The War Memorial in Kimball, McDowell County, was the first building in the country erected to honor African-Americans who fought in World War I. In the early years of the 20th century the southern West Virginia coalfields had a large black population. During World War I, McDowell County alone mustered 1,500 black soldiers. The War Memorial also became home to the country’s first all black American Legion Post, named for Luther Patterson, one of the first African-American casualties of the war.
Designed by architect Hassel T. Hicks of Welch, the memorial was dedicated in 1928. The two-story brick structure is Classical Revival in style, with a massive two-story Roman Doric portico on the front facade. A focal point of community life for many years, the building served as a social, recreational, and cultural center for black and white residents alike and hosted such well-known entertainers as Cab Calloway and his band.
As mining jobs disappeared and McDowell’s population declined, the building fell into disrepair. After it was gutted by fire in 1991, a citizens group was organized to undertake the renovation and restoration of the building. The Kimball War Memorial was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
Read the National Register nomination.
This Article was written by Margo Stafford
Last Revised on February 01, 2013
Bickley, Ancella R., ed. Our Mount Vernons: Historic Register Listings of Sites Significant to the Black History of West Virginia. Huntington: Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation & Drinko Academy, 1997.
Stone, Greg. Time Honored: McDowell Trying to Rally Support for War Memorial. Charleston Gazette, 6/22/1998.
Pedersen, Ralph. "Restoration and Rehabilitation of the Kimball Memorial Building." Feasibility Study for the McDowell County Commission, 1985.