Journey Through Time: Exploring Fayetteville’s Rich History
Are you a history buff with a passion for exploring the past? Fayetteville, West Virginia, is a hidden gem filled with historical treasures waiting to be uncovered. Join us on a five-day journey through our notable town and its surrounding areas, where you’ll delve deep into the rich history of the New River Gorge and the stories that have shaped this region. From coal mines to ghost towns, from Civil War markers to historic museums, Fayetteville has it all.
Begin your day with a delicious breakfast at Cathedral Cafe, a former church converted into an artsy, relaxed hangout for coffee & eclectic American fare.
With a full stomach, walk over to Fayetteville’s historic downtown. The town was originally named Vandalia after its founder, Abraham Vandal. But the name was changed in 1873 to Fayetteville in honor of Marquis de Lafayette. Many structures in town have stood the test of time and are now part of the Fayetteville Historic District. The district boasts 75 historic homes and buildings.
Take your time and wander downtown, where you’ll discover unique shops and enjoy dining at local eateries. Check out the walking tour to help you explore.
For a quick and tasty meal, grab lunch at The Take Out and carry on with your history lesson.
Take a short drive from Fayetteville to the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, your gateway to the history of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Explore the center’s exhibit room, filled with captivating photographs and displays that tell the story of the people, towns, industry and history of the New River Gorge. Enjoy an 11-minute video highlighting the park’s beauty at the New River Gorge Visitor Center.
After leaving the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, step back in time by driving down Fayette Station Road under the iconic New River Gorge Bridge. Download the audio tour to dive deeper into the rich history of the area.
Make a left turn out of the visitor center parking lot. Then take an immediate right on route 19 to Lansing and Edmond Road, which is about a quarter-mile ahead. Look for a road sign marked “Fayette Station Road.” Once on Fayette Station Road, you’ll come to a fork in the road almost immediately; be sure to take the left fork.
Continue on Fayette Station Road, which will lead you into the Gorge via Route 82. Along this route, you’ll encounter a series of two- and one-way roads that pass under the New River Gorge Bridge twice, offering plenty of spots to pull over and admire the breathtaking views. Keep an eye out for signs indicating Fayette Station Route 82 as you continue down this winding road.
As you reach the bottom of the gorge, you’ll cross the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge. Look for the Fayette Station Parking lot nearby. This area provides an excellent opportunity to take a leisurely walk by the water’s edge and enjoy watching the rafts passing by on the river.
End your day with a delectable dinner at Elliot’s Whitewater Bar & Grill.
Start your day at the Wood Iron Eatery with a fluffy blueberry waffle or a loaded breakfast burrito.
After breakfast, venture about 20 minutes south of Fayetteville to the modern-day ghost town of Thurmond. Explore the old Main Street on the Thurmond Walking Tour and discover the historic coal company houses along the New River’s edge. Afterward, make your way to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.
Head underground and take a guided tour of the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. Learn about the rich history of coal mining and its impact on the region as you explore the onsite museum, coal camp, schoolhouse, company store and homestead.
Refuel at the Tamarack Marketplace, West Virginia’s premier artisan market. Tamarack Marketplace has an onsite restaurant featuring local cuisine, like its famous fried green tomato sandwich and legendary chicken pot pie.
Travel to Hinton, just south of Beckley, to visit the Hinton Railroad Museum. Explore its collection of historical artifacts from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and enjoy model train displays.
Finally, savor a delightful dinner at Lucky Rivers Cafe in Hinton.
Begin your day with a visit to the Contentment Museum, located about 15 minutes from Fayetteville in the town of Ansted. This historic home turned museum, also known as the Colonel George Imboden House, houses the Fayette County Historical Society and offers a glimpse into the town’s growth and history.
Constructed around 1830, the house underwent significant expansion and renovation following its purchase by former Confederate Colonel George W. Imboden in 1872. The initial structure comprised five rooms and a detached kitchen, but under Colonel Imboden’s ownership, it underwent notable changes. Two additional rooms were added, the porch was extended and a gable end chimney was incorporated into the design. Colonel Imboden, who also held the distinction of being Ansted’s inaugural mayor, played a pivotal role in stimulating the growth of the town’s businesses during this period.
In 1930, construction commenced on a three-mile tunnel through Gauley Mountain, situated between Ansted and Gauley Bridge. The primary purpose of this tunnel was to redirect water from the New River to a downstream hydroelectric plant. The construction project required the recruitment of hundreds of workers, with approximately two-thirds of them being African Americans.
Tragically, the rock that these workers drilled through contained extremely high levels of silica, and the dust produced during the drilling process was inhaled by the laborers. As a result, the workers quickly fell ill due to their exposure to silica, suffering from a debilitating lung condition known as silicosis.
This devastating disease claimed the lives of a minimum of 746 workers. In the years following the completion of the project, many more individuals would succumb to the long-term health effects of their exposure to silica dust while toiling in the tunnel.
After leaving Hawks Nest State Park, fuel up for an afternoon of hiking at Gran Robbie’s in Ansted.
Hike to the Hawks Nest Dam and witness the mountain that the tunnel was drilled through. Continue south on Route 60, taking a left at Chimney Corner to head toward Cotton Hill. Right before crossing the bridge over the New River, turn into the parking lot on the right side of the road. The Hawks Nest Dam Trail is a 1.7-mile out-and-back trail leading to the dam, offering easy hiking along a gated access road.
Then, pay your respects at the Hawks Nest Workers Memorial and Grave Site, a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made during the tunnel’s construction.
For a lesson in Civil War history, drive across the Summersville Dam, enjoying beautiful lake views, as you head to Carnifex Ferry Battlefield and State Park. This park overlooks the Gauley River Canyon and commemorates the critical September 10, 1861 battle, in which Confederates failed to regain control of the Kanawha Valley. West Virginia’s statehood proceeded without serious threat as a result. The historic Patterson House Museum resides at the park.
End your day in Summersville with a delicious dinner at The Vault on Main.
Take a drive to the historic coal town of Nuttallburg. Please note that the road to get there is narrow and windy, so drive cautiously. If you pass a car you may find yourself needing to put it in reverse on steep terrain to find a place to pull over. Though, once there, explore the old tipple and the remnants of coal coke ovens and foundations.
Upon leaving Nuttallburg, visit Camp Washington Carver and learn about the African-American heritage of the region. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Camp Washington Carver opened its doors in 1942 as the first 4-H camp for African Americans in the United States. It was named after Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. This site is part of the African American Heritage Audio Tour, highlighting the contributions of black coal miners, railroad workers and community members.
Neighboring Camp Washington Carver is Babcock State Park, one of West Virginia’s earliest state parks. Explore the iconic Glade Creek Gristmill that was completed from parts of many old mills throughout the state and gain insight into the milling process.
Have a delightful picnic lunch at one of the CCC shelters or picnic spots in Babcock State Park.
Dive deeper into the New River Gorge’s history and get off the beaten path with a hiking tour by Rock Root River Tours. Customize your tour to learn about the area’s fascinating past.
Start your final day with a hearty breakfast at The 304.
Across the street, visit the Love Hope Center for the Arts, a historic church-turned art gallery showcasing Appalachian artists. Shop for handcrafted gifts in the gallery’s gift shop.
Take time to read the Civil War marker found at Love Hope Center for the Arts. It is the first Civil War sign in the nation that tells the story of Jewish soldiers during the Civil War. Learn about how 20 Jewish Union soldiers managed to hold a Passover seder while camped in the dense West Virginia forest.
Drive about 50 minutes from Fayetteville to Twin Falls Resort State Park. Explore the Pioneer Farm, complete with a restored 1830s log house and farmland where you can see livestock and gardens in action.
While at the state park, enjoy a satisfying lunch at its onsite restaurant. Take time to explore the Nature Center at the lodge and hike the Falls Trail.
Venture to Mount Hope to visit the Dubois on Main Museum, which tells the story of Dubois High School, one of Fayette County’s two Black high schools. The school houses a collection of newspapers, articles, pictures and items donated to show the history of the school and the stories of people who attended.
Take a historic walking tour of Mount Hope, offering insights into early life in a coalfield town. The town, known as Phoenix City, rose from the ashes after the Great Fire of 1910, thanks to the ferocity of reconstruction efforts taken by the community. Coal production brought a lot of wealth to the town and is still visible in some of the stone structures throughout Mount Hope.
Spend your evening antiquing around Fayetteville at the New River Antique Mall, Enjoyed Again, D& K Collectibles and The Hobbit Hole.End your historical journey with a mouthwatering dinner at Firecreek BBQ and Steaks.