Celebrating Council Day, Labor Day, and ‘A New Day in Fort Gay’

In honor of Labor Day, the Coalfield Development team celebrated our monthly Council Day with an afternoon summer shindig to show appreciation for our crew members and their families. Hosted on the front lawn of the old Fort Gay High School in Fort Gay, West Virginia, the team took some time to kick back, relax, and enjoy food trucks, axe throwing, and cornhole.

Fort Gay High School restoration announcement

The event also kicked off the start of Coalfield’s latest endeavor — the restoration of the old high school building — with a ceremonial hammer swing by Fort Gay Mayor Joetta Hatfield and a group of state and local representatives.

Mayor Hatfield, who attended Fort Gay High School, said the project has been a long time coming for the Wayne County community and for her fellow Fort Gay High School alumni. Fort Gay consolidated with Crum High School to create Tolsia High School in 1987, and the building was used as a middle school.

“I’ve lived here my entire life, and I love the school, and the building,” Hatfield said. “To me, it’s beautiful. This place has so many great memories — not just for myself — for anybody that attended school here and graduated from here has very fond memories of this building.”

Over time, the school fell into disrepair. But even after it closed, the school grounds continued to act as a de facto city center, Hatfield said, where residents host various events and activities.

“This is where everything takes place if there’s anything happening in town,” Hatfield said. “Whether it’s religious groups singing or a church group that wants to have an outing or our Mountain Heritage Day Festival, it’s usually held here.”

Once complete, the old high school building will serve multiple purposes: from apartments on the second floor, to a space for community activities, to town offices, and small business pursuits.

Hatfield said she hopes to see Fort Gay’s alumni association host its future Labor Day alumni weekend events there. Currently, the annual alumni banquet is hosted in the neighboring city of Louisa.

“We want to bring that banquet home,” Hatfield said. “That’s one of our main goals for this building — a commercial kitchen and dining area so we can bring our alumni association home.”

Revitalize crew to spearhead construction efforts

Casey McCann, director of the Revitalize enterprise, said the project will take place in phases, starting with the roof repairs and renovation of the first floor for future community use. The next phase, he said, will be dedicated to converting the second floor into eight apartment units.
“A lot of the living conditions we walk into are not in the greatest condition, and our mission is to restore those — hence the name ‘Revitalize’ — back for the community and the people,” McCann said.

The Fort Gay crew will consist of a crew chief, crew members, and between three to four WRAPS trainees. Construction is expected to begin following the completion of the ongoing Coalfield Victorville apartments project.

 

“I think it’s going to take a great effort, but it will get there, and I think the end result will be very beneficial to the community,” McCann said. “It’s a long-term investment that’s going to pay dividends for generations.”

Luster Ratcliff, a Revitalize crew member who attended middle school in the old high school, said it was an honor to be part of the group that works on the building.

“I’m going to be able to tell my kids and their kids, ‘We done that — we made it better,’” Ratcliff said.

Following the ceremonial hammer swing, CEO Brandon Dennison closed by thanking the mayor for her leadership and all who helped make the Fort Gay restoration possible.

“Our vision statement for Appalachia is about unlocking potential power and purpose, and typically we mean that for people, but today it’s about a building,” Dennison said. “We knew this building had more potential than just to become more than storage units, and we stuck with that.”

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