Structural Happenings

I’m sure the majority of you have been to 123 Pleasant Street before (if not, go as soon as physically possible). While you’re there – full tuned into the music blasting from the stage – it might peak your interest if you look at some of the signs hanging from the walls. Hell, even the brick walls hold some deep Morgantown history.


This week I got to meet with Michael Caplinger, the historian for 123 Pleasant St. who has compiled a boat load of information about what the brick row has been over the decades.

Back when Marsha Ferber and company first started the music scene up in 1982, they had the intent of making it a place where everyone was welcome. The now famous music scene 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.


Quite a welcoming beginning.

The infamous stage – where many a famous musician has planted their feet and belted their heart out on – has not been renovated too much. In fact, it used to be smaller prior to the venue being refurbished in the mid to late 1990’s.

“It was smaller than that back then in the 90’s and 80’s,” Caplinger said. “When (the current owner) bought the place, it extended out, it gave you a lot more room thank god. They used to put 12-person bands up there when it was a small stage and it was like ‘oh god this is way to tight.’ It was an incredible improvement.”


Take a look up, and you may notice the ceiling might not be so 21st century looking. That’s because it’s just barely a 20th century roof.

“When (the owner) renovated the place, that’s when they uncovered the ceilings,” Caplinger said. “Nobody knew they were there because there were two drop ceilings that had been hung over the years, so he just started pulling out those ceilings and it was like ‘holy shit, there’s a 1921 tin roof.'”

So next time you’re roaring to the music, take a look up at a little piece of the roaring twenties.

Then take a look at the surrounding walls. Plenty of nostalgia for some of the older folks here in Morgantown who remember the Underground Railroad.


Here’s a couple original signs for the 1980’s music club that started the scene in Morgantown.


(Part 2 of an ongoing series..)



8 thoughts on “Structural Happenings”

  1. I remember the old establishment and it was awesome. It was called Nyabinghi Dance Hall back then. I saw Rusted Root, Rasta Rafiki, Donna the Buffalo, and the first time I saw two girls making out there. They were one of the first places you could get a good beer (not Budweiser) in town, smoke a joint out back, and meet cool and interesting people.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was really interesting – I had no idea that 123 Pleasant Street had its own historian or anything like that. I knew that it used to be called the Underground Railroad, but there’s a lot more history to that building than meets the eye. It’s cool that you were able to uncover some of this stuff.


  3. I have been to 123 many times, and have never noticed any of those signs. Now that you mention it, it really seems by their signage that they are trying to male sure everyone feels welcome.


  4. I’ve actually never been to 123 Pleasant Street, and I hope to go at some point before I graduate. I’ve had friends perform there and people invite me, but for some reason I just never made it out. The fact that there is so much history behind those walls will definitely get me there soon! It so interesting it makes the venue one of a kind!


  5. I’m really liking this series, Corey. Like David said, it’s crazy that the place has its own historian. I really wish you would’ve snagged a picture of the ceiling while you were there. Maybe include it in part 3, just for me? 😉


  6. 123 SUCKS DICKS!!! i’v been then more then once when a alcohol and ego driven bouncer has been far too rough with a woman. equality for all…as long as ur a man. you should really know what you are writing about and/or have a unbiased view.


    1. I’ve been to 123 countless times and i have never been “roughed up” by a bouncer, hell there’s even a female bouncer, maybe you did something that is against the rules of the establishment or something


  7. I have only been to 123 Pleasant St. once but when I was there I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere is so great and I couldn’t help but love the design and set-up inside. When I was there, they only have chairs in the bar area and along the walls out by the stage. I don’t know if they added more since, but that would be the only thing I wish was different about 123. I love the pictures you provided. I didn’t realize there was a picture of Harriet Tubman, that’s so cool! Love the article!


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