Kanawha Boulevard has gone by various names throughout history. The Boulevard was known as Front Street when "Charles Town" was chartered in 1794. Through the years, it has been called First Street, Water Street and Kanawha Street prior to being renamed Kanawha Boulevard in the late 1920s.
The Boulevard served as part of the James River & Kanawha Turnpike and is currently part of the Midland Trail National Scenic Byway. In the late 1930s, the Boulevard was modified into a four-lane highway by the Public Works Administration (PWA).
The PWA was formed by the National Industrial Recovery Act on June 16, 1933 as a New Deal program to help the country climb out of the Great Depression. The PWA was signed into legislation during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first 100 days in office to fund large-scale construction projects to provide employment, stabilize purchasing power, improve public welfare, and revive American industry.
The short lived PWA (1933-1941) is often confused with the better known Works Progress Administration (WPA which was created two years after the PWA to fund smaller construction projects throughout the country.
Kanawha Boulevard and its contributing elements are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places due to their association with the PWA. The contributing elements include the original stone slope treatment, drainage outlets, recreational pathways and steps. In 2014, the original stone slope treatment was enscapsulated and the lower sets of steps and drainage outlets were removed as part of a Section 14 project authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1946. The Act authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to plan and construct emergency streambank and shoreline protection projects to protect essential public facilities.
As part of the Section 14 project, sandstone blocks from the original drainage outlets were repurposed along the lower pathway as benches. The original sandstone steps and remaining sandstone blocks from the drainage outlets have been utilized in various projects throughout the City.Illustration
Design details from the original 1938 PWA plans fro the stone steps and drainage outlets.Upper Photo
Stone steps and drainage outlets prior to removal as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 14 Emergency Streambank and Shoreline Protection Project.Lower Photo
Stone slope treatment and drainage outlet completed in 2014 through a partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Charleston.