Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 8, 2013

ATV trails fuel historic preservation in Bramwell

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BRAMWELL — It was closing time Sunday afternoon at the Bramwell Café and Bonnie Goins greeted a pair of visitors by saying: “Welcome. I hope you don’t want any food, because we’re out. Would you like some coffee?”

Goins said that the popular restaurant on Main Street in Bramwell was packed through the day as scores of hungry ATV riders visited the café for some delicious home cooking.

“We have been pretty slow so far this year, but this has been a great day,” Goins said. Her daughter and son-in-law, Dreama and Scott Spangler, own the picturesque café, in the heart of a town that has undergone some major changes in the year that has passed since the Hatfield-McCoy Trails opened the Pocahontas Trails in late May 2012,

“I just found out from Jeff Lusk that the Hatfield-McCoy Trails have received a ‘notice to proceed’ on the old Bluestone School project,” Bramwell Mayor Louise Stoker said. “I received an email from Jeff last week, then he called me to say the same thing.”

The historic Bluestone School served African American families of the coalfield region through segregation, but has been abandoned for several years. The old school is destined to become the Pocahontas Trail System headquarters.

In the meantime, the Bramwell Foundation — with the help of the H.I. Shott Jr., Foundation — has been working to preserve some key components of the community’s architectural history. One project that has both an historical preservation and adaptive re-use future took some dramatic leaps forward last week.

A contract crew with Sam Hazzard’s Excavation and Trucking cut off the rear portion of the historic Pence Hotel in Bramwell to a point where a previous contractor had installed a concrete block wall three years ago to protect the undamaged portion of the structure.

“That project that we call phase one, was also done as a result of a generous contribution from the Shott Foundation,” Stoker said. “The Shott Foundation has done so much good to help worthwhile projects throughout the area.”

Stoker said that Jenny Pence built the hotel after a fire in January 1910 destroyed many of the wooden frame buildings in Bramwell. “Mrs. Pence had several children, and all of them helped out by working in the hotel,” Stoker said. “She lost the hotel during the Depression.”

The Bramwell Foundation is hoping to attract a private investor who will continue with the renovation and transform the old hotel into a modern facility to serve ATV riders. Stoker said that the Shott Foundation has already approved a grant that will enable the Bramwell Foundation to replace the roof on the old Bramwell Theater.

The town will kick-off a year-long celebration of the 125th anniversary of Bramwell’s founding with a month-long celebration in May starting with the Blues and Bluegrass Festival on May 3-4, that includes blues music at the Bluestone Inn on Friday evening from 5:30-9 p.m. Saturday’s bluegrass lineup at the Depot Tour Center include performances by the Bevins Family from 2-3 p.m., a show featuring Dale Jett & Hello Stranger from 3:30-4:30 p.m., and a 7 p.m. show featuring legendary bluegrass performer Melvin Goins and his band.

The same weekend from May 3-5, the Pocahontas ATV resort located on the Virginia/West Virginia state line near Pocahontas will be hosting the inaugural East Coast SXS (side-by-side) Rally. “We are expecting anywhere from 100 to 200 riders,” Big Motts, owner of the Pocahontas ATV Resort, said in an email message. “We are also planning another huge ride in the fall and will repeatedly put on more rides to attract more people to the Bramwell/Pocahontas area.”

Stoker said that the Coal Heritage Interpretive Center at the reconstructed train depot from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on May 9. Bramwell will host its annual spring tour of homes on May 11, from 2-5 p.m.; a special Armed Forces Day salute to veterans at 7 p.m., on May 19; special first anniversary of the trail opening events on Saturday, May 25; and Memorial Day activities at 2 p.m. on May 27.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com