The New River Gorge Many Years Ago
When visiting Bridge Day, it is difficult to look at the surroundings and imagine what the New River Gorge was like many years ago. Times have changed. The 1930's brought hardship to the Gorge as the world’s economic forces started to change. The Dun Glen Hotel at Thurmond had burned and entire coal towns like Kaymoor were changing as the railroad and mining companies started developing more efficient processes.
During this time only 40% of families owned an automobile so travel over the New River Gorge was minimal. The Fayette Station bridge at the bottom of the canyon was the only means of carrying folks over the New River and further north. West Virginia at the time was a house divided with few southerners ever yearning to go further north.
It wasn’t until some 40 years later that the state proposed the creation of a massive bridge that would lessen commute times and open up the state that was previously so north/south divided. This last piece to Route 19 (Appalachian Corridor L as it was called) took $37 million and more than three years to complete.
Today the New River Gorge Bridge stands proudly as that well-needed connection. The year was 1977 when it was completed and the first Bridge Day Festival followed in 1980. It’s hard to imagine it’s been 33 years and she still looks as good as the day she opened. A true beacon of the endurance and solidarity all West Virginians have exhibited through the years.