Coal Tattoo

What’s going on with Blair Mountain?


We know a little bit more about the Blair Mountain situation, but not much.

As described in a story in today’s Gazette,  the Manchin administration has asked the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places to remove Blair Mountain from National Register. Randall Reid-Smith, commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, cited objections from landowners that were “unintentionally overlooked” when the agency recommended the listing.

Apparently, state officials originally counted objections from 22 landowners among the 57 landowners in the proposed historic district. But after a re-count, they came up with 30 objections.

Now, I haven’t been able to get the list of property owners. I was told by Reid-Smith’s PR person, Jacqueline Proctor, that I had to file a formal Freedom of Information Act request to get this information (never mind that Gov. Joe Manchin has personally asked me and other Gazette reporters not to file FOIA requests, but just to call and ask for documents we want).

I’m waiting now to see if I can get those records. If I do, I’ll share them with Coal Tattoo readers.

I was able to get a copy of this letter, which Reid-Smith sent yesterday to the Keeper (the Park Service official who oversees the Historic Register), asking that Blair Mountain be classified as “eligible for” listing, rather than actually listed. As I understand these terms, that basically means the Manchin administration wants it taken off the list. It’s eligible — in terms of its historic significance and other factors — but can’t be listed because of the landowner objections.

If  you look at the letter, you’ll see that Culture and History officials have been engaged in private discussions with a coal company lawyer about this matter for more than a week. It will be interesting to see if the state is following the proper procedures (spelled out here, in NPS regulations) for a delisting

Finally, one has to wonder how the historian community will react to this move, especially given their low opinion of Reid-Smith over the firing of West Virginia State Archivist Fred Armstrong.