On the Road with Tom and Gloria travel blog

West Virginia Capitol

Beckley West Virginia Coal Mine Tour

going down the mine shaft

bachelor's shanty


superindent's house



I began the day in Charleston touring the State Capitol building. The building is relatively new - built in 1932 . The four capitol buildings prior to this were destroyed by fire. The most beautiful thing in the building is a 2 ton rock crystal chandelier - 8 feet in diameter - hanging from the rotunda dome which is 180 feet high. It came out looking like a big white globe in every picture that I took. None of the lovely definition of the crystal pieces showed. Other than this feature it is a rather unadorned marble building. I guess there wasn't quite as much coal money in 1932 as there was in the late 1800's in Pennsylvania .

I spent this afternoon in Beckley. I toured a coal mine with an ex miner as the guide. First he told us about mining in the 1920's then he would update us as to how it is done today - the new technology, the regulations, the pay. Very interesting.

Many coal company buildings were moved to this area to recreate a coal town . After seeing the bachelor's shanty I'll never again think that my RV is "tight". The miner made 20 cents per ton of coal. The superintendent made 10 times that amount and it is obvious in the difference in their housing. The super paid no rent - the miner had his rent deducted from his pay and was obliged to shop in the company store. Sometimes a family would rent a bed to a single miner to make ends meet. The coal town had - besides housing - a church, theater, store and one or two room schoolhouses. There was an average of 30 students to a teacher with the first grade sitting in the front row and the other grades followed in order. The last one room school closed in 1965 when there was a decline in the coal industry.

I asked for a restaurant recommendation and was told to go to Tamarack - a West Virginia cultural and crafts facility. The cafe inside is run by The Greenbrier - WV's famous resort. I had a chicken pot pie with a side of fried green tomatoes. When in the South eat like a southerner! The items for sale were all made in the state - beautiful glass, woolens, wood carvings etc. The only thing I bought was a book and oddly enough it wasn't about mountains or coal mines. It is about the beach and I can't wait to read it.

I have decided to cut my stay in this state short because the weather has turned cold and rainy and will be for the next few days. Seems foolish to travel the scenic Coal Mine Heritage Trail with the windshield wipers going. There are a couple of things I didn't get to do so I guess I'll just have to plan to come back someday.

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