Cultural Historic Survey for the Proposed Mid-Vol Coal Sales Grey Eagle Surface Mine McDowell County, West Virginia

Undated image of the Jenkinjones Company Store (Schust 2010).

Undated image of the Jenkinjones Company Store (Schust 2010).

Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc., routinely conducts cultural historic surveys throughout the United States. Each project is different and presents unique challenges to the architectural historians and historians. CRA, in consultation with the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office, developed an innovative methodology to meet the goals of the cultural historic survey for the proposed Grey Eagle Surface Mine.

Under an agreement with Mid-Vol Coal Sales Inc., CRA conducted a cultural historic survey for the proposed 182-acre Grey Eagle Surface Mine in Jenkinjones, McDowell County, West Virginia. Prior to this survey, CRA had developed an innovative methodology in consultation with the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (WVSHPO) to identify, evaluate, and consider effects to historic properties that may be affected by large-scale surface mines. CRA employed this methodology to define an area of potential effects that accounted for both potential blasting and visual effects to historic properties. A records review revealed there were 46 previously recorded resources within the APE, including Pocahontas Fuel Company Store and Office Buildings, once the centerpiece of the model coal company town of Jenkinjones. The coal company store and office building were previously listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) under Criteria A and C for their significant historical associations with architecture, commerce, and coal industry.

The Methodist Church of Jenkinjones.

The Methodist Church of Jenkinjones.

During the field survey, CRA identified 98 architectural resources and 2 historic cemeteries within the project’s area of potential effect: two were the NRHP-listed properties; seven were found to possess NRHP potential and were advanced to detailed study; and the remaining 89 architectural resources were found to have no potential for listing in the NRHP. In addition to the Pocahontas Fuel Company Store and Office Buildings, CRA identified three additional properties as eligible for inclusion in the NRHP: the Morning Star Baptist Church, the Methodist Church of Jenkinjones, and the Norfolk and Western Railroad Trestle. CRA found that the widespread decay and loss of material features throughout the APE, including 74 percent of all the housing stock in the coal company town, prohibited consideration of Jenkinjones a historic district or mining landscape.

NRHP-Listed Pocahontas Fuel Company Store.

NRHP-Listed Pocahontas Fuel Company Store.

CRA applied the Criteria of Adverse Effect to each historic property in the area of potential effect. Because of the nature of the proposed mine, changes to the setting, and the characteristics that constitute the significance of the historic properties, CRA recommended that the proposed mine would have no adverse effect on the Pocahontas Fuel Company Store and Office Buildings, but found that it might affect the other three historic properties. CRA worked with the applicant to develop specific commitments to avoid adverse effects to the Morning Star Baptist Church, the Methodist Church of Jenkinjones, and the Norfolk and Western Railroad Trestle. The WVSHPO agreed with CRA’s recommendation that, in light of the applicant’s actions, the proposed surface mine would have no adverse effect on any historic properties.

This project demonstrates how CRA used an innovative approach, the appropriate use of technology, rigorous research, thorough fieldwork, and consultation to protect historic properties and help the client move toward agency approval for their mining permit.

References:

Schust, A. P. 2010. Billion Dollar Coal field: West Virginia’s McDowell County and the Industrialization of America. Two Mule Publishing, Harwood, Maryland.

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