The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) building was constructed in 1919 in the Neoclassical Revival style, which was popular for public buildings in the early 1900s. The idea behind the community center was to create a place that could provide a recreation alternative to saloons and could offer educational programs to alleviate the conditions that drove people to drink.
The building consists of four floors and a two-level basement, which houses a large gymnasium, making it both the largest and most sophisticated WCTU building in the state of West Virginia. The interior of the building has retained its original oak woodwork and fixtures and is virtually unchanged. The building also has many of its original furnishings, including cut-glass mirrors, mission-style and wicker furniture, and 1920s artwork.
The Morgantown chapter of WCTU was formed in 1884 with 19 initiating members. The chapter’s first president was Elizabeth Moore, a founder of Morgantown’s Woodburn Female Seminary and the area’s leading proponent of women’s education.
The WCTU Community Center was home to many of the humanitarian projects that the Morgantown chapter of the WCTU undertook in the areas of women’s suffrage, health and education, and the prohibition of alcohol.
However, despite the chapter’s high membership, the WCTU Community Building was not completed until 1919. In fact, it took the WCTU five years to raise the money for the center via continuous fundraisers, benefit plays and concerts, help from other WCTU chapters and other civic organizations, and $20,000 left in the will of a former chapter president.
Although the Morgantown chapter of the WCTU shrunk drastically with the repeal of prohibition and the onset of the Great Depression, a decrease that the organization never recovered from, the WCTU Community Building still stands as a reminder of the era in which women proved that they could constitute a deciding force in national politics and mores, with or without the power of the vote. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union Community Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
View the full National Register listing for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Community Building here.
Learn more about the WCTU Building via the Historic Downtown Morgantown Audio Walking Tour.