It will be hardly noticed, but this month is another anniversary for West Virginia University.
The school, a land-grant institution, squeaked under the Morrill Act, signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862, and acquired 150,000 acres of land in Iowa and Minnesota on April 19, 1864, 154 years ago this month.
That land was sold for about $86,000. It was supplemented by a tad from the new state legislature and began spending just before the Morrill Act expired. As we all know it was at first the West Virginia Agriculture College that year, and became WVU the following year, on April 3, 1867.
Monongalia Academy was donated to WVU and was valued at about $51,000, That money was used to build University Hall, which was completed in 1870. It was renamed Martin Hall, and is there today under the same name. It was named for the first WVU president, Alexander Martin.
Morgantown was chosen as the permanent site for the school. The first decade was unsettled because the continued alliances established by the Civil War, which ended in 1865. Several other cities were considered.
Martinsburg wasn’t one of them because of its sympathies with the Confederacy
Morgantown’s senator William Price offered the Monongalia Academy and Woodburn Seminary to the state if the college was to be located here.
There was opposition. A senator from Pocahontas County opposed the location. He said in Morgantown it “would be a Pennsylvania College,” and Morgantown wouldn’t be a fit site for the college.
Late in the last century, a parking expert said Morgantown’s system of handling cars over a short period of time was the best he’d seen.
A 1968 study of the city’s parking projected there would be 62,900 people residing in Morgantown, including WVU students by 1990. The 1990 census had city residents at 35,000, including 22,000 students.
That proposal was that on-street parking be eliminated and that at least two parking garages be built.
The city’s estimated population in 2015 was 31,073 and student population was 29,707 in 2012. The metro area had 138,176 people.
Among the news items of 1990 was the departure from downtown by the fifth and final 5&10 store. G. C. Murphy’s was the last to pull out after 77 years. J. G. McCrory’s was the first in 1913. It was in the new Chadwick Building but moved to the old Grand Theater building in June 1931. It closed in November 1976.
F. W. Woolworth opened in 1927 and closed in the late 1950s. Kreske’s was adjacent to Wall Street, but I don’t remember seeing it, just learning about from family members.
Cappellanti’s had just closed before Murphy.s No more dime coffees.
Back to WVU. The freshman gold and blue beanie also went the way of other traditions.
I wore mine, but unlike hundreds of other, I tossed it during halftime of the first football game of the season at old Mountaineer Field. Old now, but not then, about 25 years old.
In addition to the beanie, we had a gold and blue necktie, which was neat. Most of those traditions weren’t enforced in my time, just after World War II and during the Korean War. Before that there was some hazing. Seniors delighted in swatting freshmen, not women, who disobeyed traditions.
Other requirements for frosh included (1) Don’t smoke or congregate at front doors of buildingsm
(2) display no high school insignia or colors, and (3) report all violations of university rules.
It was written that “freshmen who observe all rules .. will acquire that true West Virginia spirit.”