WV’s richest history lies deep underground

Take a fascinating tour through the earth in an authentic, restored, turn-of-the-century coal mine in Beckley.

If you haven’t yet seen the Exhibition Coal Mine, Coal Camp and Youth Museum, you are definitely missing out on a key point of West Virginia history.

The Philips-Sprague Mine was first opened in the late 1800s, but didn’t start mining coal commercially until 1906. It was a “drift mine,” meaning you access to the coal seams underground through horizontal tunnels dug into the hillside.

Hardworking miners churned out the valuable black mineral from this mine up to 1953.

Beckley turned this little piece of history into a full-scale museum— and experience. It’s one of the best ways to get a firsthand look at our state’s unique coal culture.

You will board a small train called a mantrip and travel more than 1500 feet into the earth, past preserved and well-lit shafts, machinery and seams. Most visitors agree that the best part of these trips are the guides– retired coal miners who will regale you with details about the nitty gritty process of mining, all from firsthand experience.

Remember to bring a jacket; the mine stays at a constant 58 degrees all year.

After you’ve ridden the rails through the earth, there is much more to see. Browse the mine’s original community– including the church, single and multi-room miners’ housing, and company store. There’s also a lavish superintendent’s mansion, built in nearby Skelton by baron Samuel Dixon, and moved to the Exhibition Mine site.

Visiting the mine will truly give you a well-rounded view of one of West Virginia’s most complex historical topics.

Check out the Exhibition Coal Mine this spring, or plan to visit for special events like the Rocket Boys Festival and their holiday Coal Town Christmas.

Discover underground >


This post was last updated on July 21, 2020