Release from the Coalfield Development Corporation:
MATEWAN, W.Va. – In just five short months, efforts to revitalize three historic buildings in downtown Matewan, West Virginia will be officially underway.
Known locally as the “Nenni” buildings, the century-old structures were purchased in 2019 by Coalfield Development for historic preservation and future economic development. Upon completion, the buildings will also house Coalfield Development’s Mingo County headquarters and serve as a hub for new social-enterprises and on-site job-training. Construction will begin with a groundbreaking ceremony on August 27.
In August 2020, the U.S. Economic Development Authority announced a $1.7 million grant for the Nenni buildings project to assist in renovations and repairs. Since then, Coalfield Development has raised and matched an additional $600,000 — making the total budget for the first phase of this project $2.3 million. Phase I, which the organization’s Board of Directors authorized at its March meeting, of the Nenni buildings project will focus on structural and exterior repairs and ground-level interior restoration.
With support from the Matewan and Mingo County communities, the Mine Wars Museum, the West Virginia Community Development Hub, the local UMWA chapter, the National Coal Heritage Area, the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, Southern Community and Technical College, and many others, it is Coalfield Development’s goal to restore and preserve the integrity of the Nenni buildings while creating a new jobs and business opportunities for Mingo-area residents.
“This will become a major economic, cultural and historical asset for Mingo County specifically and southern central Appalachia broadly,” said Brandon Dennison, CEO of Coalfield Development. “The skills developed here will be skills for the modern economy: clean energy, light manufacturing, design, sustainable construction, local agriculture, and more. The businesses created here will be resilient, innovative businesses. They will define the new Appalachian economy.”
Over the years, the Nenni Buildings have played a unique role in the community and in our nation’s labor history. The West Virginia Mine Wars is a critical chapter in American Labor History — and it’s also one of the most obscure. The Mine Wars were a decades-long struggle for justice and labor rights in the southern coalfields of West Virginia, where miners withstood deadly working conditions below ground, and above ground faced brutal circumstances that curtailed them from basic constitutional rights and unionization.