Renowned for its mountain scenery, Pocahontas County, West Virginia, provides travelers with more than plenty to talk about. But one small landmark seems to inspire more interest than many others—a tiny conical building shaped like a gnome's hat.
While the county may best be known for its ski areas, its observatory, and scenic railroads, agents at its visitor center at Marlinton field plenty of questions about the roadside curiosity, according to Cara Rose, executive director for the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
"It's certainly one of the most recognizable and unusual points-of-interest we have in Pocahontas County, and a lot of people ask about it," Rose says.
While she's happy to answer questions, she's even more happy to refer the inquisitive to Keith Moore, who remembers the building as it appeared in the 1930s when it was painted as an ice cream cone.
"It was an ice cream stand when I was a boy," Moore says. "I bought ice cream out of it when I was a little kid, when I was just old enough to buy ice cream—maybe six or seven years old."
"It's been moved around a few times since then, but then it stood next to the City Service Station along what's now the rail trail."
Roxy Todd, a reporter and co-producer for the public radio series Inside Appalachia, has published a larger interview about the landmark for Traveling 219, an online guide to the scenic U.S. highway that travels north-to-south through the county.
According to Todd, the ice cream stand was moved just down the street in about 1950 and became a playhouse for young Alice and Heather McClure. In the 1960s it was moved north of town and became a very small house with room for only a small bed, a small table, and a little stand. Read the full story here.
In the 1970s, the upside-down cone was moved to its present location along the highway on Elk Mountain north of Marlinton, where its visibility increased.
About that same time, in 1974, developers opened Snowshoe Mountain, a ski resort off U.S. 219 about 20 miles to the north, and the landmark became intriguing to thousands more travelers annually.
While the cone has been kept in good repair, it has not become a developed attraction again, though plenty of visitors stop to inspect it and take selfies aplenty during their journeys through the region.
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