With local financial backers, Walker bought 110 acres from the Carr family, developers of the Edgewood plantation, for $33,000. Walker's land stretched from present-day Washington Street West to the Kanawha River, bounded on the east by the Elk River and on the west by Delaware Avenue.
Walker's plan was to sell residential lots along a grid of streets and avenues named after states and West Virginia counties. To make his housing development more accessible, he built a second bridge over the Elk River near Virginia Street, which opened in 1873.
But Walker's plan went bust during the Panic of 1873, an economic crisis triggered by a number of bank failures and the bankruptcies of the railroads they financed. Walker went on to buy and revitalize Cosmopolitan magazine, which he sold to the Hearst publishing chain for a fortune in 1905.
Completion of a railroad bridge across the Elk near Spring Street in 1882 spurred industrial development on the West Side, which in turn sparked a homebuilding boom.
By the 1890s, factories, sawmills and clay mines were being developed on the west side of the Elk River. The fast-growing area was incorporated as Elk City, with a population of about 2,000, in 1891, but was annexed into Charleston in 1895.
Peyton said development of a streetcar line connecting downtown Charleston to the West Side in the early 1900s helped maintain the momentum for commercial and residential growth. In 1905, the Kelly Axe and Tool Co., opened at what is now the Patrick Street Plaza, employing up to 1,000 workers during its heyday.
Edgewood Park amusement park was built at what was the end of the streetcar line in 1906, but was demolished by a fire several years after opening, and replaced in 1912 by nearby Luna Park, which drew crowds of up to 15,000 people a day, according to Peyton.
Remnants of the five plantations that were at the forefront of West Side development can still be seen at several locations. Glenwood mansion at 800 Orchard St., built in 1852 for Charleston lawyer, salt maker and newspaper publisher James Laidley and sold to Summers in 1857, has been restored and is owned by the Historic Glenwood Foundation.
The Littlepage Stone Mansion at 1809 Washington St. W., built in 1845 and sold to Adam Littlepage for use as a plantation house in 1848, is now owned by the Charleston Housing Authority, which used it as an office complex for many years.
Street names such as Orchard Street, Red Oak Street, Beech Avenue and Garden Street were all named for features found on the plantations, according to Maslowski.
But the West Side's oldest occupied site may be the rock shelter that can be seen along Edgewood Drive, a short distance uphill from Washington Street West. While the cavern-like sandstone overhang once sheltered waiting trolley riders in the early 20th century, it also housed the West Side's earliest inhabitants -- American Indians whose artifacts found at the site date back to 7,000 B.C., Maslowski said.
Following presentations by Peyton and Maslowski, Elizabeth Campbell of Marshall's graduate school recorded oral history recollections of growing up on the West Side made by several members of the audience.
"Our West Side was the area between Hunt Avenue, Patrick Street, Kanawha Boulevard and the trestle," said Ralph Miller. "Whites lived on the east side of the trestle."
For those living on the west side of the trestle, Miller said, "parents called their kids in when the streetlights came on. We weren't allowed to go past the trestle at night or on weekends, and we couldn't go past Patrick Street without an adult."
"It's important to understand our history," said the Rev. Matthew J. Watts, president and CEO of HOPE Community Development Corporation. "We're still dealing with the consequences of a West Side that was first developed as a slave plantation."
Watts observed that the land now occupied by the new Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School, which hosted the program on the West Side's history, was once part of the Spicer Patrick plantation.
The forefathers of those who now live on the West Side, Watts said, "may have come here in different ships, but we're all in the same boat now." By working together to revitalize the West Side, he said, "we all have the opportunity to honor our ancestors."
"Historic Glenwood: A Window on the West Side -- History of the West Side's Development" was presented through the Glenwood Project, a Marshall University graduate humanities program designed to engage the public in the rich history of the Glenwood Estate and the community surrounding it. The program was presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council.Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.