Stunning Abandoned Coal StructuresNovember 17, 2014
Some of West Virginia’s mining history has been lost to the ages, but many of the structures from the coal boom still stand.
Off the beaten path, in the remote woodlands and near ghost towns of Southern WV, you can find some of the most authentic pieces of our coal heritage— abandoned mining buildings.
These relics sit untouched, almost forgotten, but still poignant, ghostly reminders of a time when the coal veins were our state’s pulsing lifeblood.
Here are some of the most stunning abandoned mining buildings around Southern WV:
Itmann Company Store (Wyoming County)
Built in the 20’s, this Classic Revival style structure is crafted from rugged, hand-cut native sandstone, which compliments its striking architectural style. It is still almost completely unaltered from its heyday.
This shop was where miners would go to spend their scrip, scrip was given as payment for working in the coal mines and was only accepted at the company-owned stores. Because the families depended on this store for every purchase, it was central to the community, also housing the post office, barbershop, pool room and doctor’s office.
It, and the town it sits in, are named after coal baron I. T. Mann. He was known for helping found and serving as president of the Bank of Bramwell, which served the prosperous town of Bramwell which had , at one time, the most millionaires per capita than any town in the United States.
Nuttallburg Tipple (Fayette County)
Tucked into the trees are the remains of Nuttalburg, one of the nation’s most intact mining sites, complete with a towering, vibrant red coal tipple. A 1,385-foot long conveyor belt, which was the longest in the world when it was built, stretches 600 feet from the mine atop the hill down to the sorting station below. Rail cars would carry 125 tons of coal down every hour when the mine was active.
The mine captured attention when it was purchased by automotive tycoon Henry Ford. He leased the mine to provide coal for his steel mills, because he wanted to have “vertical integration,” where his company owned the entire supply chain for his auto industry. However, he couldn’t afford to also control the rail line to transport the coal, so, he soon sold the mines.
Coalwood Machine Shop & Buildings (McDowell County)
Covered almost entirely in cut-glass windows, this brick structure still shimmers with an array of colors, despite its deterioration, and a few broken glass panels. The machine shop was built by the Carter Coal Company.
In addition to parts for the mining equipment, the machine shop also has another significance: Homer Hickam, the young rocket builder (and author, made famous by his memoir The Rocket Boys and Hollywood adaptation October Sky) supposedly crafted pieces of his first rocket there.
Also in Coalwood are the old company store, and the charming Bavarian-style company apartment buildings, where a 5-room apartment cost only $30 per month in the 30s.
Caretta Preparation Plant (McDowell County)
The Caretta mines were connected to the Coalwood mines underground. Each mine reached more than 500 feet into the depths below the dirt. The two produced about a million tons of coal each year until they closed in the 1908s.
Still standing in Caretta is the Preparation Plant, an ominous-looking, complex skeleton of steel, covered in a cluster of industrial contraptions. It sits beside several other buildings that were once a part of the town’s mining operations, which were considered a model for other coal towns.
Glen Rogers Company Store (Wyoming County)
The Raleigh-Wyoming Coal Company once employed nearly 1,000 men. The massive brick shell of the old company store for the sprawling camp is still standing, though fire has damaged its interior. The windows and doors are gone, and the massive frames gape open, giving visitors a vast glimpse at the overgrown greenery inside.
In addition to its size, the area is known for its many mining disasters. It was considered one of the most dangerous place to work in the state.
Which abandoned mine site would you like to visit?