The town of Big Stone Gap was originally called Three Forks because three forks of the Powell River came together here. Later it was called Mineral City, because of the rich mineral deposits. In 1888, the town officially became known as Big Stone Gap, which was an important center for coal and iron development.
There are a number of great historical locations of interest to visitors, including the Southwest Virginia Museum, which chronicles the exploration and development of the region. The museum, a lovely four-story mansion, houses a collection of items from the region. The collection was started by C. B. Slemp, who served in Congress from 1907 to 1923 and was President Coolidge’s personal secretary.
Visitors will also want to stop at the Meador Coal Museum to delve deeper into the coal mining history of the area. Displays include historic, mining equipment and tools, office equipment, coal company items, and much more. The John Fox Jr. Museum, home of the author of Trail of the Lonesome Pine, the nation’s first million-selling novel which was based on the beginning of the coal mining industry in the Appalachian region, is open to visitors too.
The June Tolliver House should also be on your list of historic places to visit. A registered Virginia and National Historic Landmark, features 19th-century furnishings and a gift shop featuring mountain crafts. The 101 Historic Traincar, built in 1870 and used by the president of the South Carolina and Georgia Railroad, is one of the oldest and finest examples of passenger car construction of the late 19th century, is another great stop, as is the Lonesome Pine School and Heritage Museum.
Big Stone Gap’s Historic District contains several architecturally significant buildings. The Slemp Federal Building, June Tolliver House, Christ Episcopal Church, John Fox House, SWVA Museum, Terrace Park Girl Scout Cabin, and Tri-State Coach Bus Terminal are all Federal and/or State listed historic structures. Very few communities have such a number of historic edifices within easy walking distance of one another!
Check out our HISTORY section on this website as well!