A Trip Through Eastern Kentucky

An exploration of the Campton High School, the Krypton Loadout and the M.C. Napier School in southeast Kentucky.

There are days that I like to hit the open road and explore. I just wish my planning skills were somewhat better. Granted that I can navigate the back roads very well and I rarely get lost, relying on my Delorme atlases and forgoing modern GPS conveniences, and that I can drive the narrow highways without flinching at a passing coal truck. But I always underestime the time it takes to go from one point to another because of all of the mountains that make driving in a straight line nearly impossible.

On Sunday, I explored an area along the Kentucky Route 15 corridor, including Jackson and Hazard.

My first visit was the former Campton High School, which opened in 1942 as the first publicly funded high school in Wolfe County. Constructed during the Great Depression with funding from the Federal Works Project Administration (WPA), the building has been vacant for several years. It is slated for rehabilitation into apartments.

Traveling off of the main highway, I came across the Buchanan Fuel Krypton Loadout. The Krypton Loadout was a small surface coal mining operation one mile west of Krypton. It is located along the CSX Eastern Kentucky Subdivision, formerly part of the Chesapeake & Ohio. Constructed in 1975, the mine was marked as active in 2002.) It has since closed but may reopen under the International Coal Group.

Afterwards, I set off to search for coal camp communities in the tangling mountains of eastern Kentucky, but discovered that most of the sites had either been demolished or redeveloped with newer housing. Abandonments in eastern Kentucky tend to be demolished fairly quickly, and coal companies are eager to remove processing plants and other facilities for liability reasons. One notable exception to that was the M.C. Napier School in Hazard, which closed in 2005. It’s amazing how far it has degraded in only a few years.

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