You are here


-A A +A

Widen, a coal camp near the easternmost edge of the county, was known as a model company town. Its owners, the Elk River Coal Company, provided a swimming pool, hospital, and ice cream parlor for workers and their families. During the zenith of the Mine Wars of 1913–1914, life in the community changed drastically. To keep union organizers at a safe distance, the company built a twelve-mile fence around Widen, removing nearby trees and undergrowth so guards could see if unwanted agitators were approaching. After a bitter strike in the 1950s, operations at Widen soon ceased. Now the only way in, or out, of this once prosperous place nestled in a flat valley floor is via a steep, one-mile road leading downward from Clay County 11. The community presently consists of about twenty one-story, hip-roofed cottages, most still clad in their original boardand-batten siding. Some are abandoned, a few are occupied. Many have front porches stacked with discarded furniture and yards filled with abandoned cars. Several two-story houses in similar condition stand at a distance from the one-story houses, indicating that their original residents were managers instead of miners. A concrete-block church is one of the newest buildings in town. Widen is the epitome of poverty-stricken Appalachia as conceived in the popular mind. It is not for the faint of heart.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.