West Virginia Department of Commerce Lewisburg

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Residents of Lewisburg will tell you there is a popular saying about their town: “Only two kinds of people ever leave Lewisburg – those who will return and those who wish they could.”

Indeed, there is something about this hamlet nestled in the hills of Greenbrier Valley that keeps visitors coming back. In 2011, Lewisburg was the winner of Budget Travel Magazine’s “America’s Coolest Small Town” contest.


So what is it that makes Lewisburg (population 3,860) so cool?

There are many factors, according to Mayor John Manchester.

“People value the small-town aspects of Lewisburg – small enough to bump into people you know on a regular basis – but we also value the larger community aspects of access to high-quality cultural activities and events, combined with a variety of quality places to eat and shop,” Manchester said.

The scale of the downtown is compact enough to make it walkable, engaging and active, he added. Its vibrant downtown is filled with a complementary mix of unique shops, restaurants and arts venues.

Lewisburg was named the second Certified Arts Community in the state, reflecting an active arts scene anchored by one of only four Carnegie Hall performing arts centers in the world; Greenbrier Valley Theatre, the official State Theatre of West Virginia; and the Lewis Arts Center, home to Trillium Arts Collective.

The Lewis Theatre and Carnegie Hall were both founding members of the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail, said Larry Levine, business coordinator at the Trillium.

“I think Lewisburg became the arts capital from a confluence of forces and determination to get the word out,” Levine offered. “The area had a strong landbased and travel-oriented past, and was home to two specialty schools, Greenbrier Military and Greenbrier Women’s College (now West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and the Greenbrier Campus of New River Community and Technical College). It was not dependent on an extractive industry or the railroad, so it did not have an extreme boom and bust cycle impact downtown.”


Lewisburg hosts a variety of annual events that draw many first-time and returning visitors. These include Taste of Our Town, Lewisburg Chocolate Festival, Battle of Lewisburg, Shanghai Parade with the First Day Festival, Ivy Terrace series and the soon-tobe launched Literary Festival.

The town’s proximity to recreational and cultural offerings make it an ideal setting as well. The Greenbrier River, the Greenbrier River Trail, the Monongahela National Forest and Greenbrier State Forest provide easy access to a variety of outdoor recreational activities. The Greenbrier Resort, about 10 minutes away, boosts the economy and provides a market for some artists. The State Fair of West Virginia is held annually in nearby Fairlea.

That’s a lot of excitement for a little town that happens to be one of the oldest in the state. Lewisburg, founded in 1782, was the third incorporated town within what is now West Virginia. Manchester said residents take care to preserve its history.

“The downtown historic district has been well maintained by various business owners and residents who take pride in their surroundings and support each other in maintaining the attractiveness of the community.”

While the town treasures its past, it always has one eye on the future.

“We keep the community very clean and set a high standard for city-owned properties,” Manchester said. “We enforce building codes and maintain standards for the historic district through our Historic Landmarks Commission. The city pays attention to infrastructure needs and provides a safe, attractive, predictable environment for businesses to succeed.”

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