After gallivanting around the country for the last 6 months, I have a gigantic backlog of photos that need some sorting and a blog that needs updating. I recently performed in a burlesque show where the MC mentioned this site and my adventures during my intro. If that’s not a kick in the pants to update this thing, then I don’t know what is.
A couple of weekends ago I took another road trip down south to see what abandoned treasures awaited me. Two years ago I visited Thurmond, WV, which is one of the many New River Gorge ghost towns that surround the area. After researching the town and reading up on the history, I found out about the hilarious rivalry between Captain William Thurmond and Thomas Mckell, the founder of Glen Jean and the infamous Dun Glen Hotel. Even though Glen Jean is not really a ghost town, I really wanted to re-visit the town to see what this infamous den of vice had left. (If you missed it the first time around, you can read the Thurmond vs. Glen Jean rivalry here).
After breakfast at the Omlette Shoppe where we watched someone on meth meticulously mix the contents 25 packets of grape jelly into her grits, and a failed trip to a rainy Stotesbury (poor decision to wear canvas sneakers today), we decided to go to the tried and true town of Glen Jean. We had recalled seeing some abandoned buildings in the vicinity on our trip to Thurmond (not realizing we were in Glen Jean at the time), and figured it was a pretty safe bet to find something.
And we were right!
A stop was immediately made when we happened up an abandoned school house along our route, which turned out to be the Glen Jean School.
It’s unclear whether this used to be an elementary school, a high school or both, as the history is a little foggy. Some of the remnants that are left on the wall suggest that its last incarnation may have been (at least partially) an elementary school. There are even some reports that it was used as a hospital at one point.
What I do know though, is that when McKell was through pillaging the lands from Thurmond, he needed to start building a community for his workers toiling in the coal mines, which included a school house for the families. The first school house burnt down in 1924 (which I can only imagine was Thurmond’s fault – they seemed to like setting each other’s property on fire). The building that stands today came shortly after, built in 1925, with the 2nd floor added in 1926.
The school remained in continuous operation until 1997. The building was purchased in 1999 to serve as business offices and visitor center for the Thurmond, Glen Jean, and Great New River Railroad, but was closed in 2006 when the railroad was sold.
There are also many accounts of the property being haunted, which some claim are from its past history of being a hospital, and others claim from a brutal murder – which I tried to research, but the only information I found came from a paranormal investigator who learned about the murder via speaking to spirits… The spirits told him it was a choking, in case you were wondering.
When we were walking around, the only thing I noticed was the squish of my sopping wet sneakers and the creaking of the unstable floors (watch your step!).
This structure, along with the McKell Bank, which sits just down the road, is one of the few remaining structures left from the early days of the New River mining. Architecturally, the bank is quite beautiful – it’s sealed up tight though, so I couldn’t tell you what it’s like on the inside. The school, however, is quite plain in that regard, and aside from an amazing looking old safe and some fraternity graffitti dated 1966, it doesn’t do a whole lot for the old-timey nerd in me.
It was a fun spot to poke around, though, with lots of remnants to be found. There are also a lot of holes in between the rooms, which made for more than one Koolaid Man moment. I just wish I knew a little bit more about the space! There was a modern flea market sign in the front door without a date, but it’s been a LONG time since this place has hosted one. My internet sleuthing left me with many unanswered questions. Anyone out there in Internetland have any insight?
11 thoughts on “Glen Jean School”
I went to this location a few weekends ago during the day time. Nothing notable happened while we were there. We took pics around the building outside and then I poked my head into the building and snapped a few photos as well. A few nights later while going through my photos that I took of the building outside, I discovered one that I took that you can clearly see two school aged boys looking out at us at the playground from one of the back windows. I’ve also been told from other people that the headmaster is most likely a demon and not a spirit you want to cross. If you would like me to send you a copy of the photo, email me at email@example.com
Wow! Yes, I’d love to see those! I will send you an email. 🙂
My dad went to elementary school here in the 80’s!! He told me he got paddled when he was in the third grade! It’s cool to think that he actually went there and so many people are visiting it now.
Aw, that’s great! Thanks for sharing that! 🙂
I went there in the 80s, but there was no paddling was happening by the time I arrived. I was there from kindergarten until 3rd grade and had a relative that was a cook. I enjoyed the school and the faculty was also great. I also lived in Thurmond at one point and used to spend many weekends riding my trail bike up and down the lower section. I loved that place!
Hey! Just saw your article! I used to live down In Glen Jean, and used to run the Thurmond, Stone Cliff Area! Any Ways, I’ve been in this school a few times, doing photography, here as of late the property has been fixed up with new banners and signs for “Crown” so not sure what’s going on, also I’m not sure what happened with the flee market thing they tried doing, I recall it being open twice, and then I never saw them back.
Hi! From 1973 to 1979, I lived in Hill Top, West Virginia, and I went to school at Glen Jean Elementary. I have wonderful memories of the place, back then, the Principal’s name was Carlos Arthur. I just loved all my teachers, although they did paddle a few of us…(lol). My Mom still says, to this day, that this school gave me and my brother the best education we could have received. I plan to visit it the next time I come to visit my folks, who now live near Victor, WV.
Btw, Facebook has a page for the school alumni. And another great old school to visit would be the old Ansted High School.
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i went to school there back in the late 1970’s-early 80’s.it is a shame to see the condition of this building today.
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I went to school here too!!! Oh my was that the greatest start to my school experience, I went here from kindergarten to second grade. I was born in 1971. So it was 1976 when I started. I remember the first day of school and the last day I every stepped foot in the. I had to move to Houston Texas. I never wanted to leave that school. That school was a second home to all of us. We wanted to go to school. All of our friends were there and the teachers were like family. That slide in those picks. Man. That was a tall slide. We had swings and monkey bars. Can you believe we played on black top. Lol. From the time you got off the bus till the time you got dropped off at home they took care of you like family. We had school plays for community, art contest, coloring contest, Days when you would go out to play ground and there would be tables and tables of books that each student was allowed to pick a few to keep. I can’t thank that school and the staff enough for all they did for us. Yes. I even got paddled in school. One of the teachers would tell you to stop talking or whatever you were doing. And second time. You were told to go to the projector and put your hands on the cart and bend forward. Swat swat!!!! That was schooling. But you know what, they showed you love also. So paddling was part of that and we understood. If I could go back and experience it all again I would and I would cherish cherish it all 1000x fold!!!!
Miss you Toots ,Moomoo and Carrie and all the school gang… you were the best!!!!
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I taught at Glen Jean right out of college for 2 years from 1981-1983. The principal’s name was Bob Evans (I know..) and when he paddled students he had to have a witness and he often used me. Coming from New York State, those 2 years were quite a learning experience.
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Wow! The 80s were a different time!