This landmark property, built of native stone, overlooks the Guyandotte River in southern West Virginia near Twin Falls Resort State Park and the Hatfield-McCoy Trails—a 45-minute drive from the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. On the National Register of Historic Places, it’s among the finest examples of coal-industry architecture in the U.S.
The Itmann store and office complex was designed for the Pocahontas Fuel Company by Alexander B. Mahood, a classically trained architect renowned for his civic, residential, and collegiate compositions. Mahood designed several large company stores and office buildings in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, though the store and office complex at Itmann is widely considered his most elaborate. Other works include the nearby Hotel Wyoming at Mullens and several large college and dormitory buildings at Concord University and West Virginia University.
President of the Pocahontas Fuel Company, Isaac T. Mann, employed Mahood to design the store and office. A banker with an eye for enterprise, Mann established the coal company in 1907 and in 1916, founded the mining operations at Itmann. He had also commissioned Mahood to build several early stores and office buildings, many of which have since been demolished. Pocahontas Fuel became one of the U.S’s most productive coal mining companies.
Built between 1923 and 1925, the structure was crafted by Italian stonemasons brought in from the surrounding coalfields to supervise the construction. The stone is native and was quarried from an outcrop across the river. When the store and office complex was being built, Mann relocated the company owned-homes of miners and their families onto terraces worked into the hillside above.
In 1956, Pocahontas Fuel was acquired by the Consolidation Coal Company, later Consol Energy. In 1987, the building was acquired by Billy Wayne Bailey, a member of the West Virginia Senate representing the state’s ninth district from 1991 until 2009. Bailey maintained the structure for various tenants, including the U.S. Post Office and several beneficent organizations.
NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES
The property in 1990 was added to the National Register of Historic Places and has been declared historically significant under two register criteria. It meets Criterion A for social history and industry because of its prominence in the mining town of Itmann and its role in labor management. It also represents the movement of European immigrants to southern West Virginia in the early 1900s. The property meets Criterion C because of its architectural significance.
As a registered national landmark, the property is eligible for grants and tax credits for restoration and rehabilitation. Grants of up to 50 percent and tax credits of up to 45 percent may be provided through the State Historic Preservation Office. Additional grants may be available through the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other organizations that support rehabilitation.
Architect Mahood composed the complex in the Classical Revival architectural style using sandstone quarried across the river and trucked to the site. The structures consist chiefly of two large buildings—an office building and a store building—flanking a courtyard and connected by a loggia, perhaps the most recognizable element in Mahood’s design. The buildings are principally of stone and steel-reinforced concrete construction with casement windows and roofed in green ceramic tile. The complex is estimated to contain more than 23,000 square feet of interior floor space.
The Itmann Company Store
The store building is the larger of the two principal buildings and measures approximately 75 feet deep and 50 feet wide. The building is two stories high with a basement and unfinished attic level. Its entry-level is almost wholly occupied by a large open-plan room of nearly 2,400 square feet with a ceiling height of more than 15 feet. For much of the lifetime of the building, the large room was the central merchandising area. A mezzanine and stair at the rear of the entry level ascend to the upper floor, which boasts more than 3,430 square feet and is nearly the width and depth of the building. A basement level of similar size opens below the building and was used for storage. An extension of the store building that flanks the rear of the courtyard includes additional storage space in the entry-level and basement-level garage areas that enter the courtyard. A freight elevator, no longer in operation, provided access to the two floors and basement and opened onto the courtyard. The building and its rear extension contain more than 15,000 square feet of interior floor space.
The Pocahontas Fuel Company Offices
The office building is the smaller of the two principal buildings and measures approximately 60 feet deep and 45 feet wide. It is two stories high with a basement and unfinished attic. Unlike the larger store building, the office building contains many smaller rooms flanking a central corridor. Through the years, these rooms housed company offices, doctor’s offices, a post office, and meeting rooms. Notable interior features include an interior wall of teller’s windows set in classically styled cabinetry. The building contains an estimated 7,930 square feet of interior floor space.
Loggia and Courtyard
A covered outdoor corridor, the loggia spans the space between the fronts of the two buildings, bridging the entrance to the courtyard and allowing pedestrians to visit either structure without impeding commerce from entering and leaving the courtyard. Though styled as a classical courtyard, the yard was a busy staging area for freight being carted and trucked into and out of the company offices and store rooms. The loggia has long been a favorite gathering place for visitors and residents of the community.
Walls and Terraces
The buildings are seated within an amphitheater of stone walls and terraces. Multiple stairs and driveways lead off WV-10 and in and out of the front and rear of the complex. A series of seven earthen terraces extend upward and outward from the complex in a semicircle. On these, the frame-built company-owned homes of miners and other employees were located. It appears the community was downstream of the present community but was moved around the time of the construction of the store and office complex.
Itmann is located in the Cumberland Mountains region of southwestern West Virginia, an area perhaps best known as a destination for outdoor recreation and off-road vehicle tourism. Thousands of tourists visit the region to explore the rugged landscape using all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), utility-terrain vehicles (UTVs), and other motorized off-road vehicles. The network of trails and backroads that lead through the region is complimented by designated and maintained off-road trails managed by the state-operated Hatfield-McCoy Trails.
The region was formerly among the most productive coal-mining regions in the world. Many tourists are drawn to the ghost towns and abandoned industrial sites that may still be found within its forested mountains. Hundreds of thousands of miners and their families lived in the surrounding mountains through the early 1900s, though by the 1950s, employment began to dwindle. The richest seams had been mined out, and mechanization replaced many traditional mining jobs. For instance, the population of adjoining McDowell County had dropped from nearly 100,000 people in 1950 to little more than 10,000 today.
Though the decline in mining presented enormous difficulties, the decrease in population and industrialism allowed the environment to renew. Forests teeming with wildlife now cover vast expanses of mountain terrain, and some streams in the region are nearly primeval in their character, notably those in nearby Twin Falls State Park. Residents cite the rural landscape and its welcoming communities as a principal reason for their residency.
A significant factor in regional growth, a new multi-lane expressway now connects the area to Interstates 64 and 77 at Beckley—a 22-mile drive that can be completed in less than half an hour. A new section under construction will see a second exit built less than five miles from the property. The route will eventually extend to the US-52 expressway in western Virginia, opening some of the most rugged regions in the Appalachian Mountains to increased commerce. The expressway’s completion into the area has resulted in a sharp increase in regional residential and commercial investment.
Two incorporated communities are located nearby in surrounding Wyoming County—Mullens and Pineville, located east and west of Itmann along the Guyandotte River.
Two miles east of Itmann, Mullens is the largest municipality in the region, with some 1,500 residents. The national historic district in Mullens includes 95 buildings built between 1918 and 1929. The town is sometimes considered a bedroom community within the greater Beckley metropolitan area and is a drive of 25 minutes from the city by the Coalfields Expressway.
Ten miles west of Itmann, the seat of justice for Wyoming County, Pineville’s population is nearly 650. It may best be known for its elaborate stone courthouse, built by many of the stonemasons employed to supervise the construction of the Itmann store and offices. The Castle Rock towering near the center of the community is a renowned natural wonder.
City of Beckley
A 30-minute drive from Itmann, the City of Beckley, with a population of more than 17,000 and a market area of nearly 125,000, is the largest municipality in southern West Virginia. The city is an interstate transportation hub. Expressways I-77, I-64 and US-19 converge there. The center of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve near Grandview is just outside Beckley.
Tourism is now a chief economic force in the region, especially where off-road vehicle recreation is concerned. Primary travel draws are hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, camping, and kayaking. Though the coal industry employs many mine workers and the timber industry employs many laborers, the travel industry continues to employ and supplement an increasing number of county residents. Many residents have opened restaurants and lodging facilities, including cabins and vacation rentals, to host visitors exploring the off-road adventure trail network.
One of the southern state’s largest networks of off-road motor vehicle trails, the Pinnacle Creek Trail system approaches within a mile and a half of the property. Part of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, the trail explores more than 100 miles of some of the most rugged mountain country in the Mountain State. The nearest trailhead is located 1.5 miles from the property. In 2021, more than 94,000 riding permits were sold for the trails, of which more than 78,000 were out-of-state permits.
Twin Falls Resort State Park
One of the state’s flagship resort parks, Twin Falls hosts an average of more than 300,000 guests annually. Most are attracted by the park’s vast woodlands, though it also includes an 18-hole golf course and a lodge with 47 guest rooms, an indoor pool, and a restaurant with scenic views. Fourteen cabins and 50 campsites are also available to overnight guests. More than 25 miles of hiking trails wander the park, visiting natural landmarks that include the two waterfalls for which the park is named. It also includes a restored pioneer cabin. The park is a drive of approximately 15 minutes from the property.
National Coal Heritage Trail
Traveling more than 180 miles through southern West Virginia, the National Coal Heritage Trail visits some of the most important historic landmarks in the region, including the Itmann Store and Office. The region was America’s most productive energy-producing region through the early 1900s, providing the carbon-rich fuel that helped transform the U.S. into a world power capable of defending itself through two world wars. The National Coal Heritage Authority administrates the route.
Guyandotte River Water Trail
One of the state’s new flatwater-paddling trails, the Guyandotte Water Trail descends through some of the most rugged mountain forests in the Appalachian chain, flowing past the Itmann property on its 135-mile course from the roots of Great Flat Top Mountain to the Ohio River. A carry-down boat access site is located at Itmann across WV-10 just upstream of the property. Another is 3.2 miles upstream at Mullens. A third is five miles downstream at Guyandotte Roadside Park.
R.D. Bailey Lake
A drive of 50 minutes west of the property, 630-acre R.D. Bailey Lake welcomes campers, anglers, and boaters. Hunting is permitted in the state wildlife management area in season. The lake is an impoundment of the Guyandotte River and is an important and popular park of the Guyandotte River Water Trail. The lake is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers.
OTHER REGIONAL ATTRACTIONS
Winterplace Ski Resort
A drive of approximately 45 minutes from the property, Winterplace attracts thousands of skiers annually, notably from the southeast. The resort boasts 90 acres of skiable area and 28 trails, a terrain park, nine lifts, and a 16-lane snow-tubing park. The average annual snowfall at the resort is 100 inches, though, at Itmann, the average annual snowfall is a far more moderate 35 inches. Protected by the mountains, the valleys around Itmann also remain more moderate. January temperatures average a high of 45 degrees and a low of 25.
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
The nation’s newest national park, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, attracts more than 2.6 million visitors annually to the region. The park’s best-known attraction, the New River Gorge Bridge, is a drive of approximately an hour and 15 minutes from Itmann. Hiking, biking, angling, hunting, kayaking, and camping are popular throughout the park, though it may best be known as a destination for rock climbing and whitewater rafting.
The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve
An hour’s drive from the property, the 14,000-acre Summit Bechtel Reserve is an outdoor-recreation park that also hosts the Boy Scout Jamboree and is one of five high-adventure bases for the scouts. The 24th World Scout Jamboree welcomed more than 45,000 visitors in 2019. The 17th Interamerican Scout Jamboree is planned for 2023. The reserve is the home of the Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base, the James C. Justice National Scout Camp, and the John D. Tickle National Training and Leadership Center.
Updated on October 6, 2022 at 3:37 pm