Blair Mountain Lives! .... for now
The Uncertainty of Blair Mountain Preservation:
2006 Joint PAWV/NTHP Announcement of Endangered
Status - HERE
2008 Blair Mountain nominated to National
Register of Historic Places -
April 2009 Blair Mountain added to National
Register of Historic Places - HERE
July 2009 Blair Mountain removed from National
Register - HERE
Read a brief description of historical events at
Blair Mountain -
Read a more detailed history -
See the current status of the site -
See the dedicated website of "Friends of Blair
Mountain" - HERE
SPRING 2009: Blair Mountain Added to National Register of
Dear friends and colleagues:
Preservation Alliance of West
Virginia is pleased to announce that Blair Mountain was listed on the National Register of
Historic Places on Monday, March 30, 2009.
Nearly 20 years went into the effort to gain
recognition for this site's incredible national significance as part of
America's labor history. With support from the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, PAWV teamed up with the Sierra Club to push the nomination forward
through the many challenges brought on by the coal companies.
PAWV thanks historian Barb
Rasmussen, board member and chair of our Blair Mountain Task Force, for her extraordinary effort.
We are also grateful for
the excellent work of archaeologist Harvard Ayers. To Susan Pierce, Erin Riebe and others at the State Historic
Preservation Office, we
appreciate so very much your support and professionalism throughout this endeavor.
A special thanks goes to the
National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing Blair Mountain on the 11 Most
Endangered Properties List (see below) and working to increase the national profile of this
important West Virginia
site, and to Nell Ziehl in particular for all her support along the way.
Please join PAWV in celebrating this monumental
preservation in West Virginia!
PAWV Executive Director
(2006) Blair Mountain Listed Nationally
Endangered Historic Site!
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has
listed Blair Mountain Battlefield, the site of the armed
insurrection that marked the climax of the 1921 West Virginia
mine war, on the "11 Most Endangered Sites" list for 2006. This
is the first time a West Virginia site has been included on this
The story of Blair Mountain is
a story of West Virginians.
Often, West Virginia's best assets - its people, places, and stories - go
underrepresented or ignored on the outside. And yet, West
Virginians and West Virginia places have played incredibly important
roles in events that have determined the history of the entire United
Events like John Brown's insurrection at Harper's
Ferry have shaped the national character of the United States. One of
the most underrepresented places in West Virginia, and indeed in U.S.
history, is the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain.
Spruce Fork Ridge is the nationally
significant site of the "Battle of Blair Mountain," a
1921 armed insurrection of unionized
coal miners fighting for better working conditions and an end to the
oppressive control of the coal industry in southern West Virginia.
Considered the largest domestic conflict since the Civil War, the battle
engaged thousands, including police officers, coal company mercenaries,
vigilantes and the U.S. Army. The 1,600-acre ridge, located 1/2
hour southwest of Charleston (WV), remains a remote and beautiful place
of hardwood forests and precipitous hillsides. Through the contour of
the ridgeline, the earthen trenches and machine gun bases that mark the
mountainside, and the firearms and shell casings that litter the forest
floor, the site still evokes the bloody conflict of 1921.
Blair Mountain marked a turning point in the
national movement to better the conditions of working people by
demanding the legalization of unions, and in the use of the federal
government to protect workers' rights. The miners' effort broke down
racial and ethnic barriers to solidarity, and paved the way for
successful unionization a decade later. For a state that is often
unfairly perceived as backward, this is an important story to tell.
Blair Mountain was an important stepping stone in the ongoing story of
how our country has developed morally and come to recognize its
responsibilities to all of its workers.
Although it falls within the National Coal Heritage Area, Spruce Fork
Ridge faces the immediate threat of strip-mining by coal companies that
own or lease most of the ridge. Proposed mountain-top removal
mining would obliterate the site. To date, the coal companies have used
lawsuits and other tactics to block preservation.
The site's history and its importance to
labor and civil rights in this country remains, regrettably, little
known. Working with the National Trust Southern Field Office and
local advocates, the Preservation
Alliance of West Virginia seeks to raise public awareness
nationally about the significance of and threat to Spruce Fork Ridge.
The Alliance believes that a
national press and political strategy will help produce the
leverage needed to secure a preservation solution with the property
owners. Our goal is to permanently preserve the site for heritage tourism, interpretation
and increased public access as part of the National Coal Heritage
The listing on
the National Trust's list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic
Places seeks to encourage collaboration between historic
preservationists, miners, and the coal companies to preserve this site,
to tell the story of coal mining in West Virginia, and to communicate
its significance to the nation. We believe that a means must be found to
assure that Blair Mountain becomes a highly visible resource to tell the
story of our country's labor history and respect for our workforce, and
we want to work with the owners of the site to help this happen in a
nationally-significant site, Blair Mountain can become an asset that
supports and contributes to long-lasting and sustainable heritage
tourism in the region. West Virginia's best assets are its people and
its places. Blair Mountain is a real place that tells a story about real
people. Recognition, preservation, and interpretation of Blair Mountain
will create a permanent memorial to this pivotal national event and to
the miners who fought there.