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Downtown Fairmont Adams Street 300 block historical

West Virginia and Regional History Center

WVU Libraries

Fairmont's business and industrial history begins in the early decades of the nineteenth century with small water-powered mills, blacksmiths, carriage works, and "several coal banks." One of the first known businesses in the area included The Barnesville Woolen Mill, which was located near the mouth of the Buffalo Creek in Bellview. In 1852, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad arrived, which provided a rise in Fairmont's population, drove up the value of local real estate, and transported the first shipment of coal from the area west of the Allegheny Mountains. Also in 1852, a  suspension bridge connecting Fairmont to Palatine was constructed. The Helmick Foundry Corporation, located across the Monongahela River near Water Street, can also be noted as one of the first businesses in the Fairmont area. Between the years of 1890 and 1930, Fairmont earned the moniker of "the Coal City" with the rise of mining developments and the growth of local corporate coal barons. Within this time period, Fairmont became the primary transportation and financial center for the area's coal mining regions including Barbour, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, and Taylor counties. In 1901, Clarence E. Watson founded the Fairmont Coal Company which eventually evolved into Consolidation Coal Company in 1928. 

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Aside from coal, Fairmont was also a regional hub for natural gas. Natural gas powered many of Fairmont's glass plants and was a driving force towards bringing these factories into the area. During the first decades of the century, Fairmont was home to over a dozen glass factories. The largest and most popular of these factories was the Owens-Illinois plant located along Speedway Avenue. At this time, the most prosperous businesses in the area included Owens-Illinois, Monongah Glass (later known as Fairmont Box), and Westinghouse Electric

Downtown Fairmont WV historical

West Virginia and Regional History Center

WVU Libraries

Business in Fairmont, WV was bustling as far back as 1906. At this time, there were seven banks in the area including The First National, The National Bank of Fairmont, The Peoples Bank, The Fairmont Trust Company, Home Savings Bank, Citizens Dollar and Savings Bank, and the Monongahela Bank. Hotels such as the Watson, Marietta, and the Manley were also quite popular. Fairmont had around 16 saloons in 1906, while many of them were located on Madison, Adams, and Jackson Streets. The building at 205-207 Adams St was home to the largest and most successful department store in town, Hartley's. Surrounding Hartley's Department Store was J.L. Hall's hardware store, Will "Moose" Fleming's grocery, and Christie's Drug Store. The first ever ice-cream parlor to Fairmont, located at the corner of Adams St, was known as Communtzi's. Along with Communtzi's, there was also Hagan's Ice Cream Shop located at 209 Adams St where you were able to buy an entire quart of Ice Cream for just 45 cents. George A. Walter's grocery store, E.A. Billingslea's drug store, McCray's dry goods, and Coal City Furniture Company could all be found along Madison St. In 1919, The then-famous Palace Restaurant moved into town at 123 Adams St. Before housing the grand success that was the Palace Restaurant, 123 Adams was also home to J.W. Marinara Italian Bank (1904), Busy Bee Restaurant (1909), The Hub Clothing Store (1912), and Anderson's Restaurant (1917). These stores were only a small fraction of the businesses that could be found within the Downtown District of Fairmont. Multiple bustling businesses of every shape and size lined each block of the district. Hundreds of individuals would travel into town via the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad or steamboat along the Monongahela River to visit these businesses each and every day. The first steamboat to ever come through Fairmont was known as The Globe. With available transportation methods such as train, streetcar, and boat, Fairmont had begun to evolve into a popular access point for residents, visitors, and laborers. As noted by current residents of Fairmont, in the dawn of the early 1900s, it was home to more millionaires than anywhere else in the country.

Downtown Fairmont Adams Street 200 block historical
Historical Fairmont WV aerial

West Virginia and Regional History Center

WVU Libraries

West Virginia and Regional History Center

WVU Libraries

Fast forward to present day Fairmont. Most businesses present in 1906 have left town as well as the structures that housed them. However, many structures that existed are still standing while they house new, exciting, thriving businesses. Some historical structures that still stand today include the Courthouse, the Watson Building, the building that housed Hartley's department store, and many more. Fairmont, West Virginia in 2018 has learned how to thrive in both the realms of large corporate and small local business. The city's top employers hail from the industries of Healthcare & Social Assistance, Accommodation & Food Service, and Educational Services. In the corporate realm, Fairmont is home to global industries such as NASA, FirstEnergy, and Coca-Cola. On a local scale, Fairmont has a multitude of offerings ranging from food & leisure to service. 

Citizens Building Fairmont
Deveny Building Fairmont

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200 Jackson St

Fairmont, WV 26554

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