When I visited the Grave Creek Mound, I went with a group of kids. As we pulled up to the mound, one of them looked across the street and asked, “Why is there a castle?” He was looking at the decommissioned West Virginia State Penitentiary, which served the state from 1876 to 1995. His question was understandable. It did look like somebody had plopped a European castle in the middle of an all-American town. I took the photos below from the mound, which give you a great view of the Pen and the impression that you could lead a victorious assault on the “castle” from your high, strategic position, if you happened to have an army with you. We do have some family history with the Pen. My great-grandfather was guard at the prison during World War II when young men were in short supply.
The Pen is now privately owned. I have not taken any of the tours. The place looks creepy enough on the outside. My mom taught briefly in Moundsville in the ’60’s and led a field trip of high school students to the Pen when it was still a working prison. She said the kids were goofing off and enjoying getting out of school on the bus ride to the Pen. After the tour, she said the bus ride home was very quiet.