The West Virginia. Cyclopedia
Oak Hill, West Virginia
A community in Fayette County, Oak Hill, WV, (map) was incorporated in 1905 and takes its name from the location of the community's first post office, which stood under a spreading white oak tree at nearby Hill Top. The post office was moved after a short while to a site near its present location on Oak Hill's Main Street.
Oak Hill by the late 1960s had grown into one the 20 largest cities in West Virginia, though the community retains a small-town character and is largely composed of residential neighborhoods, many of which developed in the early 1900s around coal-mining operations. However, Oak Hill is primarily a service and commercial destination. The community is popularly divided into Oak Hill and "East-End Oak Hill," where East Main Street parallels the U.S. 19 expressway to the east. The east end of Oak Hill developed rapidly during the housing boom that occurred after the end of World War II.
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Map of Oak Hill and Vicinity
View a larger version of this map (best viewed full-screen) with links to driving directions and additional mapping options.
Many of the best known visitor attractions in West Virginia are located in the Oak Hill area, including the New River Gorge Bridge. Hiking, biking, climbing, and whitewater rafting help to attract more than a million tourists to the region annually. Oak Hill's most popular attraction -- the site of "Hank William's Last Stop"-- was destroyed in early 2007.
Oak Hill, WV, is located amid one of the most desirable real-estate markets in West Virginia. Residential communities that draw on the beauty of the land in and around the New River Gorge and the availability of outdoor recreation are being developed and proposed to the north and east of the Oak Hill. Real Estate values in Oak Hill, however, remain reasonably affordable.
Map of Oak Hill, WV showing streets, airports, parks, buildings, churches, cemeteries, trails and other points of interest, with link to driving directions.
Topo map of Oak Hill, WV and vicinity
Population: 7,589 (2000 Census)
Elevation: 1961 feet
Coal Miners' Memorial at Fayette County CVB in Oak Hill, WV
White Oak Railway passenger train at Glen Jean, ready to make its run to Oak Hill, WV, circa 1906
Development of Oak Hill, WV
The real progress and growth of Oak Hill dates from the completion of the railroad branch line from Glen Jean through Oak Hill by about 1904. As the railroad line was built, numerous coal mining operations began to open in the previously untapped area of the New River Coal Field, including the nearby mines at Scarbro, Whipple, Carlisle, Summerlee, Lochgelly, and Minden. Soon afterwards, the Virginian Railway completed a connection with the White Oak Railway at Bishop.
By the 1970s much of the coal in the Oak Hill area had been extracted and its economy began to transform. With the completion of the U.S. 19 expressway and New River Gorge Bridge in the late 1970s, improved access to the Oak Hill area resulted in a the creation of many service jobs. Establishment of the New River Gorge National River in the 1980s saw the creation of many jobs in the tourism sector. Today, more than two million tourists visit the Oak Hill region in the New River Gorge area. Many new residential developments are being located in the Oak Hill area.
Despite Oak Hill's location amid parkland and parkways, the city has been unsupportive of the tourism and real-estate sector: it neglected to participate in a greenspace system along U.S. 19 (US-19) and has allowed billboards and clearings, visually poluting the parkway-based initiative. Tree topping has badly mangled and killed many of the town's trees.
In 2006 the city took no action to preserve its most-popular historic site -- a former Pure Oil Station, where Country music legend Hank Williams was discovered dead while enroute through southern West Virginia. The building was razed in 2007.
Though Oak Hill's many commercial buildings on and near Main Street could benefit from restoration, the city has not been successful in creating a National Historical District.