WHEELING - Visitors from throughout West Virginia and across the country toured West Virginia Independence Hall on Thursday as a part of the Friendly City's celebration of the state's 150th anniversary.
Dee McDowell of Moundsville and Sandy Smith of Wheeling were among those wearing historic clothing while visitors toured the displays. Also in character was West Virginia Independence Hall Site Manager Travis Henline, who said the day's turnout exceeded expectations.
Henline spoke with people from numerous states on Thursday and said most visitors shared their surprise about West Virginia's journey to statehood and secession from Virginia. Henline also expressed his satisfaction at having legislators from throughout West Virginia in Wheeling to mark the state's 150th anniversary celebration.
HISTORIC DRESSES — Dee McDowell, left, of Moundsville and Sandy Smith of Wheeling wear historic dresses on Thursday while visitors tour West Virginia Independence Hall. -- Tyler Reynard
A register on the first floor showed visitors from throughout West Virginia and the Tri-State Area, as well as California, Mississippi, Illinois and Tennessee. Next to their names, many guests wrote a message of, "Happy Birthday!" Others wrote, "Amazing!" "Love it! Hope to come back soon!" and "Proud to be a West Virginian!"
Wheeling residents Jeanne Hicks and Anne Bopp admired a second-floor showcase of china and pottery made by local manufacturers decades ago. They were most impressed, however, with the salvaged flags that were on display.
Sharon Stoneburner spent much of her life in West Virginia but now lives in Zanesville, Ohio. Touring Independence Hall with her husband, David, on Thursday, Stoneburner said, "It's always nice to come back."
Wheeling native Susanne Gedden has lived in Florida for the past 30 years but returned home to celebrate West Virginia's 150th anniversary. She and her sister, Peggy Dailer, said they would be participating in all of the Friendly City's celebrations.
Wheeling Jesuit University International Student Coordinator Sunnie McCabe guided a handful of Saudi Arabian students through the displays. McCabe said the students experienced a bit of culture shock but were excited by the enthusiasm surrounding the event.
In addition to the historic displays, Bruno Pino and the Wildcat Regiment Band entertained visitors with Civil War-era music in the third-floor courtroom.