In the same year that the town of Oak Hill was incorporated, the White Oak Railway Company established a depot to serve as a checkpoint and weigh station for the White Oak Coal Company. This depot doubled as a passenger station until after World War II, and enabled the economic development of Oak Hill, which soon became the social and commercial center of Fayette County. The depot was operated by Norfolk & Southern Railroad from 1957 to 1983, when the station was shut down. It is the oldest building in Oak Hill.
Oak Hill was incorporated on February 25, 1903, and the
White Oak Railway Company constructed a branch line through the town in the
same year. The depot was built about an eighth of a mile from the Giles,
Fayette, and Kanawha Turnpike, which would eventually be Main Street in Oak
Hill. The depot and line were constructed here because of the coal industry in
Fayette County. Before the establishment of the Oak Hill Depot the town was
sparsely populated, and went from 237 in 1900, to 764 in 1910, to 1,037 in
1920. Once a small farming town, Oak Hill became a commercial center with the
installation of the White Oak Railway. Oak Hill was nearly unaffected by the
Depression due to the local coal industry, and surpassed Thurmond and Mt. Hope
and became the social center of Fayette County in the 1940s.
Oak Hill itself was never a mining town, but merely a
checkpoint for counting coal cars and tonnages and to serve as a passenger and
freight station. The White Oak Coal Company was formed by Colonel Samuel Dixon,
a coal operator and entrepreneur, who purchased large undeveloped tracts of
property to mine coal; he formed the White Oak Railway Company to connect all
his purchased land. In 1905, White Oak Coal Company became the New River Fuel
Company, then New River Coal Company in 1905. When Dixon retired in 1913, the
New River Coal Company was the largest producer of coal in the New River coal
fields. The coal mined in this region was highly profitable because of its high
heat output and low smoke and ash.
The installment of the Oak Hill Depot made the area more
accessible and allowed local children to go to school, travel elsewhere to
further their education, and opened health care to the region, as well as
entertainment. After the Oak Hill Railroad Depot opened in 1903, it became
part of the Virginian Railway and served this railway until 1957. From 1957
until its closure in 1983, the Oak Hill Railroad Depot operated under the
Norfolk and Western Railway. The White Oak Chapter of the National Railway Historical
Society now uses the depot as a meeting place. Oak Hill Railroad Depot is the
only Virginian Railway depot in West Virginia that still exists.2
In 2015, the Oak Hill City Council voted to lease the Depot to a local farmer to set up a small grocery and fresh produce store. As of 2017, the business had continued to grow--the first long-term tenant in the station since its closure in 1983.