World War I city, Nitro commemorates centennial May 13 at new park

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Marker at Nitro City Hall, Nitro, WV, Putnam County, Metro Valley Region
Historic marker at Nitro, WV, city hall near new park

Born of the military need for explosives during the first World War, the city of Nitro, West Virginia, celebrates its centennial May 13 with the dedication of a new municipal park honoring its military history.

The park at 21st Street and 2nd Avenue has been designed to accommodate community events and will include a stage, fountain, a doughboy statue, and a patriotic mural, according to city officials.

The town was established in 1917 after Congress passed the Deficiency Appropriations Act, which directed the development of explosive plants at locations chosen by War Department engineers, according to historian and author Bill Wintz.

The broad bottom along the Kanawha River at Nitro was the War Department’s No. 1 choice for a plant based on climate, topography, security from coastal attack, and the availability of rail and water transportation.

The name Nitro is derived from the term “Nitrocellulose,” also known as gun-cotton, a compound vital during the pre-war gunpowder shortage.

The park is located on what had been the site of a barracks for the plant, around which the community of Nitro was established.

To begin at 2 p.m., the centennial ceremony is a bellwether for a bright future, officials say.

“It is such an exciting time in Nitro,” says Nancy Harrison, assistant to Nitro’s mayor, David Casebolt — “a renewal of our roots.”

While once known for its revolutionary explosive plant, the city is now renown for its casino, antiques-shopping district, and quiet residential neighborhoods.

The ceremony will be preceded by an all-horse parade at noon, as horses and other livestock played a major role in the construction of the explosives plant, Harrison said.

Commander David Riley of the Disabled American Veterans will be the dedication’s keynote speaker, along with West Virginia’s Adjutant General Allen Tackett.

The new mural was designed by 2016 Nitro High School graduate Caire Hemme, upon recommendation of her principal to Mayor Casebolt.

Mayor Casebolt said the park will be “a place where people can come and just relax. And every time they do, they’ll be reminded of our history.”