Elkins, West Virginia
Elkins, West Virginia is a dynamic and growing community of 10,500 people, serving as a tourism hub of the mid-Atlantic and a gateway to a vast outdoor recreation area that includes national forests, state parks, wilderness areas, ski resorts, hiking and biking trails, scenic train excursions and much more. Despite its small size, Elkins has an abundance of National Register historic sites, including several National Historic Landmarks. This is due in large part to the city’s dedicated volunteer community. The Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission works hard to preserve the city’s many historic structures and neighborhoods. The downtown, Davis & Elkins College, and Wees neighborhoods are listed with the National Register of Historic Places.
In the early 1900s, the city grew quickly. The City of Elkins was founded by U.S. Senators Henry G. Davis and Stephen B. Elkins. The two founders developed railroad lines, coal mines and timbering. Together, they built the WV Central and Pittsburg Railway into Elkins and opened a vast territory to industrial development in the late 1890’s. After an intense county seat dispute with nearby Beverly, Elkins became the county seat at the end of the 19th century. With those developments, the town started a building boom. By 1906, as described in “The Coming Metropolis of the State,” the town boasted of “European-style” hotels, opera houses, banks, a YMCA, brickworks, tannery and brewery. Davis Memorial Hospital and Davis & Elkins College had already been founded. The city had already attracted hundreds of rail and timbering workers as well as business entrepreneurs, all looking to make Elkins their home.
As the railroad expanded, Elkins experienced the luxury of passenger train service. In 1930, 18 passenger trains were arriving and leaving Elkins daily. The air was filled with the coal dust of steam locomotives. By the late 1950s, passenger service was discontinued and by the end of the 1980s all rail service ended. By the turn of the 21st Century, the rail yard began to be vibrant again. With a recently redeveloped depot area and tourist train service, the sound of train whistles has returned. Today, Elkins continues to shine as the business and cultural hub of Randolph County.