123 Pleasant St. has a long, rich history that goes back as far as the City of Morgantown does. And while it started up as a music venue in the 1980’s, it had a detailed history prior to that.
Morgantown began to rapidly grow in the early 1890’s, and there was a need for housing. The area that is commonly known as “123 Pleasant St.” was built in 1891 as Morgantown’s first major apartment building that housed everybody from college students to railroad employees and merchants. A famous architect even lived there, Elmer Jacobs, who can be attributed with designing many of the buildings that stand today.
During the roaring twenties, businesses started occupying and filling the buildings. What is recognized as the stage room in 123 currently, in fact, was home to the very first radio store in the region. The Radio Appliance Company opened and set up a public radio set, inviting all to experience “the wonder of the modern age.”
It didn’t last very long, but it seems like a fitting start.
For the next 60 years, businesses came and went. It wasn’t until 1982 when Morgantown introduced a new underground music scene. The Underground Railroad reflected the style and musical tastes of the venues creator – Marsha Ferber. With a group of friends, Ferber conceived the venue with the idea of having “a bar where music was the binding force bringing together all types of people in a peaceful atmosphere.”
“ The Underground Railroad’s name came from her desire to have a place where people could “find their way to freedom,” by interacting and listening to music without regard to skin color, dress, sexuality, hair style, or ideas. Harriet Tubman, the heroine of the real Underground Railroad, was painted on the wall of 123 and came to symbolize the bar’s concept of basic equality among all people.“
But on April 25, 1988 – Ferber walked out of the bar and was not to be seen or heard from again. Gone missing without a trace or a hint of whether she was dead or alive.
Ferber’s vehicle, purse and other personal belongings were found undisturbed. The case is still open to this day..
(Part 1 of an ongoing series..)