The Exhibition Coal Mine is an apt name. A historic mine, visitors are invited to come tour the site and learn about its place in West Virginia history.
The Phillips-Sprague Mine in Beckley, West Virginia, opened in 1889, but commercial coal mining didn’t begin until 1906. The mine operated for just under 50 years. After it shut down in 1953, the property was sold to the City of Beckley and turned into an educational site.
For a small entry fee, automated rides through the mine are available, giving visitors a rare glimpse inside a traditional coal mine. Being able to see how the mine is constructed and laid out is an eye-opening experience, as the darkness and depth are beyond the expectations of even the most realistically-minded tourist. Coal mines no longer operate the way this one did, so not only is it a glimpse into a place many don’t get to go; it’s also a glimpse into a time that has long since passed. Tours are led by veteran miners who can provide firsthand accounts of the daily life and responsibilities of past and present-day miners.
In addition to the mine, a number of coal camp buildings have been restored throughout the grounds of the former company town. These include a small home, a church, a doctor’s office, and a schoolhouse, all of which offer a realistic representation of the trappings of life in an early 20th century coal camp.