The Dante Coal and Railroad Museum is located in the community of Dante in western Russell County. The museum occupies the former Dante Branch of the Dickenson County Bank.
The bank was built in 1919, and closed on March 27, 1931, a victim of the Great Depression.
The following is an excerpt from the website Dantelevision: A website dedicated to preservation efforts in the Dante community.
“It was in rough shape when we inherited it, but we saw possibilities!”The Dante Branch of the Dickenson County BankThis photo was taken about 1930. Lee Long and W.D.Tyler were members of the board of directors. The bank closed on March 27, 1931. Did you notice the railroad crossing and tracks directly in front of the building? The original photo was courtesy of Eugene Addington and may be found in the book, “Memories From Dante, The Life of a CoalTown.”
The citizens of Dante and West Dante formed Dante Lives On in late 2003 as a response to a wonderful opportunity: the chance to own a building in the former company town and to create an asset that will preserve the heritage of our community and educate the region. As soon as Dante Lives On was granted non-profit status, Dickenson-Russell Coal Company, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, donated the former bank building, built in 1919. The Dante branch of the Dickenson-Russell Bank went “bust” in 1931. It reopened as the Beer Garden restaurant in the 1940s, was later turned into a teen center, and finally became the Clinchfield Coal Company repair shop. It was in rough shape when we inherited it, but we saw possibilities!
Volunteers pitched in to remove debris from the old building in the spring and summer of 2004 and made plans for its rebirth as a museum to showcase the pictures, stories, and artifacts of coal mining and railroad life and work.
The Dante community put plenty of “sweat equity” into the making of the museum.Inside, the walls were repaired, windows replaced, new lighting installed and the original tile flooring was brought back to life. Antique display cases were added. Outside, the furnace room wasn’t used and was an eyesore, so it was taken down which made way for restrooms and handicap access to be added to the building. The museum was coming together! Next were the grounds… new landscaping, flowers and shrubs were added as well as a grassy area with picnic tables.By the time the 2007 Dante Reunion Festival rolled around, the museum was ready for business. Volunteers had created exhibits, filled the displays and worked hard to make this little museum a gem in the Southwest Virginia Appalachians. Which continues to be a cornerstone of Dante’s revitalization.Partners in the RenovationGrants were obtained from the Virginia Tobacco Commission and the Morgan Foundation to hire contractors to perform major renovations, such as new wiring, new plumbing, a bathroom addition, a new roof, a new heating and cooling system, and a handicapped-accessible entrance. Rural Development gave a grant to outfit the museum with display equipment.There’s plenty to see at the museum and it is a great place for a “field trip.”Our first tour group arrived in March of 2007 when Ms. Thompson’s second grade class from Coeburn Elementary School visited. The Museum exhibits were not complete yet, but there was plenty to see. They were greeted by board members and Frank Gullett and Johnny Wallace, who told them about life in the coal mines and on the railroad. The children enjoyed trying on mining gear!It’s not just exhibits… it is fellowship, stewardship, and Community!A lot goes on in Dante; both in and outside of the museum. Be sure to stay up to date by checking our home page regularly. For questions and comments, or to be included in our mailing/emailing lists, contact the museum at 276-495-1903