The Appalachia Commercial Historic District comprises the commercial core of the Town of Appalachia, historically the primary shopping and entertainment hub for residents of surrounding coal camp communities of Wise County. Initially platted in 1897 by the Keystone Iron and Coal Company, the town developed along three railroad lines established around 1890. In 1911, the Virginia & Southwestern Railroad moved its shops from Bristol to Appalachia, which triggered additional investment and growth in the young town. The district’s buildings represent the height of Appalachia’s affluence between 1900 and 1950, when numerous businesses, offices, and institutions were established. With its prosperity tied to the coal and railroad industries, the town experienced a decline in the 1950s after the advent of mechanized coal mining practices and the railroad’s use of diesel, rather than steam, locomotives. Those technological advances, requiring less manpower, resulted in a dramatic loss of jobs and population in the area. The Appalachia Commercial Historic District boasts notable examples of early 20th-century commercial architecture executed in Colonial Revival, Art Deco, and later Moderne styles. Exhibiting a unified plan and visual continuity, the district’s layout adapts to the steep terrain of its environs.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark
Photo credit: Debra McClane, ca. 2018,Photo credit: Debra McClane, ca 2018