The West Virginia. Cyclopedia
Beckley, West Virginia
The seat of Raleigh County, Beckley, WV, (map) was incorporated in 1838 through the efforts of Alfred Beckley, a young Washingtonian who employed his knowledge of engineering to locate a town in what was then an Allegheny wilderness. The state's eighth-largest city (pop. 17,254 in 2000) developed in the tableland of central Raleigh County and became a center of commerce and transportation. Interstate highways 64 and 77 converge at Beckley. Interstate access, proximity to parkland, and mountainous climate and scenery have been counted among Beckley's attributes.
The largest city in southern West Virginia, Beckley was established in a plateau region southwest of the New River Gorge in north-central Raleigh County and is located approximately 25 miles south of Fayetteville, WV, 50 miles west of Lewisburg, 40 miles north of Bluefield, WV, and 55 miles southeast of Charleston, WV.
The Raleigh County Memorial Airport is located five miles north of Interstate 64 (I-64) in Beaver, WV, east of Beckley. View a map showing location public and private heliports and airports in/near Beckley, WV.
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New River Gorge Lodging: resorts, B&Bs, campgrounds & camping, lodges & cabins, and vacation rentals
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Map of Beckley and Vicinity
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Beckley lies at the center of a regional tourist market fueled by the Winterplace ski area and parks and national park lands along four national rivers. Primary attractions in Beckley include: The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine provides tours of a historic coal mine tunneled beneath the City of Beckley. Guided tours on period "mancars" are offered April through November while group tours are available by reservation in the winter. New River Park, the largest of five municipal parks in Beckley, serves as a popular recreational facility for Beckley residents and includes a playground, picnic areas, a baseball diamond, a woodland walking trail, game courts for tennis and basketball, and a swimming pool with waterslide. A small full-service campground and the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia are also located within the park.Tamarack, West Virginia's premier showcase for fine arts, is located in Beckley, off Interstate 77 (I-77) exit 42. Thousands of travelers visit this unique Appalachian cultural complex every year. West Virginia handcrafts and Appalachian cuisine are available for purchase. Tamarack is conveniently located for travelers in Beckley's hotel and restaurant district at I-77 exit 44. Wildwood (c. 1835), home of Beckley-founder Alfred Beckley, has been restored to its late historical appearance and is open for tours. Wildwood Cemetery, where Beckley was buried, is located across South Kanawha Street (originally the first route through the area), but the historical view from Wildwood to the cemetery has been obliterated by the Memorial Baptist Church complex and several private residences.
Other Attractions near Beckley, WV
The New River Gorge National River, West Virginia's most popular outdoor-recreation destination, is located to the north and east of Beckley. Several popular hiking trails, campgrounds, fishing areas, and natural and cultural landmarks are located with the parkland, which is administered by the U.S. National Park Service.
Winterplace Ski Resort, West Virginia's most accessable ski resort, is located just off I-77 between Beckley and Bluefield, WV, and attracts hundreds of thousands of skiers from throughout the southeastern U.S.
Little Beaver State Park, east of Beckley off Interstate 77 (I-77), is a popular local-use park which includes hiking trails, an exercise trail, picnic shelters, and Little Beaver Lake, a popular, stocked fishery.
The Outdoor Dramas near Beckley at Grandview -- "Honey in the Rock" and "Hatfields and McCoys" -- have been performed since the early 1970s under the summer stars at the Cliffside Amphitheatre, off Interstate 64 (I-64), part of the New River Gorge National River. Many now-famous singers, dancers, and theatricians have performed on the Cliffside stage over the decades.
Beckley is the medical service center of southern West Virginia. Five hospitals have traditionally operated in Beckley -- Beckley Hospital, Jackie Withrow Hospital (formerly Pinecrest Hospital), Raleigh General Hospital, Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital, and the Beckley Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center.
Historic Sites and Districts
Two historic sites and a historic district in Beckley have been so-designated as nationally historic. The Raleigh County Historical Landmarks Commission in 2010 designated the route of North and South Kanawha streets through Beckley as part of a historically important thoroughfare, the Giles, Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike Historic District.
The Raleigh County Public Library, at 221 N. Kanawha Street, is the largest of public libraries in southern West Virginia and includes volumes on local and regional history.
Many of southern West Virginia's media sources are based in Beckley.
Internet Media based in the Beckley, WV, region
Newspapers serving the Beckley, WV, region
Radio stations broadcasting in the Beckley, WV, region
Radio History: WJLS, the first radio station in Beckley, went on the air in 1939. WVPB radio, the first public radio station in West Virginia, began broadcasting from Beckley on May 1, 1974.
Television (TV) Stations
Television (TV) stations serving the Beckley, WV, region
Photos of Beckley, WV, are easy to find on line. Several historical collections of Beckley photos are available in book form through Beckley Newspapers and other private sources and at the Raleigh County Public Library. Beckley's many woodlots provide a scenic backdrop to the lives of its inhabitants.
Beckley is the home of Mountain State University, originally chartered as Beckley College in 1933. The institution was briefly known as the College of West Virginia in the late 1990s. Appalachian Bible College, a private non-demoniational Christian academy, is located in nearby Bradley, WV.
Additional information about Beckley, West Virginia (WV), and the New River Gorge region is available through NewRiverWV.com.
Map of Beckley, WV showing streets and highways, and nearby airports, parks, buildings, churches, cemeteries, trails and other points of interest, with link to driving directions.
Topo map of Beckley, WV and vicinity
Housing Units: 8,731
Elevation: 2416 feet
Beckley Exhibition Mine Photo Tour
Uptown Beckley, WV
Raleigh County Courthouse, Beckley, WV
C&O Station - Beckley, WV
Joe L. Smith, the first mayor of Beckley, was born in Marshes (present-day Glen Daniel) in 1880. Smith was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1928. In the gubernatorial election of 1944, Clarence Meadows (Democrat), of Beckley, WV defeated D. Boone Dawson (Republican), of Charleston, WV. In 1964, Hulett Smith (Democrat), of Beckley, WV defeated former Governor Cecil Underwood (Republican), of Huntington, WV in the governor's race.
Development of Beckley, WV
For many decades, Beckley's developement was slowed by the lack of a effective transportation link. (See: Autobiography of Alfred Beckley) By the late-1830s, the Giles,_Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike was in place, linking Beckley with the courthouses in Fayetteville and Giles County, VA. In 1871, the Piney River Turnpike Company had been formed to construct a road from Beckley to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, which was nearing completion of its rail line connecting the tidewater region of Virginia with the Ohio River at Huntington, WV.
The West Virginia Legislature passed an act incorporating the town of Beckley, Raleigh County on Feb. 20, 1872. The original trustees resposible for government of the town were Alfred Beckley, Clarkson Prince, William Prince, John Bailey, and Richard McVey.
By the late 1800s a narrow gauge railroad, the Glade Creek & Raleigh Railroad (GC&R), linked Beckley via a connection near the C&O mainline at Hamlet, WV, and in 1903 the Piney Creek Branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) was completed, linking Beckley to the mainline at Prince, WV. The Piney River & Paint Creek Railroad completed its rail line through Beckley, connecting the C&O line at Beckley Junction with the New River Company's coal mines at Cranberry, WV, between 1904 and 1906.
With the advent of vital rail links, the development of the coal fields in the vicinity of Beckley began. In 1887, Beaver Coal Company purchased 47,000 acres in Raleigh County, and by 1903 the company and its mining operation, the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company, began marketing coal via the trade name "Black Knight Coal."
A rail line connecting with the C&O was achieved by the Virginian Railway by 1907, further facilitating the operation of additional mines in the New River Coal Field near Beckley. By 1925 another 76 coal mines were operating in the newly opened Winding Gulf Coal Field, and Beckley was quickly becoming the center of a newly developed coal field, serving both as a shipping and distribution point as well as a center for coal offices and sales agencies.
Variant Name(s) for Beckley, WV
Beckleyville, Raleigh, Raleigh Court House