Abandoned homes or towns are my favorite places to visit. So when my husband offered to drive Christopher and I to a historic abandoned coal mining town near where he was working I got super excited!!We spent one early morning exploring the New River Gorge Valley and the lost town of Nuttallburg WV. For a more indepth history of the town and its famous Henry Ford owner you can check out the Parks Services Webpage for Nuttallburg,WV here!
We found out about the town while stopping at the New River Gorge Visitors Center and decided it was worth the 8 mile drive to see the abandoned coal tipple and Coke ovens. I have written about the New River Gorge before so if you want to lean more about the National River Check out my other blog posts. They will included info about the world famous Bridge Day Events .
After leaving the New River Gorge Visitor Center near Fayetteville, we took time to follow a map to a community called Wynonia where you leave the pavement and drive into a tree covered lane. The road is very narrow and twistly so the 8 miles seem like 10 before you reach the river’s edge and the mining town of Nuttallburg.
Nuttallburg is a coal mining town that was listed on the National Historic Registry in 1998. It was important due to its production of smokeless coal. The town was founded by John Nuttall in 1870, at its peak had over 100 houses, several schools, churches and 80 Coke Ovens. The coal was processed and shipped out on the rail lines along the New River. The community and the mine were purchased by Henry Ford and the Fordson Motor Company in the 1920’s, serving his car manufacturing plants in Michigan.
The Nuttallburg post office was closed in 1958 and a cap was put on the opening of the mine that same year. The town then slowly decayed with much of the wooden structures destroyed by weather and scavengers who used the remaining good materials for better projects.
The remains of the coal mining town include a row of Coke Ovens that once processed thousands of pounds of coal for the steel mills that lined the Ohio River Valley. The coal tipple, coal shoot, the conveyor belt cover and the mine head all remain on view to visitors. I was impressed that the ovens were still standing since they are not metal structures. In this case they are just simple brick and mortar domes with a draft whole in the top. To learn more about how important Coke is in steel production click here
Included in the collection of the building foundations is what is left of a company store and house foundations. The idea that over a hundred families depended on this simpel store made me think how lucky we are to be able to buy almost anything from around the world at our local grocery store.
At this time of the year most of the house and church foundations are covered with Kudzu vines, for better or worse. The vines make the place feel totally isolated and part of the a tropical rainforest. I told Christopher that I felt like we had stumbled into a Jurassic Park movie. With all the strange abandoned structures,trees and the wild undergrowth you felt like the last people on earth. Maybe this was the perfect place to visit during the Coronavirus. We did not see another person until we were ready to leave.
Beyond the end of the town is an even smaller community of Seldom Seen. It has a nice trail to it but is a little risky to get to and the forest service posts warnings about not getting off the trail due to holes in the ground that are part of buried foundations. I could not convince my husband that would be a fun adventure to follow the trail and take photos so that is planned for a later date. From what I gather this area was the residential area for White coal miners. The town was segregated and the African Americans who worked in and near the mine lived at the entry of the town with their own school and church.
At this point it was time to head back home but after this wonderful visit I plan to return this fall to see everything decked out in the fall colors and the Kudzu dead to take more photos.
The drive in and out of the valley was just a beautiful as the town and we enjoyed the coolness of the trees and waterfalls.
We hope that if you are in the Fayetteville area of West Virginia or near the New River Gorge Bridge you will consider taking the time to see this beautiful park and learn more about West Virginia and its history.