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Blair Mountain


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  - HERE

  • 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 - HERE

  • Read a more detailed history - HERE

  • See the current status of the site - HERE

  • See the dedicated website of "Friends of Blair Mountain" - HERE

      


 

SPRING 2009: Blair Mountain Added to National Register of Historic Places!     

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 achievement for preservation in West Virginia!

Karen Carper
PAWV Executive Director

(2006) Blair Mountain Listed Nationally As An 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 prestigious list.
Announcement Event at the Cultural Centerbr> iin Charleston, West Virginia on 10 May 2006

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 States.  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 Area.

 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 positive way.

 As 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.


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