Editor’s note: This is one of many stories published in the “West Virginia South” June/July issue, now on sale across southern West Virginia.
Bumble bees dart and dive through the air, dancing around erratic bunches of weeds dotting the landscape around the Itmann Company Store building. The multi-building structure was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1990.
A testament to the skills of Italian immigrants who hand cut the rough-faced, native sandstone nearly nine decades ago, the giant edifice now sits in disrepair, a heart-wrenching victim of vandalism.
However, owner Billy Wayne Bailey, a former state senator, plans a major facelift for the sleeping giant. He met recently with an architect to chart his vision.
“I want people who come here to have Greenbrier Resort-class treatment for a Ramada Inn price,” Bailey emphasized in his trademark southern gentleman drawl.
That experience will require hotel rooms, a restaurant, a gift shop, along with a convenience store, live entertainment in the lower courtyard, maybe a small, intimate cafe for coffee, among other unique features. All these enterprises will encompass only two of the three buildings on the two-acre parcel.
The business will cater to ATV riders from the nearby Hatfield-McCoy Recreational Trail System, but will complement the community, Bailey believes.
Bailey has put a lot of thought into his plan. The hotel will be known as The Brownstone Inn, a tip of the hat to the stone exterior as well as the upscale offerings to come, and the restaurant will be called The Cajun Hillbilly, featuring Cajun food alongside Southern favorites and Mountain State specialties.
“We will pack lunches for ATV riders, whatever they need,” Bailey said.
“I have a business plan ready,” Bailey explained. “I need to get a new sewer system here.”
He is also working on day trip options for tourists who want to stay in The Brownstone Inn. Those options will include all the tourist activities southern West Virginia has to offer, he noted.
Bailey is currently working on financing options and hopes to have those in place soon.
— — —
The land was graded in 1917 in preparation for the mammoth structure. Well-known architect Alex B. Mahood designed the unique building in 1923; it was the largest construction project in Wyoming County between 1923 and 1925.
The stone was hand-cut from a nearby cliff, then hauled down the hill and across the Guyandotte River, and finally placed by construction workers.
The isolated mining community and its prominent company store were named for Pocahontas Fuel Company president Isaac T. Mann, shortened to Itmann. Like company stores throughout southern West Virginia at the time, the Itmann Company Store was the community center. The massive structure housed the company offices, the post office, a poolroom, barber shop, the doctor’s office, along with apartments for company employees. Miners’ families bought all their needs — from food and clothing to furniture and caskets — at the company store.
Inside, the building still has two vaults used by the company. One of the vaults will become part of a new kitchen.
Some of the floors are still covered with the original tile laid in concrete. Some of the original woodwork, carrying the classical detail, remains in place. The dark wood surrounds, utilizing pilasters and triangular pediments with classical ornamentation, still hem the interior doors in the main hall of the three-story structure.
Consolidated Coal took possession in 1958, then closed operations in the mid-1980s.
Bailey purchased the building from Consolidated Coal in the 1980s. His mother worked in the company store for several years as a bookkeeper. And, as a native of Wyoming County, he wants to see the building remain one of its prominent icons and has refused offers which would have resulted in tearing down the historic structure.
The distinctive exterior, boasting the arched loggia between the two main structures, has been left untouched for the most part. Bailey has no plans to change the exterior facade, at least the front side.
In the rear of the building, he plans a new addition to encompass the mechanical workings that will be required, including laundry facilities, a new elevator, then eventually a rooftop swimming pool overlooking the community and Guyandotte River.
In the remaining building, Bailey envisions offices for tourist development or he may expand the hotel offerings.
“For this to work, it will take the total support of the community and local government,” he emphasized.