The story of a forgotten America.

The Algoma Company Store

Located along the ba…

Located along the back roads in the Pocahontas Coalfield of southwest West Virginia is the long-abandoned Algoma Company Store and Offices. What a gem to come across a rare Art Moderne-style structure built of steel, concrete, and brick in a region more known for its cheap and temporary wood-framed buildings.

Designed by Welch architect Hassel T. Hicks, the two-story structure was constructed in 1948 to replace an antiquated wood-framed building from 1894. It featured a typical dry goods company store and a revolutionary self-service grocery store on the ground floor, and company offices and medical clinics on the second floor.


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Hi. Thank you for your photographs. I think you have a fine eye and I love perusing them. If your only transgression is the thoughtless comment about “cheap and temporary,” you will be fine. Many of the dwellings are indeed crumbling before our eyes. You obviously researched. Did you find photographs of it in pristine order? Coal company stores had built into them many tricks: to overhear consumers talk about pending strikes and other camp business; nooks for the Pinkerton thugs to hold weapons on the shoppers; rape rooms where women and children paid off the “family” debts. We are a bruised lot; we take offense easily. However, I very much love the pictures you take. Don’t fret. Be charitable with us. Do better. Sincerely, Cynthia

The only thoughtless comment was from someone who spent so much time to be offended that buildings, hastily built by coal barons to be as cheap and temporary as possible, were… cheap and temporary. These buildings were designed to last perhaps the lifespan of the mine; why invest in money for your miners when they were at best temporary?

“A region more known for its cheap and temporary wood framed buildings”
Clearly you haven’t spent much time here and have no idea what we are known for. Maybe the next time you write something, you should consider being more respectful and less condescending. That’s something we are known for.

Grew up in Appalachia, thank you very much for your condescending comment. And yes, company houses were cheap – designed to last only the lifespan of a mine, and were often prefabricated elsewhere and shipped in. What a legacy of abandonment and rot the coal companies left Appalachia – an era of quick wealth and gain only to leave a wide swath to essentially be in ruin.

But hey, why not bury the history of Appalachia like what the coal companies have tried to do with Blair Mountain?

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