By RICK STEELHAMMER
CHARLESTON (AP) —
From the first golf course designed and built in America to the first commercial ski area to operate south of the Mason-Dixon Line, West Virginia has no shortage of historically significant visually attractive sports and recreation locales.
The State Historic Preservation Office highlights a baker’s dozen of them in its recently released 2014 West Virginia Historic Preservation Calendar. The 13-month calendar (it includes January 2015) is available free of charge while supplies last.
All of the sites featured on the calendar are either listed, or eligible for listing, on the National Register of Historic Places. “But they are also places people can still enjoy,” said Susan Pierce, deputy state historic preservation officer for the Division of Culture and History. “You can learn a little about history while enjoying being in the outdoors.”
The calendar begins with a winter scene of modern-day skiers descending a slope at Weiss Knob in Canaan Valley, where Bob and Anita Barton established a ski resort in 1955, not far from a slope where the Washington, D.C., Ski Club had been operating a rope tow for several years.
“We went online and found an original brochure for the 1957 season at Weiss Knob,” said Pierce. At that time, the resort had two rope tows and a T-bar lift in operation, along with a warming hut with a snack bar and indoor plumbing. “Lift tickets were just three bucks back then,” said Pierce. “It’s cool to learn about stuff like that.”
Among other outdoor scenes displayed in the calendar is one of a group of kids seining for minnows in Warm Springs Run, the stream that flows through Berkeley Springs State Park. While the park in downtown Berkeley Springs, Morgan County, opened in 1930, George Washington was among those who visited the site in the 18th Century to “take the waters.”
“My fever’s a good bit abated,” Washington wrote after a 1761 visit to the site, “tho my pains grow worse and my sleep (is) equally disturbed.”
Another stream — the New River — illustrates April’s calendar page. On it, rafters drift a stretch of calm water under the Fayette Station Bridge and the New River Gorge Bridge, which was listed on the National Register in August.
A golfer in 19th-Century sporting garb teeing off on a sand-mound tee at Greenbrier County’s Oakhurst Links illustrates the calendar page for May.
Original owner Russell Montague built Oakhurst’s first six holes in 1884, and the course was ready for match play in 1888. America’s first golf course was recently purchased by the nearby Greenbrier resort, which operates it exclusively as an amenity for its registered guests.
A scene showing flycasters angling for trout in Shavers Fork, with the Cheat Mountain Club in the background, illustrates October’s page.
Randolph County’s Cheat Mountain Club, built in 1887 as a private hunting and fishing lodge, was a stop on a 1918 car-camping tour of the Appalachians by an elite traveling group known as the “Vagabonds.” Among the Vagabonds visiting the Cheat Mountain Club in July and August 1918 were industrialists Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, inventor Thomas Edison and naturalist John Burroughs.
“The people at the big clubhouse gave us a hospitable welcome and added much to our comfort,” Burroughs wrote after his visit. “I found the forests and streams of this part of West Virginia much like those of the Catskills, only on a larger scale, and the climate even colder.”
Burroughs wrote that on the night of July 23, the temperature dropped to 30 degrees, followed the next night by a killing frost that killed all the vegetables in the club’s garden.
Several New Deal construction projects from the Great Depression are featured on the calendar, including Marshall County’s Cameron Pool, built in 1939 by the Public Works Administration. The large semicircular pool, which reopened last summer after extensive renovations, features an underground lifeguard station, in which swimmers are monitored through five underwater portholes.
Also built by the Public Works Administration were Chestnut Lodge at Camp Washington Carver in Fayette County and East-West Stadium in Fairmont, Marion County. A scene of dozens of square dancers making use of Chestnut Lodge illustrates the December page of the calendar, while a high school football drill at East-West Stadium, built in 1938 and the scene of the state’s first integrated football game in 1954, is featured on August’s page.
The Williamson Fieldhouse and South Charleston’s Oakes Field are also pictured.
Division of Culture and History photographer Tyler Evert traveled the state to provide images for the calendar. Text was written by John Adamik, with assistance from Pierce.
Production of the calendar was funded in part through a grant from the National Park Service.
To request a free calendar, write to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, 2014 Calendar, The Culture Center, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard E, Charleston, WV 25305, or call Conni McMorris at 304-558-0240, or email conni.l.mcmorris(at)wv.gov.
Rick Steelhammer writes for The Charleston Gazette.