When I first rolled into Pocahontas Virginia I wished right away that it were 50 years earlier. The famous Pocahontas Number Three mine would be in overdrive producing high-quality coal for the war effort. Second and third generation immigrant families would be making their company town hum with vitality. The legendary court house, saloon, and newspaper office would be on their way to becoming historic landmarks. They were riding the final surge of bituminous to be extracted from the vast 13 foot seam that ultimately yielded 44 million tons.
But, when a major coal mine shuts down the company town shuts down as well. That greeted me in May 1991 - a depressed economy, an eroded community and welfare, accentuated by an effort to attract tourism. Scant times for those who stayed behind. But exhilarating for a visiting photographer seeking a whiff of reality in southwest Virginia coal country.
My photowalk began in the historic downtown, then moved thru the tightly parallel residential streets - the rectangular layout typical of company towns - lined with one story well-worn bungalows and under maintained churches. Rounding the far apex I stepped into a dazzling white beam reflected from this freshly painted church way down at the end of the street. I knew that red doors were a common tradition in the Episcopal Church a symbol of spiritual refuge - washed in the blood of Jesus. I knew this church could be seen from all parts of town. Tentatively, I approached the shot wanting to capture in a photograph how the fires keep burning when the coal runs out.
Title: © Church with Red Door. r0249-19
Series: Country Churches
Location: Pocahontas, Virginia
Date: Friday 31 May 1991