War Junior High School / War High School — War, West Virginia

Before I get started on this blog entry which will cover the old War Junior High School / War High School and its adjacent gymnasium and its ultimate demise I need to explain why this school and building is so important to me.  Back in 2008 when I first stumbled upon McDowell County almost by mistake I was taken aback by the amount of abandoned buildings and the amount of history that was disappearing from the communities in the county.  I didnt visit the city of War until the spring of 2009.  On that visit, I went inside of my first abandoned school as a photographer / photo journalist.   That school is discussed below.  I hope you all enjoy and if anyone is reading this with more information on this building please comment or message me.warmiddle3

During my first trip through McDowell County in the spring of 2008 I got side tracked and didn’t make it to the city of War or Coalwood for that matter.  When I got home I started studying maps and realized I missed a good part of the coal mining history along the State Route 16 corridor including War, Coalwood and Caretta.


I knew I had to go back and that following year I did.  Driving through War I saw many interesting sights.


The old war motel, the old War Jail….and then on the western side of town along the banks of the banks of the tug fork river I noticed a magnificent sprawling abandoned school complex of two buildings.


I later identified that building as War Junior High School.


Up to this point I was very inexperienced in exploring abandoned buildings and still developing my photography skills so these pictures from 2009 aren’t my best.

Im still not entirely sure as to when war Junior High School closed but my instincts tell me probably sometime around 2002-2005…..possibly it was one of the schools damaged beyond repair in the floods that devastated the entire county in 2002.


At the time of this trip I was still coming to grips with the reality that I was an adrenaline junkie and I had a thirst to explore abandoned buildings.  I was still not that adventurous and only made it inside the former gymnasium .


and only snapped one picture at that.

Flash forward to the summer of 2013.  I took an entire day out of my vacation and while on my way to the northeast I side tripped through McDowell County.  My first stop was War Junior High School.


I had become fascinated with this area by then and had developed a knack for doing a little light trespassing and adventure photography.




On this visit, which would be the last time I would see the magnificent buildings standing as they were, I made it inside the main hallway, several classrooms and even upstairs to more classrooms.  I also revisited the gymnasium.




On this trip I was amazed at how much vandalizm and natural aging and deterioration had occurred at both buildings.  The doors were wide open on the main building and the gym and vandals had taken advantage of that set up.






Notice the difference in this picture and the almost same shot that I had taken in 2009.  The building had fallen on hard times and I knew its days were numbered.



Sadly when I was preparing for my excursion to McDowell County earlier this month a friend whom I have made who is a native of War informed me that the school had been demolished and nothing remained of the building.  I still had to see it myself

Sadly, he was correct and I cant help but feel sad when I look at the vacant lot where the three story school and gymnasium once stood so proudly.


Upon returning home and doing a little research to write this article I realized that there is very little in the way of information available about this school or building online.  One interesting fact that I did lear is that this building was not originally a Junior High School


Only a hint of the former school’s foundation remains.

This school was originally opened as War High School in 1923 by the Big Creek District Board of Education.   In the early 1930s the  Big Creek Board of Education noted the need for a consolidated central high school, thus Big Creek High School, from “October Sky” fame was opened in 1932 and War High School became known as War Junior High School

Today the City of War and the surrounding communities are served by a new ultra modern sprawling one story school known as Southside K-8 School.  I know progress is good, and the new school offers a ton of opportunities for students, but I hope at least through my writings and photos something of War Junior High School will be preserved.


9 thoughts on “War Junior High School / War High School — War, West Virginia”

  1. Good pictures but it breaks my heart to see it like this. Surely not how I remember it or how I want remember it. Vandals sure did a job on it, huh! I prefer to remember the good old days. Thanks again.

  2. So Important to document the decline as well as to celebrate the past where so many students developed friendships and learned. I taught math there from 1986 to 1996 and appreciate all the students who are now friends on Facebook.

    1. Mrs Linkous Watson Keegan taught me and she was a really good teacher. Well when I was able to not look at Kellie Mullens! Lol

  3. I was a student there; Donna (Linkous) Keegan was my algebra teacher! I recall running the halls, cheering for the basketball team, doing gymnastics, the teachers, my friends, and have even shared these with my kids. Thank you for the memories.

  4. I worked at War Annex until they talked about closing it. I was a secretary there. My dad told me it started out as Excelsior High School. That was one of the black schools before segregation.

  5. I attended that school when it was called the War Annex. It was grades five and six. We would change classes preparing us to go back to War Junior just across the river for grades seven and eight. If I am not mistaken before integration the school was known as the Excelsior school that the black children attended. All the schools that I attended have been torn down. The first one being, War Elementary where the park is today, second, War Annex that you pictured, back to the Elementary building which on the other side housed the junior high portion, then up the road where the new school stands was Big Creek High School. Our high school was set on fire and it broke so many hearts. When a community looses its schools, the community dies. War is slowly dying. My hometown where my dad worked as a butcher in Jones & Spry. Good days. Gone but not forgotten.

  6. Do you have any information about what happened to War High records from about 193-1942? My Dad was in school there during that time? Many thanks!

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