COALWOOD, WV

The model company town of Coalwood was constructed during the 1905-12 years by the Carter Coal and Coke Co. That company operated the mines and town at Coalwood until Consolidation Coal Co. purchased the operation (along with neighboring Caretta) in 1922. This arrangement lasted until 1933, when Consolidation Coal Co., in dire financial straits from fighting the UMWA, let the properties go back to Carter. But CONSOL did improve the town while it was in their possession. Anyway, Carter ran the Coalwood coal camp and coal mines until 1947, when they became a "captive mine" of Youngstown Sheet and Tube under the name Olga Coal Company. (Youngstown Sheet and Tube also owned coal mines/camps at Dehue in Logan County, WV and Nemacolin in Greene County, Pa.) Evidently this was a prosperous era for Coalwood as there was plenty of demand for the coal to be mined and shipped to the blast furnaces of Y.S.&.T.Co., to be mixed with limestone and iron ore to create iron for steel. In 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, along with J&L Steel Company, were absorbed into the LTV Corporation, which became the new owner of the Coalwood mines. Incredibly, Coalwood was still a company town in the early 1980s, with the homes being rented to the miners and their families. Despite absorbing Republic Steel, LTV, along with most of the American steel industry, fell on hard times in the 1980s and closed the Coalwood coal mines in 1986. (I wouldn't be suprised if the coal reserves weren't getting depleted after 80 years of mining as well.) Also, the company houses in Coalwood were sold to their inhabitants, making it one of the last and longest-lived coal company towns in the USA.

The preparation plant was demolished in the 1990s, and Coalwood seemed destined to follow the pattern of declining coal camps with exhausted coal reserves and little prospects for the future. Then a funny thing happened. In 1998 the book "Rocket Boys", written by native son Homer Hickam, Jr., was published, detailing the childhood of the future aerospace engineer in Coalwood. The movie followed, and this focused new attention on the former coal mining town. Now the town is somewhat of a tourist attraction, and the annual October Sky festival is held there in, of course, October of the year. A good website about Coalwood is www.coalwoodwestvirginia.com. Another resource is www.coalwoodmemories.com



The houses are larger than those in many other WV coal camps. But many are single family houses, and some are duplexes.


Many of the homes in Coalwood still sport a vintage company-installed roofing material.


While the atmosphere in many coal camps was drab and dreary, the coal company spruced up Coalwood with these English Tudor style apartments.


I know this was the clubhouse, but what was a clubhouse used for?


This row of buildings contained the post office, company store, and the mine offices. It was probably constructed by Olga because it is a 1940s era style and and also it doesn't look like a CONSOL styled building.


The company store section of the structure. The land owner, Alawest Inc., demolished it in 2008. A source of coalfields information tells me that the residents of the town asked Alawest not to do it. However, another resident of Coalwood said, "The old company store building was a hazard to the people of our great community. It was literally falling down, and an eyesore for the people to see and live nearby. Sure, ex-residents didn't want to see it gone, but the majority of the town, who had to see it daily, were glad to see it cleaned up!"


This portion of the building was the Olga Coal Co. office. The coal camp swimming pool is behind this structure.


Evidently Coalwood once had its own high school, but it has fallen into ruin now. Coalwood students have gone to Big Creek High School in War for the past 50 or so years.


One structure that has survived from the coal mining operations at Coalwood is this machine shop. I guess this is where Homer Hickam's rocket components were machined.


Also this small shop building remains up the hollow at the site of the former preparation plant and mine shaft.


All that remains of the prep plant are these ruins, and a concrete cap on the shaft.


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