Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 10, 2013

City manager sees promise in old N&W Freight Station

BLUEFIELD — When the fall of 2013 rolls around, another stately Bluefield building will be mostly vacant when the Bluefield Area Transit moves to its new location on John Nash Boulevard at Exit 1, I-77, but Bluefield City Manager Jim Ferguson doesn’t see the building as a liability. He sees it as an asset.

“We’re having Allen Peacock as our guest speaker at the Bluefield Rotary Club on the last Tuesday of the month,” Ferguson said. “He’ll give you a different idea of the future of Bluefield. He doesn’t see a building like this as a liability.”

When it was built in the 1930s, the N&W Freight Station was a true show place. Starting in 1934, the Pocahontas Operators Association used the facility to stage the biennial Southern Appalachian Industrial Exhibit — the forerunner to the Bluefield Coal Show. During the 20-plus years of the Industrial Exhibits, the N&W used the freight station for events like introducing the twin J-Class steam locomotives to passengers of the region.

“They call this the ballroom,” Ferguson said as he walked through the large room that includes a huge stage. “You can just imagine the big parties that the N&W used to hold up here.”

Ferguson grew up in Bluefield, and still speaks fondly of the times when he walked on Bluefield Avenue to take in the sights of that part of the city.

“As a kid, it was a pure joy to walk past the Feuchtenberger Bakery and smell that dough rising and breathe in and enjoy the smell of the yeast,” Ferguson said as he pointed from inside the freight station in direction of the old bakery that now serves as headquarters of Swope Construction.

“When the Coca-Cola bottling plant was running, we used to stand outside and watch the bottles going down the conveyor belt,” Ferguson said. “We would watch the bottles fill up and the men working to cap the bottles.”

Ferguson’s father-in-law, the late Robert “Poo-Eye” Smith, was a star football player for Beaver High School when the high school played its home games on the old Wade Field, that was located between the school and Bluefield Avenue.

Still, Ferguson enjoyed touring the interior of the freight station. “They had vaults in here,” Ferguson said. “This was a hustling place in its time,” Ferguson said. “I can just imagine how much freight moved through this place. It still could be coming into here.”

Like other city-owned structures, Ferguson said that the city will work to find other tenants after the Transit department moves to I-77. “Eastern Tire has been located in a portion of the building for almost a year, and it has been very successful,” Ferguson said. “I can see a lot of potential here.”

He added that he hopes others will take a new look at Bluefield and see the potential here as well.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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