Skip to main content

Helvitia, West Virginia

Helvetia, WV

Helvetia is a tiny town located in Randolph County, West Virginia. As of the 2010 census, its population was a whopping fifty-nine. This isolated community, virtually untouched by time, was settled by Swiss in 1869, and is known today for maintaining Swiss cuisine and traditions.

After the end of the Civil War, a group of Swiss and German-speaking immigrants left Brooklyn, New York, seeking a place where their ilk could gather to live together and preserve their Swiss heritage. Their journey led them south into West Virginia, where they resumed the difficult trek over the mountains in search of affordable land.

Thus was born the town of Helvetia. At the beginning of 1871, there were just thirty-two people living in the community. In addition to farmers, many craftsmen and professionals were also among the town’s early settlers. As the settlement grew, stonemasons, painters, watch makers, cheese makers, cobblers and doctors began pour in from different places in the United States and Europe to settle in the hills of Helvetia. By 1874, the community’s population had grown to a heady 308.

The Hütte

While the population has since dwindled, the town remains a hidden jewel. Travelers to Helvetia can find artisan cheese, honey and candles for sale in individual Swiss-style log cabins that date back to the town’s founding. The Hütte, a traditional Swiss restaurant, is located in the middle of town. Each dining room has its own theme, including a library and a mask room. The mask room is lined with Papier Mâché grotesques made to celebrate Fastnacht, the pre-Lenten “burning” of Old Man Winter. It occurs on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, and is likened to Mardi Gras.


The Saturday of Fastnacht is celebrated in Helvetia with food, beverages, and live music in the Star Band Hall (the town has its own music hall), a buffet at the Hütte, and browsing in the local shops. At 8:00 p.m., a parade featuring large, often frightening masks travels from the Red Hall to the Community Hall where the costumes are judged and the square dance begins. At midnight the effigy of Old Man Winter is cut down from the ceiling of the Community Hall, carried on the shoulders of the celebrants to the bonfire outside, and burned to signal the end of Winter. Needless to say, it’s pretty awesome.

I’ve been to Helvetia on several occasions, and I recommend a visit to anyone who hasn’t been. You can learn more at

WVU LAW Facebook WVU LAW Twitter WVU LAW Instagram WVU LAW LinkedIn WVU LAW Youtube Channel