That development played a crucial role in the economic development of the Eastern U.S., according to a number of articles and pamphlets published in recent years that cite specific reasons why the Hinton community is gaining attention as a tourist attraction and National Historic District in the 21st century.
In addition to gaining the honor of being named a National Historic District, there are scenic and recreational attractions in the Hinton area that proclaim its rising renown in the East: Bluestone Dam, Bluestone Public Hunting and Fishing Area, Bluestone State Park, Pipestem State Park, Hinton’s Side Track Park, and the West Virginia Water Festival. The annual John Henry celebration is held just down the road at Talcott.
But even that is only a small part of the true historic picture of Hinton.
There are some 350 structures in the National Historic District itself, one of the largest such districts in the nation.
But Hinton’s good fortune of being the home of so many historic buildings rests on one important factor: the town’s relative isolation to other parts of the country, according to Steve Trail, local historian, author, and cultural enthusiast.
Result: the buildings were preserved—they’re still intact, basically just the way they were built. “It reemphasizes the Hinton Historic District’s importance to the state and the nation.”
At the same time, however, local historians are quick to point out that the Hinton mystique didn’t just happen over a period of a few years, or even a few decades.
The town’s charismatic cosmology has grown and developed over more than a century of heritage and pride among those who still call Hinton home.
Hinton, meanwhile, is representative of the late 19th century American architecture. “Hinton was the focal point of wealth during that period,” Trail explained, “and this wealth is shown in the architecture of the buildings that they left behind.”
Formerly the National Bank of Summers, the two-story structure on Temple Street is now the county’s public library. It was constructed in 1921 mostly of steel and concrete.
The Summers County Courthouse is one of the county’s most celebrated landmarks. The bricks for the building were made on the site. The first part of the courthouse was built in 1875. Octagonal towers were added in 1885.
The First United Methodist Church on Ballengee Street and 3rd Avenue is one of the oldest churches in the community. Work was completed on the building by 1890. The Big Four building on 3rd Avenue and Temple Street was built in 1907 as a lodge hall for the four “brotherhoods” of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. The building was used as a hospital for nearly half a century.
It’s high noon in Hinton and a cool breeze is blowing.
Folks are shuffling along the sidewalks. The diners are busy and the cash registers are ringing.
People come to Hinton to take in the sights and sounds of the cozy river community. There is much to see: forest-clad mountains, emerald rivers and streams, magnificent old churches, the Bluestone Dam, hunting and fishing camps, hiking trails and wonders of nature.
What brings people to Hinton and Summers County is low crime rate and recreational opportunities galore.
Just ask David Richmond, West Virginia University extension agent for Summers and Raleigh counties. “People are willing workers and the kids are eager to learn and try new things,” he says. “If you stop on the street and ask someone for the time of day, you’ll likely get their entire history. It’s easy to make friends in Hinton.”
Richmond is sold on the quaint little town that is nestled in the hills near the confluence of three sparkling rivers: the Bluestone, the Greenbrier and the New.
Here are a few things that the greater Hinton area has going for it in the 21st century: National Park Service Visitor Center, Sandstone Falls, streams abundant with fish and natural beauty; Bluestone Dam and 2,000 acres of lake for recreation and fishing; two nearby state parks; abundant housing; excellent health care facilities; cultural and leisure opportunities; mountain tops and river valleys; Amtrack Rail System and neighboring airports.
How could things get any better?
Well, that’s what the Hinton town planners and chamber of commerce are working hard to accomplish. The folks in Hinton aren’t about to rest on their laurels. They know what it takes to bring people to their friendly community—recreation and beauty.
Whatever your taste in recreational activities, Summers County can satisfy all members of the family: camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, hunting, biking, water sports and more.
“It’s West Virginia at its wildest,” one outdoor writer commented of the historical community. “It’s a wonderful place to retire. It’s a great place to live. You don’t have to stray very far from the street to experience natural beauty, friendly people, and enjoy its many moods.”
And that’s not all.
If you count up the number of houses on the National Register, you might find that Hinton has more buildings in that category than practically any town of its size in the U.S.
The Hinton Railroad Museum on Temple Street is loaded with memorabilia that includes hand-carved creations featuring the likes of John Henry statues and early steam locomotives.
But the community of Hinton isn’t looking just to the past.
Hinton and Summers County is surging ahead in the 21st century, especially in the area of education.
“People understand that the education of youth is vital to the growth of their community,” explains Summers County librarian Myra Ziegler. “Schools in Summers County offer a wide range of programs to meet the challenges of the future. At the library facility on Temple Street. The library works closely with the school programs in an effort to enrich and augment the learning environment. The library, particularly upstairs on the third floor, is filled with adult education programs, including the LAMP (literate adults mean prosperity) program that helps adults with basic educational skills and assists them in obtaining their GED. Another program upstairs is SPOKES, an adult job readiness program which helps adults seeking employment improve their job skills. We have modern facilities at the library that provide excellent environments for learning. There are strong academic programs on the college level as well as careers and technology training.” People on the third floor are making use of the opportunities from early in the morning until the library closes every day.
Summers County offers several advantages when it comes to providing senior housing, too. In-town single-family homes are affordable and convenient. Apartment complexes and assisted living facilities are located throughout the county.
And what about the railroad?
Hinton’s heart is the railroad that runs through it.
Once upon a time, the C&O Railway Co. officials chose to locate a major western terminal in the small hamlet. Historians write that the C&O bought a farm at public auction in 1871 with plans to build a town to carry its business from Richmond, Va., to the Midwest.
By 1873, the main line ran right smack dab through the middle of town. Within a year, the population tripled.
Eventually, the town became synonymous with culture and hustle and bustle.
Then, when the C&O switched from steam to diesel engines in the 1950s, crews to service trains and track were no longer needed in Hinton.
But every October, when the New River Train cruises into the station, Hinton relives its early glamour and grace.
That’s why the residents of this proud little community are not about to change what has made Hinton historical and popular with folks from around the world.
“It’s a great place to live,” noted long-time Hinton resident Steve Trail. “It’s a great place to get out on the streets at noon and talk about the time of day.”
Source: Loot Press