Westmoreland Coal Company Building
The Westmoreland Building was created by the Westmoreland Coal Company, which is one of the oldest and most influential coal companies in the United States. The company was integral to the economy of Big Stone Gap, providing jobs to residents in the town and the surrounding area. The company’s influence spread from New England, and it came to Big Stone Gap after combining with the Stonega Coke and Coal Co. in 1964. However, after declaring bankruptcy in 1994, the company ceased operations in Southwestern Virginia.
Backstory and Context
Initially, the company was focused in New England. The Westmoreland Coal Company was founded in 1854, in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. However, in 1957, the company ceased operations in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, and began to move its operations south.
In 1917, John S. Wentz, the owner of the Stonega Coke and Coal Co. which operated in Southwestern Virginia, purchased significant amounts of stock in the Westmoreland Coal Company. Following World War I, there was an economic recession that negatively affected many coal companies focused on bituminous, or soft, coal. The Westmoreland Coal Company would come under the same management of the Stonega Coke and Coal Co. and eventually would combine with Stonega Coke and Coal Co. in 1964, which operated in Southwest Virginia, including in Big Stone Gap.
Though Stonega Coke and Coal Co. was bigger than Westmoreland, after the merger the two companies kept the Westmoreland name, as it was older and more recognizable. The company operated in Southwest Virginia, specifically in Wise and Lee county, until 1994. In 1994, the company declared bankruptcy, and ceased all operations in Virginia. The company is still in existence, but its operations are concentrated in the western United States.
“Westmoreland Coal Company photograph and video collection.” Researchworks.org, https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/data/80604498 (Accessed April 15, 2020
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“Westmoreland Coal Company photographs.” Digital.hagley.com, https://digital.hagley.org/1993233 (Accessed April 16, 2020)
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“Coal Company Will Celebrate Its 100th Year.” The Post, March 4, 1954. Accessed April 26, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/584647200/?terms=%22Westmoreland%2BCoal%22