plan.
To think that all of this is happening as COVID-19 is shuttering businesses nationwide…
Now, perhaps I’m biased, but I think that Point Pleasant is the best small town the entire length of the Ohio River. 981 miles from Pittsburgh to Cairo, and not a single other city our size can rival us in our attractions, businesses, and festivals. Soon enough we’ll have four museums downtown, another just north of town, a state park right on Main Street, well over three dozen local businesses in the historic district alone, a major festival almost every month of the favorable seasons, a wonderful Riverfront Park, two major rivers, two railroads, and a new highway connecting us directly to our state capital.
Outside of Point Pleasant, George Washington himself said that we have the best farmland in West Virginia, with enough room left over for industrial development. We have two wildlife areas that show off our county’s natural beauty and provide recreational opportunities. The historic homes of Hartford and the Kanawha Valley rival most others in their construction and comfort, and both areas have some potential for heritage tourism development, Hartford for its salt industry and the Kanawha Valley for its plantations.
And our greatest asset? Our people, who in all of my travels from Vermont to Louisiana are some of the friendliest I’ve ever come across. Every organization in this county, though we may occasionally differ on how to do it, genuinely believes in our community and works to make it a better place, and all of them big and small have played a part in the growth we’re now seeing. As they say, it takes a village.
Certainly, there remains quite a bit of work to do, but ‘Old Fogyism’ is fading away, and the future looks bright for Point Pleasant and Mason County.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.