Discover the 5 Tallest Buildings in West Virginia (Plus One Up-and-Comer Outside the Capital)
The Semi-Nomadic State Capital Building Is the Tallest in the Mountaineer State, but Not by Much
The state capital is tallest of the tallest buildings in West Virginia. The crown of its gilded dome is a mere 84 inches under 300 feet. Some historic banking, business and financial facilities in the state are just a few dozen feet below that in size.
(To see the tallest structure in West Virginia, check out this almost-quarter-mile-high chimney in Moundsville.)
Transitioning from banking and business into high-rise apartments and new technology, these modestly tall buildings have been happy to adapt as they tower a respectable, unostentatious distance into the air.
A Hybrid State with A Lot of Room
The State of West Virginia is a marvel hybrid of natural resources and nature. It was a state with a thriving coal industry—that’s still going by the by. But it now has more going on, such as pulling carbon out of the air and transforming it into methanol! Yet collectively, most of the state’s wealth and character comes from the hills and rivers, or what’s just a few feet below that soil.
This focus on the outdoors and what’s in it means the Panhandle State has had less of a need to build upward. Its tallest buildings don’t scrape the sky, per se.
The Tallest Building in West Virginia is the State Capital
Still Taller Than You Might Think
West Virginia’s buildings are more cooperative with the sky, allowing it some comfortable distance. Its tallest building, Charleston’s capital city government center, tops out at 293 feet. As tall buildings go, that’s literally a “tall building,” according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat says the industry term for a “tall building” is about 164 feet (50 meters) minimum. By this definition, the four tallest buildings in West Virginia are indeed “tall buildings.”
Between 1863 and 1921, the state’s capital moved three times between the cities of Wheeling and Charleston. The current Renaissance revival structure in Charleston was completed in 1932.
State Capital That’s Built to Last – Facts about the Tallest Building in West Virginia
- Including the statue’s pedestal, the West Virginia state capital building is almost as tall (by 12 feet) as the Statue of Liberty
- Two stone tablets at either end of the capital’s base quote the book of Proverbs: “Wisdom is the principal thing. Therefore, get wisdom. And with all of thy getting, get understanding, (Proverbs 4:7)” and “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom and getteth understanding. (Proverbs 3:13)”
- In the rotunda, there is a two-ton chandelier that has 10,080 pieces of crystal
Second, the Kanawha Valley Building
The Kanawha Valley Building (“kuh-NAW-wuh”) has a tidily shaped early 20th-century facade with symmetrical windows. Standing 265 feet, it’s just a panhandle’s height below the Capital. Alfred Charles Bossom (ha-ha) was the lead architect. It is the second tallest building in West Virginia.
Both the Kanawha Valley Building and the state’s Capital Building are in Charleston. However, the Kanawha Valley Building’s address is on Capitol Street, and the West Virginia Capital Building 1’s address is on Kanawha Boulevard!
The Kanawha was originally constructed as a bank building. Kanawha Valley Bank, which goes back to the end of the Civil War, moved into the building just days before the sudden Black Friday stock market crash of 1929.
There is a high external balcony and a pyramid capital on the structure.
Third Tallest Building in West Virginia, Laidley Tower, the Young Buck
This tower, named after another prominent West Virginia family, is a very competitive 255 feet tall. The tall building finished construction only in 1984, making this one of the youngest big ‘uns in the state. At 18 stories, it sits just near the capital building and Kanawha Valley Building.
A street view of the address does not give a proper look. With a little backup perspective, the tower is a mysterious facade of mirror-like, edge-to-edge-to-edge grid windows—as if it were some sort of watery portal to the Matrix. In photos, the white and blue clouds and sky are clearly visible, reflecting off its exterior.
It was originally a finance, business and general office building that fell on hard times in the early 2000s, passing between several owners. Bridge-33 Capital, out of Seattle, purchased the building in 2023.
The Laidleys, the tower’s namesake, were apparently some of the earliest trustees of Marshall Academy, the forerunner of West Virginia’s Marshall University.
Number Four Is a Bicentennial Child
Like the mirror facade of the Laidley Building, the BB&T shines like a peaceful West Virginia mountain lake. It also has a darker, glassy tint.
The structure was finished in 1976.
The address for the BB&T Building sounds like a young adult novel: 300 Summers. Photographed from across the street, this 250-foot modernist masterpiece looks kind of like an accordion. The ridged outlays bump in and out at right angles. The structure’s footprint flares off diagonally, giving it the look that the building could be folded flat and rearranged elsewhere.
The BB&T stands for “Branch Bank and Trust,” named after Alpheus Branch. BB&T became part of a conglomerate Truist in 2019 but still has a Branch—that is to say, a branch—at BB&T Square.
Fifth (?) Tallest Building in West Virginia, AT&T, Is A Bit More Mysterious
The AT&T Building, also in Charleston, appears to be the fifth tallest building in West Virginia. It comes in at either 195 feet high or 236 feet high (?)
Like its unclear dimensions, the building has a lot of other mysterious elements.
It has a brutalist appearance: a sandy-brown brick facade with some red-brick vertical stripes. The front has no windows except perhaps the front door. (Though on other parts of the structure, there are some smallish windows, grating and access points.) It’s topped with what looks like certain satellite arrays.
Going deeper into the building and its history, there is little easily found information on the web. The one easily-available source for the date of construction lists it as being built in 1931. The greater height of 236 feet comes from the Center on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an authority on such structures. As such, it earns number five over other buildings that are arguably taller when listed in other sourcing.
However, CTBUH only lists buildings by city and not by state. So far, all five of the tallest buildings in West Virginia come from the capital city of Charleston. Well, let’s get a little lowercase. Let’s, hop on one of those country roads and see what else is out there regarding tall buildings in West Virginia.
Lowercase, Looking Outside the Capital at the Union Bank and Trust
Somewhere between the sixth and ninth tallest is an outsider building in Huntington.
Most of the information on the tallest building in West Virginia focuses on the capital: Charleston. And there are certainly many stately, tall buildings there. There does not appear to be too much data on tall buildings in West Virginia outside the capital. For this reason, here’s a peek at the Union Bank and Trust in Huntington.
Also known as St. James, the Union Building, and the West Virginia Building, this one measures an even 200 feet. There are various dates listed online for the building’s completion. Looking at these multiple dates collectively, this building is at least a few years older than the buildings listed so far. It was completed sometime between 1914 and 1925.
With the advent of railroads, Huntington became the last stop for the Ohio and Chesapeake Railway.
Like the medal-holders in Charleston, the building started as a bank location. Today, the Sunset Grill holds a spot on the bottom floor, hosting local musicians and cooking brick-oven pizzas. Most of the top floors are luxury condo apartments.
The Union—officially listed on the plaque as “The West Virginia Building”—is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Younger than the Mountains Taller than the Tallest Buildings in West Virginia
An industrious state that builds for utility and is happy to let the mountains have top billing in the skyline still has some impressive structures.