Stony Fork, Kentucky

Stony Fork, Kentucky is a neat community to drive through and check out the relics on the road side.  Stony for is located about 10 miles east of Pineville on Kentucky 221.  Stony Fork is a coal mining camp that was founded in 1908 with the start of the Stony Fork Coal Company.  Many former coal camp houses and even buildings still remain today.
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//
I havent been able to confirm, but I am pretty sure this at one time was a Company store and later a general store for the community of Stony Fork. Today, it is for sale.
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//

Old Clinchco Post Office — Dickenson County, Virginia

Back at the height of the coal boom in the early part of the 20th century Clinchco had approximately 3500 miners in the town alone.


This is the only coal company building still remaining in Clinchco and at one time or another housed a bank, barber shop, company offices, printing press, school rooms, mortuary, and post office.


Today, Clincho is a shell of its former self.  The school has closed but the post office remains in operation at a different location.

Seco, Kentucky 41849

Seco is an unincorporated community in northern Letcher County between Flemming-Neon and Whitesburg located off US 119 along the north fork of the Kentucky River.


The Seco post office was established on October 2, 1915.


The town of Seco is named after Southeast Coal Company which had a large operation here from 1915 to 1957.   Southeast Coal Company also had a large operation in nearby Millstone.  The company store for Southeast Coal was restored and turned into a winery in the mid 90s.



Several of the old camp houses in Seco still stand and are used as residence by the people of Seco.


A Real Modern Day Ghost Town: Thurmond, West Virginia

Thurmond is a modern day ghost town located in Fayette County, West Virginia.


Today most of the town has been purchased by the National Park Service and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   Thurmond is unique in the fact that It was never a coal camp, but it was a coal town. It was a small incorporated commercial center in the New River Gorge, situated at the junction of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad main line, which connected with the various small coal company lines that served the mines. Interestingly, Thurmond was accessible solely by rail until 1921.  Today the  town is accessible by state route 25 from US 19.


The town occupies a narrow stretch of flat land along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad track, with no road between the tracks and the town.


Instead, a single-lane road crosses the New River on a single-track railroad bridge, crosses the main line, and climbs the hill behind the town so that it parallels the town 150 feet higher on the hill before dropping down next to the tracks.



The C&O station was built in 1888.


The original structure burned in 1903 and was replaced a year later.  Today It is a two story wood framed structure that was renovated in 1995 and functions  an Amtrak station and as a park service visitor center for the New River Gorge.


The National Bank of Thurmond building is a four story structure that was erected in 1917 by the Bullock Realty Company.


The building housed a jewelry store until 1922 when The National Bank of Thurmond purchased the building for $24,000.    The first level was originally cast iron store fronts but when the bank purchased the building they immediately began renovations and incorporated the cut limestone into their side of the building.   The National Bank of Thurmond was first opened in 1907 and was a victim of the Great Depression in 1931.


The Goodman Kinkaid Building is a three story structure that was constructed in 1905/1906 and consisted of two store fronts and two floors of apartments.


The Mankin-Cox Building is a three story structure and was constructed by DR. J.W. Mankin in 1904.  The building housed two store fronts and two floors of apartments.


This building was also home to a pharmacy operated by Mankin’s wife and the New River Bank and trust which remained here until they relocated to the National Bank of thurmond Building when they closed in 1931.  New River Bank and trust remained in Thurmond until 1935 when they relocated to nearby Oak Hill.


The Commisary was constructed by D.D Fitzgerald in 1929.


When the Lafayette Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1963 it took the towns post office which was located in the lobby with it.  The post office then moved to the commissary building where it would remain until 1995 when the post office at Thurmond closed.  The zip code at Thurmond is 25936.


At its peak, Thurmond boasted two banks, two hotels, two drugstores, two jewelry stores, Armour & Co. wholesale meat distributors, a movie theater, and several grocery stores and restaurants. The C & O Railroad had 15 miles of track on the Thurmond yards. The round house employed nearly 175 men and 20 local engines and their crews made their headquarters in Thurmond.

The town was placed on the National Register of HistoricPlaces in 1984.


During the 2005 election six of the town’s seven residents sought office.

The 2010 census lists the population of Thurmond at five and as those five pass away or move on to other places the houses and the land they sit on become property of the national park service and part of the New River Gorge.

Pocahontas Fuel Company Store and Office — Jenkinjones, West Virginia

One of the best tools ever developed to aid in the discovery of abandoned exploration sites to people like me has been the advent of Google Maps and Google Earth.  Back in 2011 just as winter was beginning to set in I was planning a trip to McDowell County and was roaming all over the county on Google Earth.


Down on the southern fringes of the county bordering Tazewell County Virginia near the town of Pocahontas I saw what appeared to be two rather large buildings literately setting on top of a mountain in the middle of no where as there were only a few scattered houses around it along a windy narrow mountain road.  The nearest name place on the map was a place called Jenkinjones, West Virginia.  Little did I know I had just discovered a building that had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.



Needless to say my interest was piqued and I had to make the trip down to Jenkins Jones when I was in McDowell County.  The trip to Jenkins-Jones from the main corridor of US 52 through McDowell County is quite a trek.  approximately 30 miles from the county seat of Welch along a winding, narrow road up many hills and neighborhoods including Gary and Pageton.


Both buildings were designed by architect Alex B. Mahood, the same Alex B. Mahood who designed the company store at Vivian previously covered in this blog,  and built in 1917. The Pocahontas Fuel Company store and office buildings stand  across from one another near the end of county route 8 in Jenkinjones.


The buildings were constructed in 1917 and during the years following, they were the center of activity in the busy but very isolated company-owned community.




Coalwood, West Virginia 24248


Ever since the movie came out way back in 1999 I have had a slight obsession with the town of Coalwood and a deep admiration for Homer Hickam and the rest of the Rocket Boys.  For the longest time, as I went through the haze that was my late teens and early twenties I didnt even realize that Coalwood was a real place and Homer Hickam was a real person.

Finally in 2008 strictly by chance I ended up in McDowell County, where the county welcome sign proudly says “Home of The Rocket Boys”   On that trip, which was before GPS and me with no map, I didnt make it to Coalwood or War as I stuck strictly to US 52.

Finally on a trip to McDowell County in 2013 I made it to the infamous Coalwood and the first and most vivid memory of that trip that comes to mind is my shock and awe when I saw the ruins of the Coalwood High School standing on the hill as you enter “town”.


Coalwood High School was built-in the 1920’s and was closed as a high school in the early 1950s and  Coalwood Elementary School was moved to this building.


In 1985, Caretta Elementary was merged with Coalwood, only for Coalwood to be closed in 1986. Students were then bussed to War Elementary beginning in 1987.


Both times that I have been to Coalwood, brush and weeds have been over grown at the old high school almost to the point that you cant barely see the building.  I would love to go back in early spring or late fall and explore the remains of this building.


As you travel to the heart of Coalwood down Frog Level Road you come to a set of historical information markers.  These markers tell the tale of Olga Coal Company and the town of Coalwood.







Coalwood was the proud product of George LaFayette Carter, one of the few natives of Appalachia to strike it rich when industrialization came to the mountains shortly after the Civil War. Carter was born in 1857 in Hillsville, Carroll County, Virginia, the eldest of nine children of a disabled Confederate veteran. Young Carter learned the bookkeepers’ trade. He married well, as they say, wedding his storekeeper boss’ daughter. A shrewd, natural businessman, Carter invested wisely and became a conduit for New York capital eager to develop the booming turn-of-the-century Appalachian industrial economy. Holdings in timber, coal, iron, and railroad stock soon made Carter a key player in the evolving industrial development of the rugged and remote mountains. From his Johnson City, Tennessee, base, the private and unpretentious entrepreneur expanded into Kentucky and southwest Virginia, purchasing banks, newspapers, mills, and factories


On September 20, 1869 a post office was established  on the present-day site of Coalwood called Snake Root.  In 1902 the community would change its name officially to Coalwood and the post office would follow suit.

In 1905, Carter bought some 20,000 acres in McDowell County’s “smokeless” coalfields, and began constructing an industrial community out of the wilderness. He named it Coalwood. The low-volatile, low-sulphur #4 Pocahontas coal seam there was the world standard for metallurgical and steam fuel. The seam stood some six feet high, but required a heroic, 600-foot deep shaft to reach the heart of the mineable reserves. Carter built a wooden tipple, company houses, offices, and a store to supply the needs of his workers; the nearest community of size was Welch, an arduous and circuitous 10 miles away across several devilish ridges.

The first coal came up the shaft in 1905, and by 1907, Coalwood mined some 200,000 tons annually. By 1915, nearly one million tons ran out along the Norfolk & Western rails each year from Coalwood, through Bluefield, to Lambert’s Point at Norfolk, Virginia. There, the N&W maintained a huge dockside port facility for shipping Coalwood’s product — what the railroad proudly termed “fuel satisfaction” — around the world. The abundant and economical energy from the southern West Virginia coalfields helped transform America from a rural, agricultural country into the urban industrial giant of the 20th century. Carter Coal & Coke Company, as the Coalwood operation was called at the time, trailed only the huge conglomerates of the Pocahontas Fuel Company and United States Coal & Coke in southern West Virginia in terms of productivity and employment. Soon, Carter opened a second operation at Caretta, across the mountain from Coalwood proper.


Today many of the company town buildings are still standing such as the Clubhouse.


and the Apartments

The post office however has been demolished.  It was located to the left of the Clubhouse. The Coalwood post office closed sometime in the 1990s.  The zipcode for Coalwood was 24284.

The original Coalwood Elementary has since been demolished.


The school sat where the gazebo is in this picture, the sidewalk leading to the school is still there and in use in the Coalwood Community Park.



The Coalwood Community Church is still standing and in operation next door to the clubhouse.



Reverend Richard’s church is also still standing and in use in Coalwood.


As is the Machine Shop….damaged and vandalized as it may be….its still standing.


Right behind the town pool, which has now been drained and fenced off.


And the Olga Coal Mine Office building is still standing.  Next door to this building was the big company store…..That building was demolished in 2008.




The clubhouse is boarded up and unused…sadly its deteriorating at a rapid pace.



Many of the company houses are still standing in Coalwood and being used today as residence.


As is Homer Hickam’s childhood home…..albeit the white picket fence has been replaced with chain link fence.


You can also drive down Homer Hickam Lane.

Peerless Coal & Coke Company — Vivian, West Virginia

When you are driving through McDowell County on US 52 you travel through many small communities.  Some so small, that if you blink you just might miss them completely.  That is the case with Vivan, West Virginia.    Just as you pass out of the town of Kimball, home of the World War Memorial you come into a sharp curve.  Just as you drive out of that sharp curve a road drops off the side of the hill off to the bottom land below.  Below you will see part of what was once a vibrant coal company town.


Above is a shot of the Peerless Coal Company store as I found it on an April morning while randomly driving through McDowell County for the first time in 2008.    This building was built in 1921 and in 1991 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.



Below is an excerpt from the original application material submitted to the United States Department of Interior in their bid to be  listed on the Register.

The Peerless Coal and Coke Company store sits in Vivian, a community built on a level area off highway 52. The building was designed in 1921 by A.B. Mahood, a Bluefield architect who was responsible for many of southern West Virginia’s most notable buildings. The store’s distinctive characteristics are its size, modern design, irregular plan, stone foundation, and simple decoration. Although the building has been vacant for several years except for storage, it has deteriorated little and it retains the characteristics that clearly define its role as a coal company store and office bcilding. The store’s plan is basically rectangular, but with a mysterious wing on the west side that may possibly be an addition. The wing is one and two stories and is located toward the building’s rear. The brick work and the stone foundation are the same as the main part of the building suggesting that it was either an after-thought that the architect incorporated into the original design or it is an early addition. – The main block of the brick store building is two-stories with one-story flanking wings. Mahood reserved nearly all of the decoration for the two-story facade. A concrete parapet defines the facade’s roofline on both the two and one-story sections. At the two-story roofline, a narrow concrete fret extends across the facade just below the parapet. The company’s name and date are inscribed boldly in concrete. This panel sits between a group of three multipaned windows on the second floor and the main entrance below. Small concrete brackets join the edges of the two-story section to the one-story wings in a manner reminiscent of some monumental buildings of the Italian Renaissance. Enclosed window and door spaces have slightly altered the building’s original appearance. The lower story window on the east wing’s facade has been partially filled with brick. Originally, the space probably held a group of three sash windows similar to the windows on the other wing. Most of the entry space has also been covered. Its likely 1921 — -. appearance would have-been a typical facade configuration with a center door, flanking display windows, and a wide transom over all. The facade’s west wing includes four bays. Triple windows sit nearest the two-story section. In the next bay stands an arched opening that allowed passage into a short corridor with single door openings on either side. The other two bays contain single sash windows although one has been boarded. The store’s west facade is the irregular section discussed before. The windows in this end are either sash or multipaned.  industrial windows and some have been covered. The stone work on this side is exposed more clearly than on the rest of the building. The perfectly constructed foundation was clearly built by a skilled mason. The store’s east side is the most utilitarian with its service entrance and two secondary doorways. Railroad tracks ran in front of the building instead of the side or rear which was the usual orientation. Goods had to be hauled from the train to the one-story east wing. An overhang and a concrete platform extend in front of the east side’s doors. A projection on the outside of the building between two of the doors may be an elevator shaft. The store is located on a flat area that was easilv accessible from the mine and residential area. Other community buildings, such as the large school building and the clubhouse were located nearby – making – this central part of Vivian a true hub of activity. The Peerless Coal and Coke Company store and office building has been altered little since it was built in 1921. It is in good condition remains an outstanding example of coal company construction.

The Peerless Coal and Coke Company in Vivian is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under criterion A for its association with southern West Virginia’s coal mining industry and under criterion C for its architectural significance. The building was designed by the well-known Bluefield architect, A.B. Mahood, and it played an important role as a commercial and social center in the mining community (for detailed historical information about the Pocahontas Coalfield and the significance of company stores, see sections E and F in “Coal Company Stores in McDowell County”, multiple property listing). It illustrates the typical characteristics of company store construction with its size, large porch, location, and simple decoration. The building stands as an impressive and representative example of a coal company store and the necessity of its presence in the industrial community. Before the coal industry boomed in southern West Virginia at the end of the nineteenth century, the area consisted of scattered, self-sufficient farms and communities. Because of the absence of railroads and good roads, the southern counties had little interaction with the rest of the – nation. After the Civil War, however, the nation’s industrial market expanded and outsiders began to turn their attention to West Virginia’s vast coal reserve to meet growing demands. The major railroads extended their lines into southern West Virginia allowing the area to be developed. Without a sufficient labor force, however, coal mining could not be productive. Companies recruited thousands of workers first from the older coalfields in Pennsylvania, and then from Eastern Europe and the American South. To accommodate these new arrivals, coal companies built self-sufficient communities to house and provide for their workers. The construction of company towns was absolutely necessary in southern West Virginia. Unlike the northern coalfields of Pennsylvania, where mining operations began in regions that were already settled, southern mines opened in sparsely settled areas with few organized communities. The company town was the most logical solution because it provided efficient and inexpensive housing for a large labor force. – – -. . – – – -. – -. Central to each of these communities was the company store. The store was usually the town’s most prominent building and was typically placed in an easily accessible location. The building often housed not only a store but also the company’s business office, a post office, and sometimes, a doctor’s office. Because of its location and multiple functions, the store provided each community with a center for social gathering.

The store and office building served as the most important building in Vivian, a community built by the innovative Peerless Coal and Coke Company. Northern businessmen established the company in 1892 on land leased from the Crozer Coal Land Association. It would have immediately constructed houses for miners and probably a simple wooden company store. The company mined in the Pocahontas #3 seam that produced some of the world’s highest quality coal. The operation soon proved successful and wealthy enough to construct its permanent buildings. Once the company established itself as a leading coal producer, it hired A. B. Mahood to design its important community buildings. Mahood (1888-1970), a native of Bluefield, West Virginia, studied architecture in the United States and then at the famed Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. When he returned home, Mahood was quick to seize upon the opportunity to design buildings in the wealthy coalfields. Although Mahood is best known for his magnificent classical revival houses and commercial buildings, he proved adept in a variety of styles including Moderne and Art Deco. Mahood was already well-known in the area because – of his work in Bluefield, Welch, and the coal communities in McDowell and Mercer counties. In Vivian, he had designed the clubhouse prior to designing the store and office building. Mahood can probably be credited for the two-story brick school building also. With the Peerless Coal and Coke Company store, Mahood departed significantly from his standard two-story, box planned stores designed several years earlier in Pageton, Switchback, and Jenkinjones. Mahood proved again that he could be flexible and design whatever arrangement a company wanted. The Peerless Coal and Coke Company needed a large building to serve its purposes but it seemed less interested in a perfect monumental box in favor of a solely functional plan. All of Mahood’s other buildings were functional too and he proved clever enough to pack all functions neatly into a box. The Peerless company may have specified a different kind of arrangement that permitted an irregular plan. The end product was a monumental, efficient design with just enough decoration to indicate its importance to the community. The asymmetrical facade is unlike Mahood’s other coal company buildings but its difference makes it quite distinguished and shows the architect’s skill in varying the designs for buildings of the same property type. Company stores were typically the center of commercial and social activity in the busy mining community and the Vivian store was no exception. Miners and their families typically visited the store daily.

to shop and to handle business matters. Because of its various functions and its location near the mine and residential areas, the company store was the center of commercial, business, and social activity in the industrial community. The store’s importance in the community decreased as automobiles and good roads allowed miners access to other commercial centers. The store and office closed after mining ceased at Vivian leaving the building vacant. Unlike so many stores that were simply abandoned, the Peerless Coal and Coke Company store has been maintained, retains its original fabric and is structurally sound. Although this store is less ornate and more functional looking than some of the county’s other stores, it reflects yet another coal company’s image and another coal operator’s individual taste. It stands as an impressive and representative example of a coal company store and its significance in the industrial community.

Today the building has been damaged by fire and vandalized almost beyond repair.




The basic outside walls and shape of the building remains in tact but the windows are busted out, the doors are knocked down and the walls are in decay.



And as you can tell from the photos posted from 2008, the last 5 years have been especially rough on the historic building.


The roof is beginning to give and cave in in many areas.


And already has in several areas.


Apparently this building has hosted a few parties recently.


Too bad people have took it upon themselves to decorate this beautiful building with graffiti.


in 2021 the Company Store at Vivian will celebrate its 100th year standing….. I hope its still standing so I can return and document that occasion.


The other significant building still standing in the remains of Vivian, West Virginia is the old Vivian Grade School.  Just like so many other abandoned schools in McDowell County, this building has fallen to the state of being a danger to the community.    Peerlessschool

And just like the other schools in McDowell County from this era at Jolo, Gary and Northfork, the school building has the name of the school etched in concrete in this almost art deco like font.


Of interesting note on this specific exploration is the fact that this day was the first time my friend Donny had been exploring abandoned buildings.  As we were inside the old Company Store we hear a truck pull up.  As we are leaving a guy from Appalachian Power is inspecting a downed power line nearby.