Backstory and Context
When Carmine (Jeffers) Murphy opened her restaurant beside her husband’s in-town movie theater sometime around 1940, the restaurant consisted of one booth and three bar stools. Visitors would pay for their tickets, drive through the barn housing the animals, continue behind the barn, and watch the film on the back of the barn. They would then be able to visit Carmine’s restaurant. The family and their son, future Big Stone Gap Town Manager Pat Murphy, lived above the restaurant while they developed it into a fixture of the town. Carmine's became known as a teenager hangout and celebrated for its homemade lunch entrees and pies. It also housed original art on the diner walls.
Soon after the closing of the restaurant in 1982, the original brick building was demolished. In 2013, author Adriana Trigiani chose to direct and film the movie adaptation of her novel Big Stone Gap in her hometown. Trigiani recreated the Carmine’s restaurant she knew from her childhood by recreating the old restaurant, but this time in a service station located in the center of Big Stone Gap. The production crew used the replica of Carmine’s as a set to film several scenes and to promote the film, prompting town officials to decide to continue using the building to host local events and operate as the town’s visitor’s center.
The building now displays both a neon red sign reading "Carmine’s," as well as one stating its identity as the town’s visitors center. The Big Stone Gap Visitor’s Center houses props from the Big Stone Gap movie, memorabilia from local high schools, and documents and photographs pertaining to The Trail of the Lonesome Pine outdoor drama. The Big Stone Gap Visitor’s Center is open to the public, and it serves as a popular site for local festivals and weekly social events.
Addington, Luther F., and Wise County. Bicentennial Committee. History of Wise County, Virginia. Wise, VA: Bicentennial Committee of Wise County, Virginia, 1976.
Carmine’s-Big Stone Gap Visitor’s Center. Visit Wise County. https://www.visitwisecounty.com/list/carmines-big-stone-gap-visitor-center/ (accessed March 21, 2020).
Lee, Ann Carter. Buildings of Virginia: Valley, Piedmont, Southside and Southwest. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015.
Lohman, Bill. “Film Features People, Places of Big Stone Gap.” Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 1, 2020.
Wax, Don. "Carmine's Still Favorite of Guys and Dolls in this Area," The Post (Big Stone Gap, VA), February 19, 1959, p. 1A. Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/585332953/?terms=%22new%2Bservice%2Bstation%22 (accessed May 6, 2020).