Coal Camps: Man, West Virginia
We have all been there. A ominous derelict is on the horizon and we are tempted to stop and explore, but because of external factors – children in the car, poor lighting, and so forth, we pass up the opportunity to check out the abandonment.
Suppose that derelict was the Man Community Hospital in Man, West Virginia. The hospital opened in 1956 by the Miners Memorial Hospital Association, a not-for-profit that constructed hospitals and clinics for the under-served coal mining regions of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. Thousands of United Mine Workers of America workers and citizens celebrated the Miners Memorial Hospital openings, which were scattered throughout the region, and which provided modern health care in regions that had scant medical support. But the Man Community Hospital, later owned by Appalachian Regional Healthcare, was closed in 2001 after falling deep into debt.
The community gathered and made attempts to purchase the hospital. The county floated plans to convert the facility into a Level 5 Trauma Center. And the local bank that owned the land halted foreclosure proceedings for a time to see if the local governments would be able to pull through to save the local medical center. But all of those efforts failed, and the hospital, once a point of pride for the region, became healthy vandalized.
On my initial visit years ago, the hospital seemed as if it had just closed just days earlier. Lights were on in a lot of the rooms, furniture still resided in the waiting rooms and papers were still piled on the desks. I never entered because I had a passenger who was more than weary of just walking around the hospital. I told myself that I would return, someday.
That day was January 2, 2011, part of my excursion through the coalfields of West Virginia. But by this trip, the hospital with its pristine interior had degraded to one that was being gutted and demolished. Gone were most of the windows, replaced with boards and empty sockets. Furniture, while still inside, was in disarray. Gone was the pristineness.
After feeling completely awful for having not visiting the hospital years ago, despite it’s pristine condition – and the hope to find a location stocked with computers and other relics for photographic pureness, I moved on. Nearby was a strip mall, discovered en route to Logan. But darkness was quickly approaching, and I was only able to take a handful of photographs – perfectly acceptable for a rather generic shopping plaza. The Midway Plaza, constructed in the 1970s, has a decidedly abandoned feel, despite some open storefronts – which include a Thrift Store and a Bingo Hall.
What is fascinating is that Midway Plaza bears resemblance to many other shopping centers, not only in the coalfields of West Virginia, but in America. With Midway Plaza, the configuration included a power tenant – most likely, a K-Mart, Magic Mart or Kroger, and a secondary power tenant, which at one point was a Big Lots. Smaller tenants included a shoe store and a post office, and now a bingo hall. Outlots included a Wendy’s and a more upscale restaurant, with the last iteration being a Charley’s – a knockoff O’Charley’s, with the same font and color scheme.
There isn’t much holding up the center today, although it resides next to the new West Virginia State Route 10 freeway. But with traffic blazing by at 65 miles-per-hour, will there be any hope that this shopping center survives even into 2012? Or will consumers flock to the Wal-Mart plaza at Logan – 20 minutes away, or to the smaller storefronts in Man – 10 minutes away?
Stay tuned for the next update, this time coming from a coal camp in Virginia and a school in Gary, West Virginia! Be sure to read through the earlier Coal Camp series: