Summers County, named for George W. Summers, a jurist and legislator from Kanawha County, was established in 1871 as the fourth county of the new state of West Virginia. It was formed in part from adjacent Greenbrier and Monroe counties and, like them, has resources associated with the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century spa, or springs, culture.
A creation of the railroad, Summers County was established at the same time that crews were laying tracks for the Chesapeake & Ohio. So integral is the history of the railroad to Summers that John Henry, the famous steel-drivin' man (who may or may not be mythical), is by far the county's best-known figure. Hinton, the county seat, was founded as a division terminal for the railroad.
In the mid-twentieth century, the state established two state parks in Summers County: Bluestone and Pipestem. Bluestone was made possible by the mammoth Bluestone Dam on the New River. Pipestem is one of West Virginia's three state parks with facilities designed by The Architects Collaborative (TAC), the Cambridge, Massachusetts, architecture firm founded by Walter Gropius. In more recent years, the National Park Service has designated the New River Gorge National River, the southernmost parts of which are in the county.
Summers County's population peaked in 1920 with 20,468 inhabitants; the 2000 census counted only 12,999. With the decline of the traditional industries that nurtured its economy during its first century, the county will likely depend increasingly on its magnificent scenery and related tourism for future development.
Most of the county's important architectural resources are in Hinton. Other architectural points of interest lie primarily along two corridors leading from Hinton: the Greenbrier River valley (east, then north to Alderson) and the New River–Bluestone River valleys (south to Mercer County).
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