More than a century in the making

Fairfax Boulevard work will put Ranson on a new path

RANSON – The Fairfax Boulevard project in Ranson was a long time coming.

If you live or travel through Ranson, you’ve seen the beginning phases of an 18-month project to widen the section of Fairfax Boulevard north of Lancaster Circle to look like the boulevard as it’s long been south of the circle.

Construction workers are starting to transform Ranson’s Fairfax Boulevard into a grand thoroughfare – just like planners envisioned in the late 1800s.

Construction workers are starting to transform Ranson’s Fairfax Boulevard into a grand thoroughfare – just like planners envisioned in the late 1800s.

This isn’t the brainchild of any resident or newly elected town official. Instead, it’s just what was envisioned in the late 1890s.

On the original maps of the community – which predate Ranson’s formation – leaders of the Charlestown Mining, Manufacturing and Improvement Co. show Fairfax Boulevard as a four-lane divided road set up to be 100 feet wide.

The maps, designed by D. G. Howell with assistance from D. F Taylor of Washington, D.C., were created in 1892.

The idea to develop the land north of Charlestown (it was one word back in those days) came from a group of entrepreneurs led by Civil War veteran Col. Roger Preston Chew.

Along with other community leaders including Joseph Trapnell, B.C. Washington, Charles G. Eddy, Forrest Brown, Judge Frank Beckwith, W. W. Coe, John A. Washington, M V. Richards, Dr. W. F. Lippitt, H.H, Cooke, Gustav Brown, John Porterfield and R. A. Alexander, the men set up the Charlestown Mining, Manufacturing and Improvement Co. to create an industrial complex for the area.

They sold stock certificates that offered a residential lot measuring 25 feet by 125 feet for $100 (four shares in the company) or three residential lots and one commercial lot for $450 (18 shares in the company).

The commercial lots were located along the railroad line for ease of transport of the products they manufactured to the market.  The commercial lots were in the center of the new area, with residential lots north and south, traversed by the 100 foot wide Fairfax Boulevard. Fairfax was designed to run diagonally southwest to northeast.

All these years later, the wisdom of the town’s current leaders have revived the wisdom of Ranson’s founding fathers.

The new Fairfax Boulevard construction is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER II Planning Grant and TIGER IV Construction Grant, West Virginia Department of Transportation funds, and local and private sector moneys.

The construction will include curb and gutters, sidewalks, benches, trees and street lighting. The extension will include two lanes in each direction with a landscaped median strip and with on-street parking.

This is not the first time town leaders of today have used the old map. You will find that Lakeland Place, the circle at Fairfax Crossing near W.Va. 9, also is from the 1892 map.

– Charles Town author Bob O’Connor holds a biology degree but puts history at the center of his works, which include nonfiction books as well as novels. He wrote “Ranson: A Centennial History” in 2010

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