The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

April 25, 2012

The Mystery of the Mound

(and the mystic pride of Mount Hope)

“Stories vary on the origins of the mound from an Indian burial site to the grounds of a coal tipple, to the discarded debris as a new road was developed from Mount Hope to Oak Hill,” explains Rebecca Dean, secretary of Mount Hope Heritage & Hope Inc. She is actively promoting an important part of a comprehensive, phased plan dedicated to revitalizing the historic Fayette County city.

Today, the biggest mystery is: Why are cars lining the overgrown pull-off known simply as “the mound” at the north entrance to Mount Hope, with people walking around, considering its potential?

 A cut-stone wall surrounding a swell of earth greened over by nature indicates that some secret must lie within. Not necessarily, says Dave Sibray, a historian consulting the group on several of its revitalization projects.

Sibray’s best guess at the origin of the Mount Hope mound is that the pile of shale was secured by any of the plenty of skilled stonemasons available in the 1930s, when the road was constructed there by the West Virginia State Road Commission, one of a few routes that would eventually serve to isolate the Main Street district. The space will now be converted into a usable public park, as it was once in the 1960s.

With the exception of a few thousand dollars, expected from private contributions, Mount Hope Heritage & Hope Inc. has secured the funding necessary to fulfill its vision for the mound area. Mayor Michael Martin and the City of Mount Hope contributed the lot for development as attractive green space. Funding from The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the Fayette County Commission and in-kind contributions will serve to restore the landmark and erect information kiosks for residents and visitors.

The kiosks will offer a history lesson on Mount Hope’s milestones, describing its coal heritage and celebrating the history of its African-American citizens and the esteemed Du Bois High School, an all black school providing excellence in education until the time of integration in the ’60s.

The plan includes a design committee dedicated to scraping the mound, scrapping the debris and overgrowth, and giving it shape and substance. Where random weeds and brush now form a tarp over and around the shale heap, native West Virginia shrubs like rhododendron and rose of sharon will soon define it. The plans also offer majesty to the mound’s modest elevation, adding the U.S., West Virginia and Mount Hope flags, each complete with poles and dramatic uplighting.

Established in 2009 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Mount Hope Heritage

& Hope achieved as the

first of its goals working

with the federal government to designate portions of Mount Hope as historic

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