Information on the
Highway Historical Marker Program
When was the marker program established?
The West Virginia Highway Historical Marker Program was initiated in 1937 as part of the New Deal as a way to encourage tourism during the Great Depression. The West Virginia Commission on Historic and Scenic Markers worked with the State Road Commission, Works Progress Administration, and Federal Emergency Relief Administration to place 440 markers during the first year alone. After World War II, markers were placed at the sites of most state-run facilities and schools. The West Virginia Historic Commission took over the program in 1963. Since the late 1960s, the program has been managed by West Virginia Archives and History, which is today part of the West Virginia Division of Culture & History.
Does the West Virginia State Archives keep a list of markers?
The State Archives maintains files on each of the markers. Unfortunately, many of these
files are outdated because markers have been moved and road names have been changed. In
1996, the Division of Culture & History was awarded a federal Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) grant to survey the state's highway markers. An updated markers guidebook is now available.
Who pays for the markers?
They were funded by the state until 1985. All markers placed since then have been funded
by groups or private individuals. The cast aluminum markers, which include the State Seal, are
available with the same inscription on both sides or with a different inscription
on each side. Sponsors must pay for pipe and transportation costs. Markers may be installed by the sponsor if they are to be placed on private property, although the Division of Highways must approve of all marker locations. If the marker is to be installed on the state right-of-way, the Division of Highways must do the work.
What subjects or events will be considered?
The site, property, district, or community honored with a marker must possess some degree
of significance in state or local prehistory (archaeology), history, natural history, architecture, or cultural life. A complete list of guidelines can be found here.
How many markers are there?
Approximately 1,000 markers have been placed in West Virginia. However, the recent
survey indicates nearly 30% are no longer standing and a majority of the remaining markers are
in dire need of repair.
How are markers maintained?
In recent years, the state legislature has generously appropriated funding to repair or replace markers. Additionally, Archives and History has received two grants through the West Virginia Division of Highways grants program for marker refurbishment and replacement. Missing or damaged markers should be reported to the State Archives.
How can I find out more information about the markers program?
Please contact Matt McGrew,
Cultural Program Coordinator, West Virginia Archives and History.