On a brisk cold fall night, walking down the brick paved streets that make up Main Street, you can hear the Elk River flowing. This leads me to imagine what it would be like to live in Sutton when it was the most productive and the town was thriving. I can imagine our little town bustling with the sound of horse hooves hitting the brick, industry, and people. The very people who created the foundation of what I call home, Sutton West Virginia. The rich history and events that took place in this small community are much more than a recollection, but a story that begins with the very bricks I stand on.
Sutton was first settled in 1792 by Adam O’ Brien and is the geographical center of the state, only to be burned to the ground nearly 50 years later. The fire left destruction and only six buildings with structure intact. Rebuilding almost from scratch, Sutton remained a small county seat until the timber industry developed and Sutton became a commercial center. Throughout the years Sutton has been home to many businesses. The store fronts thrived with businesses such as pharmacies, restaurants, retail shops, banks and even motels.
Among some of the first settlers to Sutton were the Carpenters. Jeremiah and Benjamin Carpenter settled in Sutton and shortly after were killed by American Indians. To this day and many generations later the Carpenter family still reside in Sutton and have owned the motel that resides in the historic district.
Sutton's Main Street is filled with original buildings and a lot of them are still being used today. Specifically, the courthouse which is for the entire county and is in the center of downtown. Built in 1882, this is one of the earliest remaining courthouses in West Virginia. It was the second brick building built in town. Across from the courthouse is home to the Landmark Studios of the Arts Community Theatre, built in 1886 as a Methodist church and renovated as a theatre in 1988.
Sutton's historic district has always held importance to the community and consists of eleven square blocks. Residences date predominantly from the mid-19th century to early 20th century. Sutton's historic district was hit with yet another devastating fire in 2005. It destroyed 3 major buildings, one of those being the Braxton Newspaper. The privately owned buildings were donated to the town with hopes of restoration. It is our hope to use the building's façade and build a community park within the structure. Plans have been started and grants have been applied for. The community park would be such a great asset for our community while keeping the historic district intact and as beautiful as it once was. Whether it be the beloved courthouse or a building that has no great significance other than the bones itself, each one comes with history and the longing to be found and appreciated again.
Briar Williams served as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member for the Sutton Community Development Corporation during the 2020-2021 program year.
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