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Hinton incorporated in 1880, is sited at the confluence of the Greenbrier and New rivers. It is the county seat of Summers County. Hinton was built on land purchased by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad in 1871 from the son of the first white settler, Isaac Ballengee, who had received a land grant for 210 acres from Virginia in 1777. Before the railroad, only six families lived in the area, but after the C&O arrived in the early 1870s the population grew rapidly. Hinton was laid out in 1874 and lots sold. Hotels, taverns, mercantile stores, an opera house, and boarding houses accommodated the railroad workers.

By 1892, the C&O had completed a roundhouse with 17 engine stalls and a car shop with a capacity of 40 cars in Hinton, providing employment for 540 men. For more than a half-century the town boomed as an important railroad center. In the 1950s, however, changes in coal mining methods, the working out of some older mines, the local abandonment of coke making, and the conversion of railroad locomotive power from steam to diesel drastically altered the economic life of Hinton. The C&O Railway laid off hundreds of workers, specialists in maintaining steam engines, and the town’s population declined. Brick streets, elaborate municipal and commercial buildings, and two-story Victorian wood-frame houses with gingerbread trim and porches on both stories remain as testimony to the prosperity of the railroad era. The Hinton Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

The construction of Bluestone Dam on the New River, completed in 1949, provided employment for many local workers and created Bluestone Lake. The lake, now a popular recreation area, covers the site of several early farms and communities. Hinton hosts two major annual events, the Water Festival in August and Railroad Days in October. Strategically located as the gateway to New River Gorge, Hinton hopes for future growth as a recreational and retirement center. The 2010 population of Hinton was 2,676.

Read the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Hinton Historic District.

Written by Stephen D. Trail