WILLIAMSON – For decades, groups of school children have visited the Coal House to learn about its history. Now, they can take that history home with them in the form of a book.
“I Am Made of Coal” is a children’s picture book created by local writer Leigh Ann Ray. The full-color book shares the story of the structure, which holds a place on the U.S. Parks Service’s National Register of Historic Places, from it’s construction in 1933 from 65 tons of coal mined from the Winifrede seam to the devastating fire in October 2010 that nearly destroyed it to today.
Ray, who resides in Williamson, is president of the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce, which operates from the Coal House along with the Williamson Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. She recently saw a need for a book about the Coal House when chamber and CVB Executive Director Natalie Taylor was discussing a recent visit by young school-aged children to the structure.
“Natalie said she tells children visiting the Coal House its history and then reads them a story,” Ray said. “It hit me that Natalie could do both at the same time if she had a book about the Coal House. She obviously didn’t, so I decided to put one together.”
Ray, whose day job is that of grants coordinator/project manager for the Mingo County Commission, oversaw the reconstruction of the Coal House following the 2010 fire on behalf of the commission, which actually owns the structure. During the course of the near-year long renovation process, Ray snapped numerous photographs of the progress. She used these photos, along with new shots in the book. Additionally, she received permission from her friend, Sonya Hatfield Hall, to include photos Hall had taken of the Williamson Fire Department fighting the fire.
Sadly, Hall passed away prior to the book being completed.
“I think Sonya would have enjoyed the finished product,” Ray said. “I really appreciate her allowing me to use those photos. They are a vital part of the story.”
Ray added that she is excited that the Coal House will have its own “biography” available to tourists who visit the Coal House from all over the world.
“So often when you travel there are books detailing important aspects of that particular area,” she said. “Now, we have one specifically for the Coal House and I am so honored and humbled to be a part of it.”
“I Am Made of Coal” is produced by Archway Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster. It is currently available on Archway’s web site and Amazon. Ray and Taylor are currently taking orders for hard copies of the book. Details are available by contacting Ray at 606-794-3564 or Taylor at 304-235-5240 or by visiting the Coal House between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
A portion of local sales will benefit the chamber of commerce.