Charles Town holiday celebration recalls Civil War's end

November 29, 1996


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - For the second year in a row, Charles Town area merchants are planning an extensive Christmas celebration that takes in historic sites like the Jefferson County Courthouse, nearby inns and restaurants.

Like last year, the Christmas celebration will revolve around downtown restaurants and inns. For $25 per person, revelers can participate in the Christmas Dine Around, where they can sample food from both the Washington House Inn and the Charles Washington Inn and leave the driving to a horse-drawn carriage.

There also will be open houses at the Carriage House Inn, the Iron Rail Inn, Avanti Ristorante, Washington House Inn, Taste of the Town and the Washington Inn.


There will be nine candlelit tours of the Jefferson County Courthouse and a bonfire on Charles Street, where apple cider and hayrides will be offered.

At 5 p.m. on Dec. 6, Mayor Randolph Hilton will open the ceremonies after the ringing of the courthouse bell.

The theme of the celebration is "Peace 1865," the first Christmas after the end of the Civil War, said Nina Vogel, owner of a local bed-and-breakfast and an organizer of this year's celebration.

Unlike past years, there is little concern this year about crime problems marring the downtown yuletide celebration.

Three years ago, the head of the downtown merchants association hired off-duty police officers to patrol downtown streets so shoppers would feel more comfortable about coming to town. At the time, drug-related violence was a growing problem. Incidents included a shooting death.

Many city residents were calling for action.

But merchants and city officials say crime problems have eased significantly since then. City police are "becoming more effective all the time" at pushing drug trafficking out of the downtown area, and there have been increased patrols in high-crime areas to keep problems down, according to Hilton and Charles Town City Police Lt. Doug Nichols.

Vogel said she believes a lot of the concerns three years ago were more of a perception that there were problems in town. The uneasy feelings were mostly fueled by the number of vacant storefronts and fewer police patrols.

But since then more businesses have opened in town, and that's pushed out a lot of the unsavory behavior, Vogel said.

"We certainly do not consider crime to be a problem in the downtown area," said Vogel, owner of the Washington House Inn.

Nichols said some downtown merchants have been giving officers information about criminal activity, which has been effective in controlling the problem.

"That gives us knowledge, and then we can do something about it," said Nichols.

"Fortunately, I see our downtown as a safe place to be and a safe place to shop. And a lot of the credit goes to our police force for that," Hilton said.

Vogel said Hilton has assured her that there will be several officers patroling the downtown area during the event, a 10-day program that begins Dec. 6.

Nichols said there will be increased foot or car patrols downtown during the event, but he did not know how many.

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