While the Rust Belt has suffered and declined significantly since its heyday in the years after World War 2, West Virginia has suffered more from, among other things, the decline of coal. Today there are many derelict buildings dotted around the Appalachian state.
The Rust Belt has many parts that are an urban explorer's dream. Perhaps none more so that the partly abandoned city of Detriot. West Virginia and the Rust Belt have very different vibes for abandoned buildings and of a time gone by.
The Decline Of The Number of Schools In West Virginia
Many of the schools in West Virginia were closed as a result of consolidations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In those times, West Virginia had thousands of schools. At one point the state had 6,156 schools in 395 districts, 40 high schools, 262 multi-room “graded” schools, and 5,854 one-room schools.
- Peak: 6,156 Schools
- 1960: 2,843 Schools
- 2000: 900 Schools
- 2013: 755 Schools
The small community-run schools were inefficient and disappeared from the larger metropolitan regions in the 19th century. But, naturally, they stuck around for longer in rural communities. Most of these small schools were one or two rooms and were also the center of social life for the small, isolated communities.
The number of schools in the state dramatically fell and by 1960 there was less than half the former number of schools at 2,843. These reforms were coupled with the loss of mining and other jobs that also reduced the school-age population in many of West Virginia's counties. By the end of the 20th century, there were less than 900 schools remaining in the state according to Abandonedonline.com.
According to Ballotpedia, by 2013 West Virginia had 283,044 students enrolled in a total of 755 schools in 57 school districts.
Prosperity School - The Small Isolated School That Held Out
One two-room isolated school called Prosperity School managed to persist for much longer. Prosperity School is located on Great Flat Top Mountain and had around 41 students.
- Location: Great Flat Top Mountain
The school was refurbished in 1961 with its central heating and water systems being upgraded - but there were not enough funds for an indoor restroom. The small isolated school managed to cling on through the 60s and 70s, but then events overtook it in the 80s.
- Abandoned: In 1982
By that time, the roads in this part of Virginia had been improved and there was a growing fleet of schools buses. As a result, the Prosperity School was forced to close.
McDowell Vocational School - Vocational Schools Lost in The Forest
Today the Mc Dowell Vocational School is an abandoned school being reclaimed by the Appalachian forests. It was once a vocational school that offered 11 different workshop repairs with state-of-the-art equipment.
According to Abandonedonline.com, it was for white children, while the Prunty Trade School was designed for Black children. The Prunty Trade School taught electrical and mechanical skills and only classes in masonry, drafting, auto body repair, and welding - with outdated tools.
- Opened: The Prunty Trade School Openned in 1950
In 1965 a new vocational education facility was built and today the old schools are left and are a scene out of a post-apocalyptic movie.
Glen Jen School - The School Building With A New Lease of Life
Another abandoned school is that of Glen Jean School. Its history is unclear and Atlas Obscura is not even sure it was an elementary school and a high school. They also report, that there are reports it was used as a hospital for a while.
The abandoned school is part of the town of Glen Jean in West Virginia. The town was founded to compete with the neighboring town Thurmond (that's now a ghost town). Thurmond once had a population of around 462 but today it is deserted and most of it is owned by the National Park Service for the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (America's newest national park).
- Thurmond: The Rival Mining Town - Now A Ghost Town
- Glen Jean: The Gateway To New River Gorge
- Founded: By Thomas McKell - Bitter Rival Of Captain William Thurmond, founder of Thurmond
The first schoolhouse burnt down in 1924 - that may have been deliberate at of arson by the neighboring bitter rival Thurmond. The building one sees today was built right after 1925 with the second floor being added the following year.
The school functioned for around 70 years before being closed in 1997. It was then purchased in 1999 to be a visitor center for Thurmond, Glen Jean, and the Great New River Railroad. But that closed in 2006 after the railroad was sold.
- Today: Converted Into A Skate/BMX Park
Until recently the Glen Jen School sat abandoned and there were reports of the property being haunted. But in the 2010s the building got a new lease of life - it was gutted and converted into a Skate/BMX park.