Whipple Company Store and Appalachian Heritage Museum
Built in 1890, the Whipple Company Store is one of four buildings designed and constructed by Justus Collins, and the only one still left standing. From 1890 to 1954 it served the coal camp and mine of Whipple along with other surrounding coal camps in southern Fayette County. The coal companies owned the store, the goods, the homes, the miners and their money. The company store itself sold everything the coal miner’s families would need in the 1890’s, from candy to caskets, jewelry and perfumery, and toiletries. The store was also the location for community and union meetings and cultural events.
Backstory and Context
In 2006, the building was purchased by Virginia natives Chuck and Joy Lynn, who, with a group of yearly interns, personally guide visitors through the museum; sharing stories of local coal miners and show visitors what life was like in Southern West Virginia’s coalfields. The museum seeks to preserve the history and culture of coal miners and their families. The store gives visitors a view of the unique architectural structure and style during this time period. Inside of the store visitors will find: displays of original artifacts and mining equipment, a hand-operated freight elevator, telephone operator’s station, original post office, two walk-in safes, original functioning organ, original security system built into the store, embalming room in basement, secret second floor, and a ballroom on the 3rd floor.
Remaining sealed until 2006, the building has been a living history to the community. Along with the countless artifacts the building has accumulated since 1893, the current owners and interns continue to sort through thousands of documents containing: local doctor records, births and deaths, commitment papers, and learn more about the history of women during this time in the process.
One of the unique features of the Whipple Store is the 1 ½” corkcrete floor in the round store room. Corkcrete uses cork as one of the aggregate materials, which is lighter than concrete and sound reflective. The entire floor is corkcrete, except for one large square in the center of the room, which is of concrete material. This, combined with the shape of the room and the flat ceiling, would bring all of the area sound to this center square. Cork reflects sound, concrete absorbs it.
If you stand in the center of the room and sing or even whisper, the sound is amplified as if you are surrounded by the sound or like a sound monitor is in front of you. The sound reverberates like an amphitheater. Many famous musicians have recorded here because the sound is so clean, crisp and clear, it is absolutely beautiful. Two years ago my son had the opportunity to sing the National Anthem dead center of this room to kick off the 2016 annual Masquerade Ball. During the evening at the Ball we were honored to have a tour of the building as the Lynn family told of legends and tales in each room. This fascinating journey will transport you to the era better than a book could as you see, hear and experience the adventure first hand. I highly recommend a tour as the Lynn family has superior knowledge of the Company Store.
You can now visit the Appalachian Heritage Education Museum located inside of the Whipple Company Store. There are several types of tours available, depending on your interest and vary in length and cost. It continues to be a non-profit museum, and hopes to preserve and protect coal mining heritage.
"Whipple Company Store." National Coal Heritage Area/ Coal Heritage Trail. Web. 23 June 2015. . Appalachian Heritage Education Museum Tour Images from https://www.facebook.com/WhipplecompanystoreWV/photos/pb.65091461657.-2207520000.1445219548./10152398150806658/?type=3&theater
Lusk, Sheila Concord University student with WV Rocks, 2016 first hand account.