Community of the Month: Ansted, WV

Photo courtesy of the WV Gazette Mail

Congratulations, Ansted, WV for being August’s Community of the Month.

Ansted is located along the Midland Trail on Route 60, overlooking the scenic New River Gorge. Ansted’s history is deeply rooted in the coal industry, but today Ansted may be best known as a tourism destination. Over the years, the town has seen many businesses close, and like so many former coal towns, is no longer quite the bustling epicenter it once was. However, with remote working capabilities on the rise, and increase in outdoor recreation, locals eagerly look forward to what is in store for Ansted’s future. We are proud to share the many benefits Ansted already has to offer here.

Recreation and Physical Activity

Ansted’s location along the New River Gorge makes it a prime destination for tourists, but also an incredible outdoor outlet for locals year-round. Here are just a few ways to get active in Ansted:

  • Hawks Nest State Park sits on the edge of Ansted where guest may hike, fish, paddle, and more.
  • Hawks Nest Rail Trail is an approximate 2-mile connector trail from Ansted to the Hawks Nest Park. Its wide, graveled gentle grade make it a perfect walk or bike destination for the whole family. Visitors enjoy views of Mill Creek along the way, with opportunities to see remnants of historic coal mining activity. The trail ends at the Hawks Nest Lake where visitors may choose to take a tram to the top of the Hawks Nest Park, or a jet boat ride up the New River.

Active SWV’s Ansted Trail Blazers Walking Group began walking the Rail Trail last fall. Subscribe to Active SWV’s monthly newsletter and visit our website calendar to follow as free physical activity programs resume.

  • The New River Dries is a popular section of the New River minutes from Ansted along Route 16, great for whitewater boaters. At lower river levels, the Dries become a family-friendly place to fish and play from the riverside.
  • Cotton Hill Bridge Day Use Area is located at the end of Cotton Hill Bridge as it crosses the New River also offers hiking, wildlife observation, fishing and a boat launch. Rock climbers may also find some excellent bouldering in the area.
  • Midland Trail Community Center, formerly Ansted Middle School, is available for sports league practices, special events and more.
A Hidden Gem

The Ansted Skating Rink is a well kept secret in this town, despite receiving the occasional national publicity. While the rink opened in the 1950s, and was even named the “#1 Most Unique Skating Rink You Must Visit Before You Die,” many locals have yet to visit it. However, older generations who grew up in Ansted have fond memories of the rink. The rink is tucked in the trees and down 78 wooden stairs from Route 60. With its open air tree house-like setting, original wood floors, and skates from the 50’s, it is a must for your bucket list.

A Coal Mining Past

The Town of Ansted was founded in the 1870s, and named after English geologist, David T. Ansted who was tasked with investigating the area’s potential for coal mining. The area proved to be a rich in coal deposits. As a result, Mr. Ansted and former Confederate Colonel George W. Imboden purchased the 4,000 acres that is present-day Ansted. They opened the Gauley-Kanawha Coal Company, which changed names multiple times and eventually closed after bankruptcy. Other coal mining companies including Mill Creek Colliery Company continued to mine in Ansted until the early 1950s.

At a glance, little evidence remains of Ansted’s coal heritage. However, those willing to explore can still find remnants of coke ovens, railroad beds, and coal company houses.

A Historic Tragedy

Perhaps the most prominent historic event of Ansted is the Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster of 1930. Some even consider it the worst industrial disaster in American History. In this year, construction began on a 3-mile tunnel engineered to divert water from the New River through Gauley Mountain. The tunnel would provide electricity to the Electro Metallurgical Company. Construction employed nearly 3,000 workers, two thirds of which were African American men fleeing the South. At least 764 workers died within 5 years of the project due to intense exposure to the silica dust they had to drill through. Generations later, relatives of the deceased still grieve over what they believe could have been an avoidable tragedy.

Places to See
The Mystery Hole. Photo courtesy of @WestVirginiaTravelQueen

The Mystery Hole – An Americana novelty opened in 1973. Challenge your senses where the laws of physics seem not to apply.
Ansted Cultural Heritage Museum – View pieces from a variety of collections including pre-Civil War and Civil War era art and artifacts.
Tyree Tavern – Nicknamed “The Halfway House,” this is suspected to be the oldest building in Fayette County. At one point, Tyree Tavern housed both Union and Confederate soldiers. It eventually became a battlefield hospital. Today, Tyree Tavern is a private residence but you may still pass by this historic site.

Local Share

Active SWV staff Veronica Crosier, an Ansted Native, reached out to her hometown locals to share some of their favorite memories, and nostalgic photos. Many told stories of summer nights at the old Cinema 36 theater, visits to Wall’s Department Store, homecoming parades, and holiday drives past the Lights Along The Midland Trail light display.

Household names were repeated. Some are nationally famous, like Larry Thomas Pridemore, the Ansted native who went to play eight seasons for the NFL Atlanta Falcons. Some are locally famous, like the late Mr. William Bragg, a beloved principal at Montgomery High School who made the commute from Ansted for many years.