Searching For Shadows: My Love Affair With McDowell County. RIP Welch Magic Mart

Back in the Spring of 2008 I had saw a news story on WCYB about the relocation of the entire town of Grundy, Virginia.  I hopped in my Celica and decided I had to see that project.  Somehow I ended up driving and driving and driving and ended up in Welch, West Virginia.  I fell in love, I guess its one of my quirks.  I truly love the off-beat places and McDowell County is at the top of that list.  Over the past 10 years I have explored, at last count 12 abandoned schools, most of which have been demolished. I was amazed.  There was abandoned greatness everywhere.  So much history was right there ready for me to discover.  I fell in love with Welch and McDowell County that day and that love affair is still going strong.  I remember in 2008 Welch, which is the county seat had a Big Lots store and a Magic Mart store. A few miles away there was a Walmart Super Center. In the 1950’s McDowell County had over 100,000 residents. Today, it sits at 18,546.

Over the last 10 years I have made at least 8 visits exploring and documenting.
I’ve even made a few friends from the area. Is it because I see commonalities between McDowell County and my own home town? Granted Harlan County hasnt seen the decline that McDowell has, we have still had our stumbles. A lot of my documentation has been sad happenings. From the old Iaeger High School demolition (which I still use to this day photos from as my cover photo on Facebook) To the fire at Big Creek High School, the closing of the Walmart store in Kimball, to the reworked riverfront in downtown Welch. Today another sad chapter has come to pass for the town and county.  The town’s Magic Mart closed it’s doors for the last time.
Magic Mart -- Welch, WV

Since my first visit in 2008 all of the mass merchandise discount stores (Big Lots, Walmart and now Magic Mart) have all closed their doors in McDowell County. There are parts of the county that are at least 40-50 miles away from their nearest get everything store I feel such sadness for this county and its people. At the same time I feel a weird sense of being grateful in that I found McDowell County and I have been able to document this area and its rich history.

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Marianne Theater — Bellvue, Kentucky

The Marianne is a beautiful 1940s Art Deco, single-screen movie theater located in the Northern Kentucky Cincinnati suburb of Bellvue.
Marianne Theater -- Bellvue, Kentucky

The Marianne opened for business on March 1, 1942.  It has a seating capacity of 542.
Marianne Theater -- Bellvue, Kentucky By the mid 1990s the Marianne had began running second run movies and eventually closed for business. The last movie to play in the theater was the 1998 Tommy Lee Jones film “U.S. Marshals” Marianne Theater -- Bellvue, Kentucky
In February of 2018 developers announced that the theater would be restored and turned into an event center for live concerts and other performances.

Fairview School — Scott County, Virginia

Old Fairview School -- Scott County, Virginia The Fairview school is located in Scott County, Virginia about 9 miles south of Duffield on Fairview Road, (VA Route 623). Old Fairview School -- Scott County, Virginia
This school was constructed in 1953 and served students K-12 at that time. The school was closed at the end of the 1989-90 school year.
Fairview School -- Scott County, VA Luckily the school board returned the building to the county government and the building has been in use as a community center and also serves as an outpost for the Scott County Sheriff’s Department. Old Fairview School -- Scott County, Virginia

Fairview School -- Scott County, VA

Sadieville Elementary School — Scott County, Kentucky

Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky
Since starting this blog  in 2014, I have covered nearly 80 abandoned school buildings in 9 states stretching from Eastern North Carolina to the banks of the Mississippi River in Cairo, Illinois.  Today, while researching for my newest entry covering the Sadieville School in northern Scott County, (Kentucky), I came across something I had yet to find in the reason a school was closed.  Enrollment was getting too high.  90% of the schools I have visited have been closed due to the opposite, declining enrollment.

I always thought it was rather odd that a school in the fastest growing county in the entire state would be closed and abandoned.   In 1984-85 Sadieville was home to 150 students.  By 1988 that number had jumped to 245.

The Scott County School System decided to build a larger, more modern facility to serve northern Scott County located about 5 miles south of Sadieville.   Construction was swift and by March 5, 1990, Sadieville was closed and it’s students and staff had moved to their new school, Northern Elementary.
Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky The last 28 years have not been kind to the campus. The grounds are overgrown, the front of the building is almost covered by brush and trees that have popped up.  But considering the building is closing in on being 100 years old, its still standing and relatively structurally sound once you take out of consideration the roof and especially the gymnasium area.Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky The school has obviously been used as a storage building but has now fallen victim to faulty ceilings and vandalism. Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky
Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky
I dont know if there were any windows that were still fully intact.
Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky
Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky

Center Hill Consolidated School — Bourbon County, Kentucky

A few weeks ago someone posted pictures of this beautiful building near Paris.  I knew I had to get up there soon to see it as the roof was clearly failing or had failed in the photos.  Luckily, on my way back from a dead mall trip to Cincinnati and Columbus earlier this week I was able to locate the Center Hill Consolidated School located on Russell Cave Road in rural Bourbon County.

Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky
Center Hill Consolidated School was opened in 1924 and served to consolidate three nearby one room schools.

Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky
Until 1948 the school served students from this part of Bourbon County in grades 1-12. In the fall of 1948 Bourbon County consolidated students in grades 9-12 from Center Hill, Little Rock, Clintonville and Millersburg to form Bourbon County Vocational High School. That building is still in use today as Bourbon County Middle School.
Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky The school was expanded in 1958 to include a new cafeteria and other new spaces. Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky
According to records kept the National Center for Educational Statistics in 1967-68 Center Hill School had 246 students and 11 teachers in grades K-6.
ScreenHunter 02 I cant find a definite closing date for Center Hill. I have narrowed it down quite a bit though. The school apparently closed sometime early 90s. Someone shared these pictures taken at an auction that was held for the building and its contents after closure. Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky
I base my calculation of early 90s on the shiny Chevy Corsica in this picture.
Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky Sometime in 2016 the school suffered roof failure and has fallen into a sad state of disrepair. Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky
Upon researching for information about this school I stumbled upon a Facebook group dedicated to this school, including comments from the current owner. I really feel sorry for the current owner as it seems they really wanted to save this building. Its stunning and when you drive through that stretch of road, as an outsider, you can envision how beautiful this school was when it was in its prime.
Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky Center Hill Consolidated School -- Bourbon County, Kentucky
I’ve said it so many times in this blog before, but it bares repeating…..They just don’t build them like they use to.

Big Creek Elementary — Perry County, Kentucky

Its rather odd to find three school districts who border each other have a school by the same name in all three. That was the case in Clay, Leslie and Perry County Kentucky until several years ago. I have already covered the closed Big Creek Elementary School in Leslie County in this blog. That school closed several years ago. The school covered in this entry is the Big Creek Elementary that was located in Perry County.
Big Creek Elementary School -- Hazard, Kentucky The school is located near the intersection of Kentucky 80 and Kentucky 1096 in the community of Avawam about 8 miles west of Hazard near the Perry/Leslie County line. Big Creek Elementary School -- Hazard, Kentucky
Big Creek Elementary was closed in 2014 due to declining enrollment and a planned consolidation of schools in Perry County. At the end of the 2013-14 school year Big Creek was home to 136 students in grades K-8.
Big Creek Elementary School -- Hazard, Kentucky Big Creek Elementary School -- Hazard, Kentucky

Limestone Railroad Depot — Limestone, Tennessee

Limestone Depot -- Limestone, Tennessee Can’t really find a lot of history about this building beyond the basics. Limestone Depot -- Limestone, Tennessee
The building was built sometime in the 1800s by the Southern Railroad. (later Norfolk Southern) I haven’t pinpointed an exact date, but there was a depot in Limestone before the civil war. I have found sources who claim the Limestone Depot was destroyed twice during the war.
Limestone Depot -- Limestone, Tennessee Comparing the shots I took Saturday with some that are posted on Flickr that were taken in 2013, the last 5 years have been very rough on this building and it has went down hill very fast.