Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kimball, West Virginia and the WWI Monument

Twenty miles up the road from Bramwell is the small town of Kimball which holds an amazing surprise.

This is the only World War I memorial in all of the United States dedicated to the 400,000 African-Americans who volunteered to serve in combat during what was then called "The Great War." 1,500 of those men came from McDowell County, West Virginia where Kimball is located and where this monument was built in 1928.

It became the community's focal point with meeting rooms, an auditorium with a small stage, kitchen facilities and a trophy room. It served as the social center and hosted such activities as high school proms, wedding receptions and performances by such well-known entertainers of the day like Cab Calloway and others.

But by 1991, the county and its towns had suffered from shrinking demographics due to the decline in the coal industry - the county had gone from more than 100,000 inhabitants to less than 20,000 - along with the huge decline in income that left McDowell County the poorest county in the US outside of Mississippi.

A fire that year along with the community abandonment of keeping up the building left the memorial in ruins with only the  exterior shell still remaining.

But a few in the community worked to raise funding to restore the building back to its original glory. Along with a grant from the McDowell county commissioners and the Federal Scenic Byways department of the US Department of Transportation (Kimball sits along the Coal Heritage Byway), the building was finally restored and rededicated in 2007.

It is only open during the week for a few hours each day, so I only got to admire it from the outside.


Rose L said...

I am glad to see this piece of history and its story preserved.

Dartford Warbler said...

That looks an interesting museum. I hope you are able to go inside and visit one day.

frayedattheedge said...

What an amazing building!

Karen said...

Rose L: It would have been heartbreaking to see it as just a shell. I'm glad they did restore.

DW: Someday I will have to take a day off during the week and go visit the museum.

Anne: It is amazing considering the poverty-stricken area it is in.