Photo by Brian M. Powell
Thurmond, West Virginia
Born: In 1873, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway began transporting coal extracted from the New River Coal Field in West Virginia. C&O built a rail yard on the spot that became Thurmond, and coal from surrounding mines was shipped through the town. By the early 1900s, Thurmond was booming. The town straddled the New River: Alcohol was banned on the side with the railroad tracks, and saloons and brothels flourished on the other side.
Died: The 100-room Dun Glen Hotel, on the wild and wooly side of town, burned in 1930, and the town began a slow decline. The advent of diesel-powered locomotives rendered the railroad yard less important. Most residents moved away.
It lives on: Thurmond is a ghost town that's not completely dead. As of a few years ago, the town had seven residents. The National Park Service maintains the railroad depot (open June through August) as a visitor center for New River Gorge National River.