Exploring the Coal Heritage Area
Back in June I decided to take a quick road trip down to the coal mining region in Southern West Virginia. Reports of the economic devastation of the area brought about by changes in the coal industry and the resulting loss of employment are not exaggerated.
Welch, WV was one of the centers of coal prosperity in the state. The city of Welch and McDowell County once boasted a population of approaching 100,000 in the 1950’s. Now, 60 years later the 2010 census reports a little over 22,000 in the county, down almost 20% from 2000.
Above are two of the many abandoned business along Route 52 that runs between Bluefield, WV and Welch. The narrow winding mountain road runs some 33 tortuous miles though steep valleys to get to Welch and is part of the larger Coal Heritage Highway.