HISTORIC RALEIGH COAL AND COKE POWERHOUSE

Agent Contact:
David Sibray, 304-575-7390, Randy S. Burdette, 304-667-2897

HISTORIC RALEIGH COAL & COKE POWERHOUSE

Built in 1906, the brick-and-stone powerhouse designed for the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company is a locally important industrial landmark now being studied for eligibility on the National Register of Historic Places. Renowned for its unique architecture and association with the growth of the regional coal industry, the property remains a practical structure ideally suited as a warehouse or historical venue.

ATTRIBUTES AND HIGHLIGHTS

  • Unique Historical Structure
  • Brick & Stone Construction
  • Workshop / Warehouse
  • Proximity to I-77 and I-64
  • 1.4 Miles From CSX Glen Morgan Depot
  • Proximity to New River Gorge National Park & Preserve
  • Proximity to Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine
  • Proximity to Winterplace Ski Resort
  • Market Area of 250,000 Residents
  • Tourism Destination For Approximately 3 Million

About Raleigh Coal & Coke Company

One of the most powerful coal-mining interests in southern West Virginia in the early 1900s, the Raleigh Coal and Coke Co. pioneered the extraction of coal in the productive Beckley seam, which underlay much of the present city of Beckley. It operated six mines on the Piney Creek Branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, the first line owned by the railroad to be built off its mainline from the New River Gorge. The competing Virginian Railroad also built a line to the town.

Raleigh Coal & Coke became influential in the expansion of neighboring Beckley, the commercial center of southern West Virginia. In 1929, it donated 60 acres for the development of a country club and golf course and 300 for the development of a exclusive residential neighborhood built to accommodate industry magnates and business leaders from throughout southern West Virginia.

In 1950, the company ceased operations and divested its interests, selling off lots in the community of Raleigh. Through 2020, the community declined but has recently seen increased residential interest as a site for affordable housing. Property owners in and near the powerhouse have discussed pursuing the development of a national historic district that would preserve several period buildings that remain, including several residences and company buildings.

LOCATION

Google Coordinates: 37.7568574295393, -81.17029136442058
Address: 1050 Burmeister Ave., Beckley, WV 25801
Elevation Range: 2,160 feet above mean sea level

HISTORY

The powerhouse was among the first principal buildings built by the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company at Raleigh, a company-owned community established in 1898 to house employees and their families in central Raleigh County. The company opened six mines and swiftly became one of the state’s chief coal producers, marketed under the trade name Black Knight Coal. By the late 1920s, the population of Raleigh had outpaced that of Beckley, and the company had become so successful that its officers organized the Black Knight Country Club, which featured a clubhouse, tennis courts, and a golf course raised on a hill above the town. Many of its successful officials and other investors built sizeable homes around the clubhouse.

Often recognized as the architect of the company’s success, Colonel Ernest Chilson (1869—1931) arrived at Raleigh in 1906 and established many of its first buildings, including the powerhouse. No records have yet been found identifying the builder who might have worked with Chilson. However, Chilson was highly regarded as a student of architecture himself and designed his own formidable home, “Casa Loma,” high on a hill overlooking Raleigh near the country club. Chilson also directed the design of the country club with architect Alex Mahood (1888—1970), designer of many landmark buildings across West Virginia. However, Chilson was likely too young to have worked on the powerhouse.

ARCHITECTURE

The powerhouse building was designed to perform the all-important function of distributing electric power to mines, residences, and company-owned buildings throughout the community. However, its design also incorporated ornate architectural features that elevate the building above that of a merely practical structure. The powerhouse was, in reality, the nerve center of the company and town.

Exterior

The design of the building is more ornate than other industrial buildings in the region. It incorporates varied surface ornamentation, including red and yellow brick and uncoursed, rusticated stone. A band of molded concrete, a water table between its first and second stories, includes a swastika symbol that has attracted the attention of passersby for generations. However, the building was built long before the symbol gained a negative association.

The first story and foundation are built of large blocks of rusticated sandstone block likely quarried in the area. The four sides of the first story are punctuated with double doors of iron. The first floor is approximately 10 feet high, and the second story is of like height. Each exterior wall is approximately 45 feet wide and 20 feet high.

The second story above the ornamented water table is built principally of red and yellow brick punctuated by windows, seven per side, inset with steel, approximately three feet wide by six feet high. Metal letters commemorating the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company are affixed to the wall spaces between the windows—RC&CCO.

The roof above the lower stories is hipped and of corrugated metal. It rises in two tiers 14 feet above its base from the top of the building’s second story. The roof is divided between its top and lower tiers by a course approximately one foot high through which a range of lower voltage transmission lines extended outward to the town and mines. The ceramic-insulated holes through which the lines passed remain in place. A range of high-voltage transformers was installed on the patio of stone that flanks the northwest face of the building but was removed when the power was decommissioned as a power source in the 1950s.

Interior

The interior of the building consists chiefly of a single two-story space, 40 feet wide by 40 feet across and approximately 20 feet high. It opens above into an attic area, which extends upward another 14 feet above a network of rafters. The ground floor has been subdivided into a large room (approximately 40 feet long and 27 feet wide) and two smaller rooms.

The larger room may have contained electrical equipment, and its floor is paved in hexagonal tiles. The unfinished floors of either of the smaller rooms are two feet below the floor of the larger room. The historical function is presently undefined. A working carriage rail used to lift and drop transformers remains in place and runs the length of the larger room.

Since the 1950s, the building has been used chiefly as a workshop and warehouse, its use facilitated by four doorways positioned at the center of each wall. Three of the doorways are approximately nine feet wide by 7.5 feet tall. A fourth is approximately 11 feet wide by 7.5 feet tall.

ZONING

The property is located in an unincorporated rural area of Raleigh County. Please refer to the Raleigh County Commission and Raleigh County Health Department for zoning requirements.

PROPERTY TYPE/USE SUMMARY

The property since the 1950s has been used chiefly as a storage facility. It is bounded at the rear by residential properties and at the frontage by industrial properties.

MINERAL RESOURCES

West Virginia law provides for separate ownership titles for surface rights and mineral rights. This property is being conveyed as surface only.

BOUNDARIES AND SURVEY

The property is being sold by the boundary and not by the acre.

ACCESS/FRONTAGE

The property is located at Burmeister Avenue at Raleigh Ridge Road, both paved single-lane routes. Each of the building’s four facades opens onto a street or private alley.

UTILITIES

Water and sewage service are not currently provided to the building but run alongside it.
Water: Beckley Water Company
Sewer: Beckley Public Service District
Electricity: Appalachian Power Company
Cellphone Coverage: Various Carriers

DEED and TAX INFORMATION

Deed Information: Raleigh County Deed Book 5050; Page 8156
Acreage: 0.2 acres +/-

Real Estate Tax ID / Acreage / Taxes
Raleigh County (41), Town (11)
Tax Map 28D: Parcel 39

2021 Real Estate Taxes: $87.94

TRANSPORTATION

Interstate expressways I-77 and I-64 converge at Beckley. More than 418,000 vehicles are calculated to travel the interstate system around the city daily. Approximate hourly drive times to regional U.S. cities include Charleston, W.Va., 1; Morgantown, W.Va., 2.30; Columbus, Ohio, 3.75; Pittsburgh, Pa., 3.5; Cincinnati, Ohio, 4; Charlottesville, Va., 3; Richmond, Va., 4; Winston-Salem, N.C., 2.5; Charlotte, N.C.: 3.5; and Washington, D.C., 5.

The Beckley-Raleigh County Memorial Airport is a 10 minute drive. An hour’s drive farther, Yeager Airport, at Charleston, is the largest and busiest flight-service center in the region, while the Greenbrier Valley Airport, at Lewisburg, provides flight options to Atlanta and Washington.

The Amtrak passenger station at Prince is a five-minute walk from the tract and provides direct access to Washington, Chicago, and New York City.

HEALTHCARE

Three hospitals, including a Veterans Administration Medical Center, serve the Beckley area along with numerous clinics and healthcare centers. State medical centers at Charleston and Morgantown are an hour’s drive and a three-hour drive from Beckley. Several medical and emergency care clinics serve Beckley, while the area’s moderate climate and access to trails, gymnasiums, and athletic centers support healthy living. The nearest hospital to the tract, Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital, is a nine-mile drive.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Beckley is the higher-education center of southern West Virginia and is notably the site of the southern campus of West Virginia University. The university’s Institute of Technology and New River Community & Technical College both maintain campuses at Beckley, and Concord University and Bluefield State College courses are accommodated at the Irma Byrd Center at Beaver. Appalachian Bible College is also located nearby at Bradley.

DINING & RETAIL

Beckley is a dining and retail hub and the commercial center of southern West Virginia. It boasts many national dining and retail establishments and unique local venues. The powerhouse is a drive of about 10 minutes from Beckley’s principal retail and restaurant district. Other remarkable independent dining venues cluster at Charleston, Fayetteville, and Lewisburg.

Independent local retail stores of note include a variety of outdoor recreation outfitters as well as several culturally significant boutiques, antiques, and collectibles stores.

SURROUNDING AREA

Raleigh is located near the center of southern West Virginia on the outskirts of the City of Beckley, the largest city in the southern section of the state with a population of more than 16,000 residents, according to the 2020 Census. Beckley serves a market area of approximately 250,000 residents. It is also at the center of the New River Gorge region, the destination of more than three million annual tourists, according to estimates by the Southern West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau. Surrounding the newly established New River Gorge National Park & Preserve, the region is undergoing a revolutionary economic change. Since the designation of the national park in 2021, it has become a swift-growing location for outdoor recreation and heritage tourism.

RECREATION

Residency in the New River Gorge region affords access to a seemingly limitless variety of recreational pursuits. In addition to outdoor recreation opportunities such as skiing and snow-tubing at Winterplace and hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, paddling, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting in parks, the area accommodates several walking, skating, and field sports facilities, including stadiums, playgrounds, and walking and biking trails. The YMCA Soccer Complex at Beckley is a nationally recognized eight-field center for soccer. Golf is accommodated at ten courses in the region. Indoor recreation centers include gyms, bowling alleys, gaming centers, and roller-skating rinks.

The region is also famous for its rock climbing and whitewater rafting. Both pursuits are accommodated in the northern section of the park near Fayetteville where the rock-rimmed New River Gorge reaches its most developed extent. A 30-minute drive from Raleigh, the rafting and climbing areas attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

REGIONAL COAL HERITAGE ATTRACTIONS

Once among the most productive coal mining regions in the U.S., southern West Virginia is now a popular destination for coal heritage tourism. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the region annually, exploring mining-era ghost towns and industrial heritage sites. While mines still operate in the region, the industry is no longer as significant as tourism.

National Coal Heritage Area

The powerhouse is located within the National Coal Heritage Area, a thirteen-county region in southern West Virginia in which the National Coal Heritage Area Authority promotes tourism, historic preservation, and economic development. The authority’s support would be available in cases where the property is managed as a heritage resource. For information, call 304-256-1747 or visit coalheritage.org.

Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine

A world-renowned tourist attraction, the exhibition mine at Beckley greets more than 50,000 visitors annually. Visitors can ride passenger cars underground through the historic mine and tour a mining museum and several historical buildings that have been moved to the park near the mine entrance. USA Today in 2022 named the mine complex among the top 10 best history museums in the U.S. The attraction is a five-mile drive from the powerhouse. For information, call 304-256-1747 or visit beckley.org/coal-mine.

Black Knight Country Club

Established by the officers of the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company in 1928, the Black Knight Country Club hosted the elite in the region for generations but, in recent years, was purchased by the City of Beckley as a municipal park. The park includes tennis courts, a conference center, a swimming pool, and a nine-hole golf course. Though marketed locally as “historic,” the property is not on the National Register of Historic Places but may be determined to be eligible. The park is a 1.7-mile drive from the powerhouse. For information, call 304-253-2661.

National Mine Health & Safety Academy

The nearby mine academy is a federal facility established by the Mine Safety and Health Administration to train mine safety and health inspectors and technical support personnel. The 80-acre academy can train 600 students annually and includes classrooms, residence halls, a gymnasium, a mine rescue station, an emergency operations center, and a mine simulation laboratory. The academy is a 5.4-mile drive. For information, call 304-256-3100 or visit msha.gov.

Nuttallburg National Historic District

Thousands of tourists visit historic Nuttallburg in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, where the National Park Service has preserved and restored a ghost town and coal mines in a remote national historic district. The only motor vehicle access to the site is through Winona, though hikers and kayakers may also access the site by the New River and on trails. The site is an hour’s drive from the property. For information, call 304-465-0508 or visit nps.gov/neri/learn/historyculture/nuttallburg.htm.

Bramwell National Historic District

The national historic district at Bramwell contains a collection of landmark residences built by highly successful coal industry officials and entrepreneurs. Known colloquially as the “City of Millionaires,” the village of some 60 historic properties located in a bend in the upper Bluestone River attracts many coal heritage tourists. It is being developed as a resort-living community. All-terrain-vehicle riders much visit the town. Bramwell is an hour’s drive from the powerhouse. For information, call 304-248-8595 or visit bramwellwv.com

OTHER TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

In addition to heritage tourism, hiking, biking, and paddling are important attractions in the region. All-terrain vehicle tourism is growing in the former coal-mining region to the west of the powerhouse where vast tracts of forest land have been opened for recreation.

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

America’s newest national park, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, approaches within three miles of the property and has dramatically influenced the economic outlook for the region. Tourism officials estimate visitor traffic has more than doubled since it was established a year ago. The park may best be known as a destination for hiking, biking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting, though the immediate area is highly regarded for fishing, hunting, and hiking. The Glade Creek is one of the most popular catch-and-release trout streams in West Virginia and is only 3.5 miles from the property. Grandview is one of the top visitor attractions in the park and affords spectacular views of the New River Gorge at its deepest and widest point.

Grandview

Grandview has been attracting picnickers and sightseers for generations as a primary destination in the new national park. Both the park and the adjacent community of Grandview are named for the spectacular views of the narrowing valley of the New River afforded from clifftop overlooks. The main overlook at Grandview and the nearby Turkey Spur overlook are among the most visited locations in the park. The summer outdoor dramas “Honey in the Rock” and “Hatfields & McCoys” have attracted visitors to the park’s Cliffside Amphitheatre since 1974.

Little Beaver State Park

One of the most community-driven parks in the state park system, Little Beaver is a favorite local destination for fishing, hiking, biking, and camping. A drive fewer than five miles from the property accommodates easy access to outdoor recreation when national park facilities may be crowded. The park includes 18-acre Little Beaver Lake, ideal for flatwater kayaking, and a 46-site campground open year-round.

Winterplace and Glade Springs

The ski resort Winterplace is a drive of approximately 25 minutes south of the property. It boasts nine lifts, 27 trails, night skiing, and a snow tubing park. Adjoining I-77,  it’s easily accessible  for millions of skiers and markets itself as “Where the South learns to ski!” Also nearby, the resort at Glade Springs offers three world-class golf courses and country-club amenities in a residential gated community.

Glade Creek Trails

Maintained by the National Park Service, the Glade Creek Trails system includes more than 15 miles of woodland trails that visit wetlands, waterfalls, and some of the most remote forests in the national park. Its southern trailhead is a drive of fewer than fifteen miles from the powerstation. Glade Creek is also a beloved trout stream, and its swimming holes are popular in summer.

Burning Rock Off-Road Park

More than 100 miles of all-terrain vehicle trails explore this 8,000 acre off-road park 15 miles southwest of Raleigh. The 70-acre trailhead and campground features a general store, pavilion, campground, rustic cabins, RV hookups, glamp and platform tents, restroom and shower facilities, and a vehicle wash. Coal heritage tourism is popular with off-road adventure tourists.

HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS REGARDING THE RALEIGH COAL & COKE POWERHOUSE

Centralized Power Plant for New River Mines

Article from The Black Diamond, Vol. 54, Jan. 2, 1915

One of the interesting features in the New River district of West Virginia is the use of power generated at a central power plant. One user of this power is the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company.

The Raleigh powerhouse or substation is absolutely fireproof. It is connected to the lines of Virginian Power Company, whose power plant is located at Cabin Creek Junction on the main line of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and on the bank of the Kanawha River, which is about fifty miles from Raleigh.

The primary current furnished by the Virginian Power Company to the Raleigh substation is 44,000 volts alternating current. The transformers at the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company’s substation reduce the primary current down to 2,300 volts and 428 volts—the 2,400-volt secondaries are used for electric lighting and power service on the outside of the mines. The 428-volt secondary lines operate rotary converters, which convert the alternating current to a direct current for the operation of 500-volt equipment on the inside of the mines. The latter equipment consists of 24 electric mining locomotives, a number of electric mining machines, and the mine pumps. Alternating 2,300-volt motors operate the mine ventilation.

The Raleigh Coal & Coke Company’s substation has a capacity of 1,500 kilowatts, 1,000 of which are direct current and 500 of which are alternating current. Six electric power lines are running from the substation to operate the mine equipment of the six Raleigh Coal & Coke Company’s mines. Three lines are connected with this substation for electric lighting purposes for the homes, street lighting, and administration buildings. The town water supply is furnished by a high-pressure, electrically operated pump installed in the substation. Lines are running from this substation to an electrically operated sawmill, which is operated by the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company. The water for the Chesapeake & Ohio engines is also pumped by electric power from substation.

The Raleigh Coal & Coke Company’s holdings are more than 10,000 acres, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad running through the property for a distance of ten miles. The mines are all served by both the Chesapeake & Ohio and Virginian railroads. The company owns  487 tenement houses in which its employees live. The company also operates foundry and machine shop, which makes its own castings and does its own machine work in the way of repairs, and manufactures many of its own mine supplies. It also operates a bakery and slaughterhouse to supply the stores. It has 65 miles of railroad or track into the mines. The seam of coal operated is one of the New River series known as the Beckley seam, which is from six to seven feet in thickness, in which there is no parting from the top to bottom. It has an exceptionally good roof or top.

The mines are located in Raleigh County on the Piney Creek branch of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and the Beckley extension of the Virginian. Two of the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company’s tipples are equipped for making the different sizes of prepa coal. The company also operates one mine in the Sewell coal, and the entire 10,000 acres are underlaid with what is known as “Pocahontas No. 3” and it is estimated that there are over 100,000,000 tons of coal available from the holdings of the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company.

Conditions at Raleigh in some ways ideal

Article from The Charleston Daily Mail, Nov. 29, 1915

Among the many mining plants I have studied and reported upon in past years there has been none which better pleased me than that of the Raleigh Coal & Coke Co., at Raleigh, Raleigh County. In natural conditions for operating, efficiency in the way it has gone after the coal, equipment, physical appearance of the camp, provision for the men and their families, the Raleigh Coal & Coke Co. has attained an almost ideal condition.

The company operates six mines on the Paint Creek Branch of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, about one and one-half miles east of Beckley, the county seat. The coal is known as the Beckley seam of the New River-Pocahontas series and measures from 4-1/2 to 13 feet in thickness, averaging 51 throughout its holdings. At present about 900 employees are carried on its payrolls. The present output per month is approximately 60,000 tons, but this will soon be increased to 100,000 tons, practically all of it run-of-mine and going to tidewater.

The mines of this company are entirely free from gas and yet contain water more than sufficient to prevent dust accumulation and explosions from such cause. The roof over the seam and the floor beneath it is stone and free from draw slate, and ventilation is perfect throughout all the workings, while the mines open near the water, rendering it unnecessary for the men to make long climbs or to ride, at great hazard, up and down long inclines to and from their work.

Equipment of Plant

Power for the operations is supplied from a central power station through two 500 horsepower Westinghouse motor connections which run the mining machines used by the company and the 26 electric locomotives employed in hauling the coal from the mines to the tipple, likewise power for the machine shops of the company, lighting, etc. The substation is of stone and absolutely fire proof. At the rear end of it is an enclosure containing the transformers. These reduce the voltage from 44,000 on the transmission line, to 2,300 kw and 500 kws, as required.

A foundry for iron and brass coatings is operated by the company, and a thoroughly equipped machine shop containing lathes, a steam hammer, hydraulic press, etc. Also a woodworking shop. In these practically everything is made and repaired that is required about the mines or the buildings. A great deal of time and expense is saved this way, both for the company and the men.

REGIONAL INFORMATION

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