Dear Charleston, WV (A love letter)

I know you don’t hear this enough. Your state tops everyone’s “Worst of” lists and someone even said your people are the most unhappy. You do have your problems, but you don’t get the affection you deserve. Even I sometimes catch myself complaining about your small size and a lack of things to do. But I really do love you.
I love your local coffee shops, Taylor’s and Moxxee and the way that locals congregate in them on Saturday mornings or after Sunday services. I can walk in by myself to write and never want for company or a familiar face.

Snow falls outside the window at Taylor Books, one of Charleston’s favorite coffee shops.

I love the way I feel safe walking your streets, even late at night. Despite the occasional bad news reports, I’ve never worried about walking home from the bar after midnight. Never thought to hold my purse close to my chest or to obsess over whether the car doors were locked. No one here has ever cut my purse strap and made off with my belongings while I wasn’t paying attention.

The corner of Virginia and Capitol streets, Charleston.

I dearly love your music scene and the people who play your open mic nights and the Third Eye Cabaret. I love how there’s always live music somewhere. I love the artists that I’ve come to know after hearing them play Mountain Stage.


Singer/songwriter Mark Bates jams with the Coal River Yacht Club at the Empty Glass one Sunday night.

I love the Red Carpet, the local bar where reporters and lawmakers, hipsters and drag queens alike gather on Friday nights to unwind after a long week.Β  I love that I can be away for months and yet the bartenders still call me by name when I walk through the door again. I love your cat, even if she won’t go near me.

I love your historic houses on the East End and their inviting porches and yards. I dream of owning one someday.


East End porch, Summer 2013.

I love the gold dome on the state capitol. I’m convinced it’s the prettiest in the country. Even when I was living away from you, I could drive into town and know I was home when I saw the sunlight gleaming off that gold.

Dear Charleston, I don’t promise never to leave. Life has a way of making those decisions for us. But I promise to always call you home.

66 thoughts on “Dear Charleston, WV (A love letter)

  1. Melanie says:

    I have read the recent “lists” you refer to and felt so badly that Charleston and West Virginia were both listed as the most depressed and the dumbest state. Your article certainly boosted my spirits! I agree with you wholeheartedly on every subject you covered. I especially love the RC too and have been a regular there for many, many years. lol Thanks for sharing some of the many reasons why Charlestonians deserve some “positive” feedback too!

    • Gloria Jean Pennington says:

      I would like to know who the polls talk to when they make up these lists. I have wondered for a long time if they have ever been to WV, or do they just randomly ask people on a piece of paper which state do you think is and or.

  2. Anthony says:

    This was a fantastic read to start my day! Thank you for writing and sharing. For as many lame articles as there are out there bashing us, I know so many people that love Charleston and are proud to call it home. πŸ™‚

  3. brian piercy (@brianpiercy) says:

    Moved away in 1990 – now live in Austin. But there’s a big ‘ol chunk of me that still belongs here.

    Speaking of… where’s the house mentioned in East End porches? It looks EXACTLY like my last address before leaving (1510 1/2 Virginia St East). My upstairs apartment was awesome….


  4. Kristi Stephens Walker says:

    Great post. I’m a WV native (and writer) and have now lived in Nashville longer than I lived in Charleston–but it will always be home. Thanks for sharing. Mountain Mama has a way of creeping into our writing, doesn’t she?

  5. Wayne Stevens says:

    I have visited many states and large cities, I have lived in Mississippi, Texas and Labrador. I have always yearned to return to Charleston, no matter where my travels take me. The natural beauty of the city and the close proximity to national rivers, national forests and state parks and forests make Charleston great. The people here are the friendliest I have encountered. The city is the right size, not too big or too small. I was born here and will live the remainder of my life here.

  6. Kathryn says:

    Well said. Brought tears to my eyes, as I sit looking out at the drab mountains of San Diego, and missing WV’s beautiful mountains.

  7. 3mia3 says:

    This has been shared by several of my friends on Facebook (I just did it as well) and I wanted to personally thank you writing this. We need more people to be vocal about the good parts about Charleston. Sure we are small….but we have a lot crammed in this little space.

  8. Amy Roswick says:

    Very sweet note. I lived in CRW for many years, where I could see the gold dome out my small bathroom window. It’s true; it does remind me I’m home when it comes into view. I’m glad you are having a wonderful time in our lovely state capital. I wish you all the best in your writing career.

  9. Elizabeth Gaucher says:

    You’re really in trouble now, aren’t you? You are about to become the patron saint of people who way positive things about WV. Lots of blog hits. Lots of shares. Lots of trouble if you ever, ever, change your mind. πŸ˜‰

  10. Elizabeth Gaucher says:

    And before I get jumped, let me say that I’ve seen this dynamic before. WV is so starved for affection that it doesn’t notice the nuances in a piece like this, or like Michael Powelson’s piece, or like Jason Headley’s.

  11. Kelly Heidenreich says:

    Thanks for the love! I teach 8th graders WV History and prepare them for the Golden Horseshoe exam. Through teaching I try to enlighten them of the wonders WV holds, in hopes it will instill this same love and maybe encourage a few to remain in WV after graduating college. It’s a long shot, but I keep trying!

  12. Sandi Carter says:

    I am from Huntington. Haven’t been able to get home for a very long time……W.VA has some of the most genuine, loving, caring, and intelligent folks I’ve ever met or known. W.VA also has some of the most beautiful, awesome places to visit and see…..The Mountains are gorgeous…..Some folks just don’t know what their missin’. I’ve lived in a lot of places small towns and big towns……My roots are in W.Va and I’m proud of it……Country Roads Take Me Home…….I Miss You…….

  13. Anna Dibattista-Hanley says:

    Hey, I love West Virginia and I think there are a lot of wonderful folks all around. My husband and I love it so much we are moving to Clay County (Ivydale) closing on a home there in a few weeks.Moving from upstate New York. Merry Christmas to all and God Bless!!

  14. Connie says:

    Thanks for a lovely post on my native state. It made me teary just to read it. After 44 years in northern Virginia we will be heading home in 24 mos. when we retire. We’ll be in Romney, but not a “far piece” from Charleston.

  15. Elisa says:

    I spent my childhood dreaming of leaving and my adulthood trying to get back. Part of me wants to keep WV on these ‘Lists of Doom’ so that it doesn’t get ‘discovered’ by the masses who would promptly ruin it! LOL It is home for me no matter where I’ve lived – and I’ve lived in a lot of places – L.A., England, New York, North Carolina, Wisconsin (currently). Can’t wait to come home for Christmas πŸ™‚

  16. Linda says:

    Very nice read! I’ve lived in a lot of different states, but I still love WV and call Huntington home. You did a good job describing Charleston πŸ™‚

  17. Chris says:

    This is a great description of Charleston in my opinion. I was born and raised there, attended WVU, and then moved to Myrtle Beach for ten years. I witnessed all walks of life down south. Enough in fact to persuade me to come back home and practice law. The people in Charleston are kind and elusively progressive. It’s a diamond in the rough. It was an odd feeling when I realized that moving to the beach for that decade taught me where paradise was really located, in the rolling hills of WV.

  18. Joyce Almond says:

    Thank you, Lori, for so eloquently capturing much of the magic of Charleston so eloquently. I’ve lived in the “real” Charleston (WV) more than once, as well as the other Charleston, Tampa Bay, and now the much lauded Raleigh, N.C. Not knocking any of the other places, but Charleston WV continues to be my favorite town for all the reasons you mentioned and many more.

  19. Ginny Harris says:

    I lived in charleston for eight months many years ago. I am originally from Bridgeport, WV. I now live in Chesapeake, Va. I have lived in Virginia longer than I lived in West Virginia, but the mountain state is my “home”. Always has been and always will be. When people asking me where I am going over the holidays or for vacation, I tell them “almost heaven” because it is! Thank you for writing a positive article on the best state in the country no matter what anyone thinks. I love West Virginia!

  20. Danielle Philp says:

    I lived in WV until I was 18 & joined the Navy. My mother told me to never come back because there was nothing there. I met and married a man from Illinois and never moved back to WV. Leaving WV has always mad me ill, to the point of throwing up because I was so upset. WV is where my heart has and always will live. I briefly moved back to WV to care for my mother was dying, my kids were 4, 3 and my daughter was 2. My daughter is the biggest hillbilly ever lol, also makes her sick to leave. Only thing in WV is my family……oh, and my heart. Truely only happy when I’m in Heaven.

  21. mary k hall (mooney) says:

    I live in Columbus ohio and have for the last 30 years. I never fail to miss the warmth and love of the people of Charleston!!!!

  22. Deborah Lynn Hanna says:

    Yes, I loved reading this letter to Charleston as it is my home too! I left there many years ago and have lived in Florida, New York City, Tarquinia, Italy and now I live in Yangon, Myanmar. . . . but somehow Charleston is a deep rooted home that I love to visit – even if it’s very rare. . . I love the mountains, Downtown Charleston, the arts and crafts fairs the Kanawha River, the horses, the Mall, the Capital, Canaan Valley, White Sulphur Springs, The Greenbrier and many, many things! It’s in my heart and I love to visit there where I enjoyed such a beautiful time growing up – being loved and loving! I send my love to Charleston and all of West Virginia . . . . your native daughter, Deborah

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