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The Athenaeum - Wheeling, West Virginia
Posted by: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
N 40° 03.832 W 080° 43.303
17T E 523732 N 4434882
Quick Description: Marker for historic former theater building which served as a prison during the Civil War in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Location: West Virginia, United States
Date Posted: 1/25/2014 9:41:54 AM
Waymark Code: WMK0GW
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member iconions
Views: 1

Long Description:

Text of marker

The Athenaeum
"Lincoln's Bastille"

The Athenaeum, once the largest building in Wheeling, stood here.  It was constructed in 1854, with three stories supported by cast-iron roof and floor beams.  It served as an adjunct of the nearby Baltimore and Ohio Railroad station, to encourage travelers to stop in the city.  The upper floor housed a theater, which attracted many of the best performers of the antebellum period, including Maggie Mitchell and the famous Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, a brother of President Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth.  A popular play performed at the Athenaeum was Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel of the same name.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, the U.S. government took over the lower two floors and detained Confederate sympathizers and prisoners of war until they could be transferred to Camp Chase in Columbus.  It became known locally as "Lincoln's Bastille."  Several prisoners escaped during that years that followed.

In September 1863, the entire building was converted to a prison.  A hospital, bake house, fuel house and an exercise yard surrounded by a twenty-foot high wall were constructed on the property.  Thereafter, many Union soldiers convicted by courts-martial were incarcerated there. The prison hospital became overcrowded, and in March 1864, the patients were transferred to Wheeling Hospital in North Wheeling.  This action allowed the prison to be further enlarged.  In September 1865, the prison was closed, and the Athenaeum was returned to its owners.

On October 10, 1868, the structure burned completely in Wheeling's largest fire.  As a result, the city organized its first fire department.

Type of site: Prison

16th & Market
Wheeling, West Virginia

Admission Charged: No Charge

Phone Number: Not listed

Website: Not listed

Driving Directions: Not listed

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