Lewisburg Center Green

Posted: May 9, 2010 in Uncategorized
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I’ve been spending a lot of time in southern West Virginia lately. Today, we’ll take a look at a public space in Lewisburg, the Center Green.

You can’t tell it by the photo, but the Lewisburg Center Green is located at the busiest intersection in town.

Lewisburg is everyone’s favorite small town. In my years of working with the St. Albans Renaissance Group and interacting with other Main Street communities, Lewisburg was always the model for what their city could be like. Everyone wants to be Lewisburg.

And why not? Lewisburg is ten minutes from the world famous Greenbrier Resort. (Which explains why Lewisburg is one of the few places in West Virginia where an art gallery offers paintings for $25K). The town is nestled in some of the most beautiful mountains in West Virginia. Opportunities for recreation, shopping, eating, and cultural activities seem to be everywhere. Washington Street is the epitome of Main Street, USA. Yeah, Lewisburg’s got it all. On top of all that, a couple of years ago a public square green space was completed. It’s almost not fair.

The Lewisburg Center Green is at the corner of the busiest intersection in town and is challenged by a serious grade change. But rather than being a detriment, the difference is actually used as an advantage to raise the square above the ruckus of the busy intersection.

More than just a generic green space, the square acknowledges its geographic and cultural context. Interesting boulders reflect the underlying Karst topography (and serve as overflow seating) and stones from a structure that originally occupied the site form a mini-monumental staircase entrance. Landscaping is lush and features native dogwoods.

The entrance from the lower level is by semi-monumental stairs which incorporate stone from one of the first buildings on the site.

The laid-back atmosphere of Lewisburg allows the square to work well as a passive space. Non-shopping spouses have a place to go.  Because of unseasonably cool weather, on the day of my most recent visit there was no one actually using the space, but the green gets plenty of use.  On warmer days, a ground-level fountain invites a certain amount of interaction as kids find the water irresistible.  And last fall, I saw teens just hanging out.  No, they weren’t grinding the walls with skateboards, they were singing.  Yes, singing, with guitar accompaniment.

From the upper level, pedestrians are invited in and offered a variety of seating opportunities.

The potentially overwhelming retaining wall is greatly softened by an abundance of landscaping.

If you want to experience Lewisburg at its best, I suggest the first Friday of any month. Blatantly stealing the line from the downtown merchants association, that’s when you can “Gather in Lewisburg to enjoy friends, music, art and fun!”

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