We were in Sistersville, WV last night for a concert by the bluegrass band called Blue Maggie. I wanted to go for several reasons, besides the fact that I always find something interesting in this small town:
1. Sistersville is one of the prettiest towns in West Virginia and one of the state's best kept secrets. Built during the oil and gas boom days at the turn of the last century, Sistersville is filled with beautiful homes. Its situation on the banks of the Ohio mean that you can ride the ferry across the river in good weather, and it is also the home of the famed Wells Inn. The Inn was closed for a couple of years, but new owner Charles Winslow has brought this landmark back to life, and is also bringing many other good things to Sistersville--like events at the old Gaslight Theatre.
2. The weather had cleared up enough to go somewhere...and I've always been curious about the Gaslight. What was it like inside?
3. I've been a friend of Blue Maggie on Facebook but I had never heard the band and I wanted to see what they were like.
4. If I stayed home, I had to do laundry. Enough said.
So off we went. I wish we had left earlier because as usual the drive up Route 2 was picturesque--the snow, the river, the tiny communities...really, you need to see it to understand why I am always ready for a road trip through there.
The Wells Inn offered a dinner-and-show package but I was afraid to sign up for that because the weather has been so bad I wasn't sure we'd be able to make the trip. I wish I had taken the chance because I so want to see the inside of the newly refurbished inn. I've stayed there several times in the past and always loved its vintage charm, and I am more pleased than I can say that the inn is welcoming guests once again. We missed out on dinner this time, but I hope to go back soon and check it out.
When we got to Sistersville, the Wells Inn parking lot was full but the rest of town was very quiet. We drove down by the ferry just to see it in the snow. I remembered the beautiful summer days when I took my grandchildren across to Fly, Ohio for lunch at the little diner that sits right on the riverbank; last night was an interesting contrast to those summer memories.
We drove around just to look at the houses. So many had intricate stained glass or leaded windows; most are of the Victorian era with deep porches, detailed woodwork and interesting architectural features. I have always loved this town, and being there on a dark winter night was neat.
The railroad running through town has always interested me too, and although this shot did not come out as well as I would have liked, perhaps it tells you why I have wanted a picture of the tracks as they wend through the houses.
By the time we pulled into the street where the Gaslight Theater was located, there were a lot of cars.
Where did they all come from? The street had been mostly empty when we arrived. We found our way into the theater, and there was a surprise:
Steps! The theater was accessed by a narrow staircase. We followed the other folks and found ourselves in a dark room with about 150 seats, with the stage down below. Interesting! We sat down and pretty soon were in conversation with the couple seated next to us, who had moved to Sistersville from New Jersey. They said there were quite a few retirees from Jersey in the area--all had found the town so attractive and the real estate prices so reasonable. I remembered meeting another couple several years ago who had come here from New Jersey too, and they gave the same reasons for relocating. Smart people.
We wondered how many people would come out on a cold January evening; as the minutes passed, more and more people came in and the theater filled up--not full, mind you but for the first event like this in many years it was a very good crowd and the theater was at least 75% full.
Blue Maggie did not disappoint. They were lively, funny, touching and just overall entertaining as they performed everything from John Prine and Janis Joplin to Patsy Cline and gospel. We were completely entertained and everyone else there seemed to have a good time too.
The Wells Inn is offering a Valentine's Day package that includes a 3-comedian show at the Gaslight in February (call them! 304-652-1312). Then there are the festivals--the Oil and Gas Festival, Sister Fest, and several others. I think the town and the Wells Inn will become a destination for those who want a beautiful and restful place to visit that offers history, shopping, entertainment, and maybe, if you're lucky, even a ghost of two in the bargain.