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Mountain State Tours: Hinton, West Virginia (+Depot)

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Hinton, West Virginia is the county seat of Summers County and is located along the New River just north of its confluence with the Greenbrier River. By the time we approached the city that is snuck between the river and a high-rising mountain, it was dusk so the photographs may not be the best – but at least downtown has been covered!

Prior to Hinton’s establishment in 1873, the land was owned by Isaac Ballengee, the area’s first settler. Ballengee most likely served in the War for Independence, taking an oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1777 and was later presented a land grant of 210 acres. The first roads into the area followed Native American trails that junctioned at Hinton. The New and Greenbrier Rivers were used to ship freight, logs and lumber to other destinations. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O), however, would spur development of what became Hinton. The line at the settlement was finished in September 1872.

On November 6, 1871, Isaac’s lands were sold at auction to the C&O for $3,600. A town was platted by civil engineer Bennett R. Dunn into 178 building lots and in early 1873, the C&O conveyed all of the lots, sans five lots and the land needed for a terminal yard, to the Central Land Company for $12,000.

The first major industry to take root was in regards to lumber, which included timbering operations and saw mills, followed closely by the development of coal mines and coking operations. Branches from the C&O led to various coal operations and timber cuts, which led to good fortunes for not only the railroad, but for the area. A major flood in 1878 set back the town temporarily, but the community rebounded, incorporating in 1880. Hinton, as the new town was called, was named after John “Jack” Hinton, a prominent lawyer of Summers County.

In 1892, the C&O completed shops at Hinton, which included a roundhouse with 17 engine stalls and a car repair shop that held 40 cars, employing 540. Freight and passenger depots were built in 1891, and a YMCA was added in 1891. Hinton’s population increased quickly, adding 300 in just one year to Hinton’s roster. By 1908 the population had jumped to 6,000, and by 1925, that number had increased to over 8,800.

Employment for those industries remained relatively steady until the late 1950s when all timber stands had been exhausted and the coal mines were wiped. Coupled with the changeover from steam locomotives to diesel mid-20th century, many workers were no longer needed at the terminal yards and railroad employment began to decline.

The completion of the Bluestone Dam in 1949, a flood control and recreation project, along with the creation of Bluestone State Park, led to an increase in tourism in the region. Additional tourism developments included Pipestem State Park and New River Gorge National River. In 1984, downtown Hinton was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The corner structure, 301 Temple Street, is a Queen Anne-style brick building with a hexagonal oriel. The building was home to the National Bank of Summers until a new bank was built at 201 Temple Street, now home to Summers Public Library. The bank was headed by JAmes T. McCreery, president, C.B. Mahon, Vice-President, J.H. Jordan, Cashier, and O.P. Vines, Assistant Cashier. Built around 1890.

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The Italianate vernacular building at 221 Third Avenue is two-stories high with a second-story open porch that includes replacement wood balustrade and roof with scalloped rafter tails, supported by iron pipes. The building was built around 1890.

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211 Third Avenue is a two-story vernacular commercial building with a tan-colored brick facade facing Third Avenue and generic red brick facing the alley. The building was built in 1920 with Peck as an identifying builder on the keystone over the arched opening.

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200 Third Avenue is a three story Italianate that was once home to the J.R. Dolan Company, a furniture and hardware store. The building was constructed in 1890 and features segmental-arched openings, flat topped windows and bay spacing articulated by corbeled brick spandrels. The adjoining building is 215 Third Avenue, a three story Italianate that has been rehabilitated. It was constructed around 1890. Next door is 218 Third Avenue, an Italianate three-story built around 1890.

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300-302 Temple Street and 301-311 Third Avenue is contained within this four-story Neo-Classical Revival-style commercial structure. The first floor storefronts have been altered, but the remainder of the building is mostly intact, with limestone beltcourses and metal trim at the top.

The building was designed by Huntington architect J.B. Stewart and was built for $60,000 by the Big Four Improvement Company, a consortium of four major fraternal railroad organizations, in 1907. The consortium included the Order of Railway Conductors, the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen.

Until 1925, the post office was located on the ground floor. The top three floors, from 1930 to 1979, was occupied by the private Hinton Hospital, owned by surgeon Dr. William L. VanSant (born 1885) who came to Hinton in 1915. There were only three private hospitals in the state, the others being in Charleston and Clarksburg.

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The First National Bank Building, at 221 Temple Street (corner of 3rd Avenue), is an Art Deco-style structure with a first floor of polished marble. The parapet contains corbeled brick cornice and stylized floral motifs. The building was built in 1941.

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217 Temple Street is an Italianate-style commercial building. The cornice is original with brackets and a frieze ornament. The building was built around 1900.

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213 Temple Street was built in 1906 and is a three-story Italianate commercial building. The structure features one of the finest Art Deco-style Carrara glass storefronts, incorporating “HUB CLOTHING CO” along the signband. The upper facade features a flat-topped fenestration, Roman brick finishes, and a bracketed metal cornice bearing “R.R. FLANAGAN 1906″ at the top. Entrepreneur R.R. Flanagan constructed the building, and in 1913, R.C. Neely (born 1888) established “The Hub” in his building, later joined by his brother Clyde and his son Harold.

The Art Deco-style storefront was installed in 1929 by local contractor Martin Brothers.

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211 Temple Street is a four-story commercial building constructed in 1905 for the Lowe Furniture Company. Part of the front facade includes a garage door.

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201 Temple Street was constructed for the National Bank of Summers in 1921-1922. The third financial institution in Hinton, the Bank of Summers opened in 1895, and in 1906, it became a national bank and assumed the name National Bank of Summers. The building was built under the presidency of James T. McCreery (1906-1925).

The building was designed by New York architect M. Bates of Huntington, West Virginia.

The building is now home to the city library.

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300-310 Second Avenue, at the corner with Temple, is home to a three-story Neo-Classical Revival-style building shared by the Laing-Humphries Company, Citizens Bank and the Elks Lodge. A pedimented entrance along 2nd Avenue leads to the Elks lodge rooms above. The building was built in 1907.

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316-320 Second Avenue and 135-139 Ballengee Street was known as the Hotel McCreery, built of brick with Neo-Classical Reviva-style trim in 1907. At one point, the top floor featured balconies. The structure features flared lintels with keystones, a metal cornice with modillions. It was designed by Washington D.C. architect Frank P. Milburn (1868-1926) who designed state capitol buildings and courthouses, along with business blocks throughout the eastern United States.

The hotel was owned by the Hinton Hotel Company and was named after James T. McCreery (1844-1925), a Confederate veteran and local entrepreneur who was president of the National Bank of Summers from 1906 until his death.

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The building is being restored.

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The Summers Memorial Hall at First Avenue and James Street was constructed in 1938 and is a public auditorium with a temple-form center section flanked by side wings. The design is similar with Colonial Revival. The interior features a rotunda extending from the basement through the second story, and includes an auditorium with a stage and balcony, and Art Deck lighting. It was built “in memory of those who served,” and the cornerstone was laid by the American Legion Department of West Virginia.

The building was a WPA project #2579.

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100 Union Street is home to Central Baptist Church, an imposing Neo-Classical Revival-style church with a three-bay facade and recessed entry with Corinthian columns in antis. The congregation dates to 1894 and met initially at Bruce Hall, which later became the Hotel Miller. Other meeting sites included the Parker Opera House and an earlier frame church at Ballengee Street.

The current church, designed by Charleston architect Frank Crowther, was first occupied on August 9, 1925.

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308-310 Third Avenue is a two-story vernacular commercial building with two storefronts and a second-story shed-roofed porch with Eastlake-style posts and spindle railing. The building was built around 1900.

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The First Presbyterian Church, a large Neo-Classical Revival-style church at 220 Third Avenue, is a five-bay temple-form facade dominated by six half-round Corinthian pilasters.

The congregation dates to 1873, and initial worship was held in a variety of sites. A building was erected along Temple Street in 1885-86 until 1927 when the current building was constructed under Rev. J.W. Rowe. The church was designed by H. Rus Warne of Charleston, a student from Parkersburg that studied in the Beaux-Arts tradition who gained experience in Paris and Rome before moving to Charleston. Warne founded Silling Associates and was one of the most important 20th century architects from West Virginia.

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The Summers County Courthouse along Ballengee Street features a central three-bay section with appended octagonal towers with finials and small dormers with Gothic Revival-styling on one of the towers. The remainder of the building features a unique Italianate-Romanesque style. Designed by Frank P. Milburn (1868-1926) who designed courthouses, state capitols and business blocks in the eastern United States, the courthouse was constructed in 1875-76. Octahedral towers were added in 1893-98, and the structure was doubled in size in 1923-25 with identical construction and two more towers. Vaults and offices were added in 1934.

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The former Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Depot, still in use by Amtrak, was constructed around 1890. The building is a long depot structure of common bond brick construction, with a three-story central section flanked by two-story side wings. The exterior features surfaces trimmed in rock faced stone. A 1930 Sanborn map shows that the express office was in the easternmost room, with offices in the interior four rooms and a store in the westernmost room. The station is along the Cardinal route and saw the departure of over 8,600 in 2011.

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I ended the tour with 212 Ballengee Street, a buff-colored brick American Foursquare residence with a hipped roof of tile with broadly-overhanging eves with stylized paired scalloped rafter tails. The corners feature quoins. Unfortunately, the open front porch has been enclosed. The house was built around 1910.

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While Hinton is a little rough around the edges, it is prime for investment going into second decade of the 21st century. New cafes and shops are opening in newly rehabilitated buildings in downtown, and a new swimming pool, built entirely with donated money, has added a nice attraction for the area’s 5,000-plus residents. It’s close proximity to the New River Gorge National River and several rugged state parks is lending Hinton to becoming a recreation destination similar to Fayetteville and Lewisburg. Keep it coming!

Further Reading

a. Hinton, West Virginia: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/hinton-west-virginia/

b. Amtrak Station: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/hinton-west-virginia/chesapeake-and-ohio-railroad-hinton-west-virginia-depot/

c. First Presbyterian Church: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/hinton-west-virginia/first-presbyterian-church/

d. Summers County Courthouse: http://urbanup.net/cities/west-virginia/hinton-west-virginia/summers-county-courthouse/

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