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Coalwood

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Early 20th century. 6 miles southwest of Welch, via U.S. 52, then WV 16
  • Houses

Coal company towns and New England villages seldom have much in common, but Coalwood seems almost a transplant from the Massachusetts Berkshires to West Virginia's Appalachians. Its cluster of public buildings, centered on a white Georgian Revival Methodist church, with its tall spire and portico, recall a Norman Rockwell painting. At least, they must have when Coalwood was in its prime. Even in its present semideserted state, the community bears evidence that it, like Gary, was once one of the region's model towns.

The Carter Coal Company founded Coalwood in 1912. Three years later, its population was 36 percent white American, 26 percent black American, and 23 percent Hungarian, with Italians, Greeks and English making up the remaining 15 percent. The Consolidation Coal Company (Consol), whose corporate offices were in New York but whose operational headquarters were at Fairmont in West Virginia's northern coalfields, acquired the Carter interests in 1922. Soon after acquiring Coalwood, Consol launched a major building campaign. The September 13, 1923, issue of Manufacturers Record announced that H. F. Giffin of Fairmont would be the architect for fifty-six four- and five-room tenement houses. Three years later, Record noted that the Shinnston Planing Mill Company (of Harrison County) had a contract to build 100 one- and two-story dwellings at Coalwood and Caretta, another of the company's towns, five miles south. Consol hired a Fairmont architect to design many of its Coalwood houses because its main office there was in charge of all building operations at its far-flung properties. The North American Construction Company of Michigan also furnished a number of prefabricated Alladin Homes to Coalwood.

Consol operated at Coalwood until the midDepression, when the Carter interests once again took control. In October 1931, before the change, The West Virginia Review published an article describing Coalwood:

The town has been well planned, and, as the construction has been made within recent years, the dwellings are of a modern type, neat in appearance, and well finished. The office buildings, store, splendid club house, recreation building, and other buildings of a public and semi-public nature make up the business section, and excellent church, school, and recreational facilities have been provided for.

Most of these buildings remain, though in varying degrees of occupation and repair. Coalwood was the setting of Homer Hickman's 1998 memoir, Rocket Boys, which inspired the movie October Sky.

Writing Credits

Author: 
S. Allen Chambers Jr.
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Citation

S. Allen Chambers Jr., "Coalwood", [Davy, West Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WV-01-MD20.

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