Adventure Us: Bramwell, WV
The mountains of Appalachia hold many hidden treasures and tell many incredible stories. One of the most fascinating stories of the mountain past is told in the tiny town of Bramwell, West Virginia.
Bramwell lies tucked in a bend of the Bluestone River, north of Bluefield, just miles from the Virginia border. But though it is home to only a couple hundred residents, this town has a fabled past as the gem of the coal boom era. Over a hundred years ago, at the turn of last century, Bramwell was the center of high society for the West Virginia coal barons; it had the highest per capita population of millionaires in the nation (17, to be exact). Here, the aristocracy of the coal industry, who mined their fortunes from the surrounding coalfields, flaunted their wealth and extravagance. Legend has it that in those days, money was hauled by the wheelbarrow load down the street from the Bank of Bramwell to the N&W train depot.
Bramwell’s glory days faded with the passing of the age of coal. But it’s still a fascinating place to visit. Many of the hundred-year-old coal baron mansions still stand in their splendor today – not today’s mcmansions, but each a unique piece of architecture with a fascinating history of its own. Our family enjoyed just walking around the narrow streets (there are only a couple of them) and down the old Millionaire Row. Twice a year – in June and December – these mansions can be toured, but even just walking by and taking in the ornate designs is a remarkable experience.
The Bramwell Depot, once the town’s train station, has been restored and today houses a museum and gift shop with information and artifacts from the town’s rich history. The Depot stands at the head of Main Street, with its row of vintage storefronts. At the other end of the street lies a spot you can’t miss – the Corner Shop, home to some of the best ice cream sundaes in the region, served with fresh vintage American food in a perfect old fashioned diner ambience. For our kids, this made the whole trip worthwhile!
Bramwell is a key stop on the Coal Heritage Trail, which winds its way over 187 miles of rugged mountain West Virginia terrain, telling the story of the West Virginia coalfields that powered eastern America and fueled its economic growth for decades. Stretching from Bluefield in the south to Chimney Corner in the north, this trail, a National Scenic Byway, follows highways 52 and 16 through many historic coal communities.
The area offers other attractions as well. Bramwell is a trailhead for the famed Hatfield-McCoy Trail, known and loved by ATV enthusiasts everywhere, which stretches hundreds of miles through the southern West Virginia mountains. Also, Bramwell is a perfect stop if you’re visiting the attractions of Bluefield or heading up to enjoy the scenic New River Gorge.
Whether you’re passing through or looking for a new adventure, put Bramwell, WV on your list!
Name: Bramwell, WV 24715
Time from Roanoke: 2 hours
Activity Options: History, walking tour, outdoor recreation
Nearby Food: The Corner Shop; many options in Bluefield and Princeton
Nearby Attractions: Pinnacle Rock State Park; Bluefield and Princeton parks, shops, and sights
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