Gauley Bridge Railroad Station - C&O Station, Gauley Bridge West Virginia
The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Passenger Station at Gauley Bridge, in Fayette County, West Virginia, is an example of a small-town passenger station constructed in the late 19th century that has survived down to the present time. It is one of the few remaining passenger stations out of many built by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad for the many small towns and villages of Appalachia.
Gauley Bridge, as a community, dates from around 1812, the period of its earliest settlement. The village was at first known as Kincaid's Ferry until 1822 when bridges were constructed across the Gauley and Kanawha Rivers here to accommodate traffic on the James River - Kanawha Turnpike. As a stopping point on the Turnpike, Gauley Bridge grew and thrived. The first church was established in 1835. The Civil War played havoc with the community. A covered bridge there was burned by Confederate forces in 1861, and a short-lived suspension bridge built by Federal forces met the same fate in 1862. The town was also the scene of much fighting and suffered from several artillery shellings. Partially as a result of the War, Gauley Bridge grew but slowly in the 19th century. Another economic factor of this period was that the early railroads had bypassed Gauley Bridge. This situation was remedied, however, when the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad Company (founded as the Kanawha and Ohio in 1882, reformed as Kanawha and Michigan in 1890, and bought out by the C&O in 1914) extended its line from Charleston up the north bank of the Kanawha River to Gauley Bridge in 1893, making Gauley Bridge the railroad's terminus. This was done primarily to exploit the booming coal fields in the area. The C&O, in the same year, constructed the Gauley Bridge Passenger Station, primarily by local Black labor, using one of the company's predesigned architectural plans. Shortly thereafter the C&O constructed a branch line up the east bank of the Gauley River to handle the coal output of the area's mines.
The Gauley Bridge Railroad Station was long a focal point of community activity. According to historian L. M.. Blackwell, "The daily train would arrive in the evening and the big entertainment of the time was to go down to the station and see who got off the train. The railroad would run excursions from Ohio into Gauley Bridge on the weekends and hundreds of people came to see 'Historic Gauley Bridge'."
As the railroads declined in the mid-20th century, so did activity at the Passenger Station. Finally, in 1958, the Railroad Company leased the station to the Gauley Bridge Volunteer Fire Department. In this capacity, the station continued to serve as a focal point of the community until abandoned by the Fire Department in 1973. It stood abandoned until taken over by the town of Gauley Bridge, which is now in the process of restoring the building.
The Gauley Bridge Railroad Station, in Gauley Bridge, Fayette County, West Virginia, is a good example of the predesigned "company trademark" type stations prevalent in the small communities of 19th and early 20th century America.
In all likelihood no architect designed the Gauley Bridge station, rather, it was constructed in 1893, along predesigned plans on a pattern developed years before by the railroad company to accommodate small communities the size of Gauley Bridge.
The Gauley Bridge Railroad Station is a rectangular frame. building with a hipped roof that is slate-covered. Part of the slate roof, on the eastern end of the station, is damaged, however, and in need of repair. The exterior wall finish is vertical board-and-batten siding that is also damaged in spots. An interesting feature of the station is its gabled bay, centered in the facade facing north to the railroad tracks, once the focal point of all activity at the station. The lower section of exterior walls is covered with vertical tongue-and-groove boards forming an exterior wainscoting. The upper and lower sections of the building are separated by a horizontal board molding that, significantly, duplicates an interior, largely decorative feature.
There is a shed-roofed addition, added at an unknown date, located at the east end of the building. This addition has a tin roof.
The major exterior opening, which served in previous times as the freight entrance, is located on the southern facade of the building, looking down upon the town of Gauley Bridge.
The interior fabric of the building is largely intact, with the exception of minor modifications that have occurred over the years. Most of the interior walls duplicate the outside, consisting of vertical "beaded", or tongue-and-groove slats.