America's newest national park could suffer historical demolitions

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America's newest national park could suffer historical demolitions
The historic Prince Brothers Store is slated for demolition by the National Park Service. (Photo: David Sibray)

GLEN JEAN, W.Va. – Unable to secure funds to sustain them, the National Park Service has announced plans to demolish more than 30 structures and ruins, including more than 20 listed on the National Register of Historic Places in southern West Virginia.

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Per federal law, the service must seek public input before funds can be released to destroy the buildings, which include one of the few remaining historic properties at Prince, West Virginia, and two dozen structures in the Thurmond National Historic District.

The Town of Thurmond as it appeared in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy Joe Green)

The meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, January 10, 2024, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the former Bank of Glen Jean at park headquarters in Glen Jean.

The structures are located within the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, which, though the newest national park in the U.S., suffers from a lack of Congressional funding for maintenance, development, and staffing.

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The following structures are being considered for removal:

  • Charles Ashley Garage
  • Charles Ashley Outbuilding
  • May Bagoski House
  • Harold Smith House
  • Wedzel Young House
  • Tom Kelly House
  • Thurmond Ice House
  • McGuffin Garage
  • Erskine Pugh Rental House
  • Philip A McClung/Meadows House
  • Sidney Allen Ward House
  • Thurmond Package Plant
  • James Humphrey Sr. House
  • Marilyn Brown House
  • Dun Glen Building
  • Dun Glen Ark
  • Dun Glen Mini Ark
  • Dun Glen Boat Storage Rack
  • James K Carper Barn
  • Harrah Coal House
  • Harrah Outbuilding No. 2 (remains)
  • Harrah Outbuilding No. 1
  • Harrah Hen House
  • Harrah Smokehouse
  • Harrah House (remains)
  • Harrah Outhouse
  • Prince Brothers' General Store
  • Brookside Pool Chemical Treatment Building
  • Cochrane Farm Outbuilding No. 1
  • Cochrane Farm Outbuilding No. 2
  • James Phillips Storage Building No. 2
  • James Phillips Farm Shed
  • James Phillips Outbuilding No. 1
  • James Phillips House
  • Vallandingham House Addition
A preserved house in Thurmond is now slated for demolition. (Photo: David Sibray)

According to a release from the park service, many of the buildings and structures were purchased by the service and are now abandoned, dilapidated, and overgrown safety hazards that are vulnerable to trespassing and vandalism and are a burden to maintain.

"Removing the unnecessary structures would address deferred maintenance needs and eliminate excess yearly maintenance and law enforcement costs, allowing staff to focus attention and financial resources on maintaining other facilities and resources that park visitors can enjoy," the release stated.

According to the release, most were never intended for reuse by the service.

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The proposal is part of a larger project within the park funded by the to "rehabilitate historic structures, invest in park infrastructure, address deferred maintenance needs, and reduce unnecessary operational costs and maintenance burdens."

The demolition will cover the destruction of 35 deteriorating and excess structures, 21 considered historic and listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

For those unable to attend the public meeting, the public materials and additional information will also be available until January 15 on the park service planning website at .

The proposal includes removing the structures, disposing of associated debris, and restoring the sites to a condition consistent with their natural surroundings.

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Impacts related to removing these structures from the park will be assessed through the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act compliance processes.

The service plans to complete its environmental and cultural review process for this project in mid-2024 to implement the demolitions as early as fall 2024.

The Great American Outdoors Act is part of a concerted effort to address the extensive maintenance backlog in national parks.

Supported by revenue from energy development, the fund provides up to $1.3 billion per year for five years to make significant enhancements in national parks "to ensure their preservation and provide opportunities for recreation, education, and enjoyment for current and future visitors."

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Rare memoir recalls national park before Thurmond ghost town

Riding horseback, Captain William Thurmond was a familiar site in the New River Gorge.

Perhaps no small town in West Virginia has gained the worldwide notoriety that the tiny Town of Thurmond has enjoyed. A ghost town located deep in the heart of America's newest national park, the community has long captured the imaginations of historians and photographers.


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