When you’re visiting southern West Virginia, Fayetteville gets a lot of attention as a cool town, and much-bigger Beckley is there simply to meet your needs. But there are many more little towns around this part of the state that also deserve some exploring. You’ll find two of them in between Fayetteville and Beckley: Oak Hill and Mount Hope, West Virginia.
Oak Hill’s downtown district is located along WV Route 16, just off US 19. Mount Hope is located south of Oak Hill: take US 19 south, then WV 16/61, then turn onto WV 211 for the drive into town.
I spent just a moment walking around downtown Oak Hill. To tell you the truth, there wasn’t very much to see. Many of the storefronts are empty.
I did, however, spot this relic of a sign, still clinging to the side of a building in downtown Oak Hill. I also admired that Purity Maid Bread ghost sign that you see at the top of the page.
In between Oak Hill and Mount Hope, you might pass by WOAY-TV’s studios. Back when I grew up in this area, this was the only station you could pick up with an antenna (aside from the PBS station, and who wanted to watch that?). I can remember a few school field trips to this building. Fun fact: it was supposed to be WOAK, as in OAK Hill, which would have made sense, but someone misread the license application, and nobody bothered to fix it for the past 70 years.
Mount Hope, WV
I found Mount Hope to be much more interesting than Oak Hill, even though it appears to be even closer to ghost-town status. The town’s odd configuration has the Main Street business district stretched out over a half-mile or so, going around curves and up and down some small hills. I stopped on the south end of the business district for a look around.
I’m not sure whether some of these businesses are still in business or not. I’m equally confused as to how you come up with a confectionery and hardware store. A peek inside the window suggested that the shelves were stocked with random stuff that they haven’t been able to sell yet.
The old Mount Hope Theater is located in this stretch of abandoned buildings. The marquee indicates that it’s for sale, just in case you’re interested. The theater dates back to around 1947.
I remember going to see a movie at this old theater, probably somewhere around 1991. It wasn’t a great experience. I distinctly remember noticing that the speakers were a couple of bullhorns, the kind you’d use on an outdoor PA system — not exactly a Dolby experience.
When I was a kid, Aide’s Department Store used to buy a lot of ad time on WOAY. The store is still there, but now it’s been converted into an antique store that’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays (not the day I was there, unfortunately).
I’m guessing this beautiful clock, advertising Beckley’s WJLS radio station, is not for sale.
I’m pretty sure Mount Hope Floral has been around for quite some time.
The town clock appears to be a newer addition to Mount Hope’s downtown.
Once I had seen everything there was to see in Mount Hope and Oak Hill, I headed on down to Beckley for the night.
Here’s a look at the drive from the New River Gorge Bridge, south to Beckley:
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A drive through Oak Hill and Mount Hope might not be the highlight of your visit to southern West Virginia, but if you like exploring old, authentic, somewhat abandoned small towns, they are both worth a visit.