The Abandoned Elkhorn High School in Switchback, West Virginia

Abandoned Switchback WV School Photograph

The Elkhorn High School is located near Switchback, West Virginia. It is right off of Highway 52 and is a large three-story brick structure. It is badly damaged and the roof has collapsed making it impossible to explore much of the school. It was very eerie being side this school as it looked like everyone just up and vanished leaving behind many belongings. I was very shocked to find out that this school was closed in 1953 as it appeared to have been closed only a few years.

I found some of the history of this school from www.elkhornhigh.com.

In 1922, local citizens passed a bond issue for the construction of a separate Elkhorn District High School at Switchback. Although the building program was launched in early spring, the school was not finished in time for the opening of school September 18, 1922. Students met in crowded quarters at Elkhorn Grade School. After the Christmas Holidays, January 8, 1923,
168 students enrolled in the new Elkhorn District High School (EDHS).

At its opening, EDHS was well equipped in all departments including the library, music and home economics departments, manual training, chemistry and in sports, baseball and  Switchback EHS 1991 Photographfootball.
The following year, the campus was landscaped by Elkhorn students from funds donated by James Elwood Jones.

Under the direction of Principal L. B Graybeal, the first EHS commencement was held Friday, June 8, 1923. Seven students were graduated, five girls and two boys.

In 1924, EDHS saw the construction of  its gymnasium, tennis courts  and indoor swimming pool.  A teachers club and boarding house were also on the grounds. It is believed that Elkhorn had the first and maybe only such board-club house for their teachers.

Although Elkhorn High School was a small school,  its students won many honors in competitions,  often winning first place.

At the end of the 1953 school year, Elkhorn High School was closed and was co-joined with Northfork High School, again becoming Northfork-Elkhorn High School.

I also found many photos of the area including an aerial photo of this school. See more historic photos here.

Abandoned School Hallway Switchback WV PhotographAbandoned School Classroom PhotographSwitchback Classroom Transformers PhotographSwitchback School Window Pane PhotographSwitchback West Virginia School Closed PhotographWest Virginia School Blackboard PhotographSwitchback West Virginia Abandoned Classroom and Desk PhotographAbandoned School Books PhotographAbandoned School Book Harry Sootin Library Card PhotographSwitchback School Steps Photograph

 

I would love for you to see more of my photo series from West Virginia below.

Prince, WV Art Deco Amtrak Station

New River Gorge

Abandoned Coalwood High School

Coal in McDowell County – Part 1

Coal in McDowell County – Part 2

Coal in McDowell County – Part 3

Coal in McDowell County – Part 4

Arson Destroyed Coal Company Store


Travis Dewitz Powerlines Portrait Thumb PhotographThrough the creative lens of Travis Dewitz; he demonstrates time and time again how much splendor can be extracted from the interplay of the industrial world around us. In the most unusual and unexpected places Dewitz showcases images that embody the forgotten beauty of railways, factory floors, the rolling smoke of steel mills, and the cities that are built around them. He brings a certain magic as he invokes the very souls of these once-glorious industrial areas; his captures overflow with inspirational energy. Click here to view his personal series.


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  • Vicki Su - August 5, 2012 - 12:00 am

    This school was a junior high school after the consolidation of Elkhorn and Northfork High Schools. I went to 7th grade here.ReplyCancel

  • Betty Cunningham - September 5, 2012 - 9:51 pm

    I graduated from EHS in 1951 – so many wonderful memories. We do have an Alumni Association and just had our 32nd annual reunion……….classmates attended from all over the country. We had the best teachers and so many activities!ReplyCancel

  • Hilda Lemon Harper - January 9, 2013 - 3:21 am

    I, too, went to this school, transferred with the student body to Northfork High School which became Northfork-Elkhorn High, and graduated there. Looking at the textbooks scattered on the floor in one picture, I would say there must have been classes in that building long after we left. I have taught school for a number of years in another state and remember those texts as an adoption long after 1960. Therefore…..I would think this building was used after that date.ReplyCancel

  • Shirley Mae Ofsa - January 10, 2013 - 3:48 am

    There were classes after Elkhorn High combined with Northfork in 1953. It became Elkhorn-Northfork Jr. High and then Switchback Grade School. I graduated here in 1950. It is such a shame the Board left it to fall in like this. It was a beautiful building at one time.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Fletcher - January 10, 2013 - 8:22 pm

    I lived across HiWay 52 and went to school there until we were transferred to Northfork(Northfork-Elkhorn High). My younger sister finished Jr High (Elkhorn-Northfork) there around 1965/1966.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Fletcher - January 10, 2013 - 8:22 pm

    I lived across HiWay 52 and went to school there until we were transferred to Northfork(Northfork-Elkhorn High). My younger sister finished Jr High (Elkhorn-Northfork) there around 1965/1966.ReplyCancel

  • Bob McMullen - February 10, 2013 - 10:41 pm

    Absolutely amazing photography. In the fall I visited Nuttallburg. Excellent site. I wanted to visit Coalwood and Welch, but the sheer level of poverty evident in the photos is disturbing. And there does not seem to be any solution, certainly coal mining will not save the economy.ReplyCancel

  • Dori Smith - February 20, 2013 - 3:55 am

    my father edsel ford tabor graduated in this school in 1940/41? if anyone has any photos pls email them to me please….ty.ReplyCancel

  • Dori Smith - February 20, 2013 - 3:57 am

    MY FATHER GRADUATED FROM HERE IN 1940 0R 41.. IM DOIN SOME FAMILY HISTORY, GLAD TO HAVE RAN ACROSS THIS…ReplyCancel

  • Kayla Fuller - June 23, 2013 - 9:02 am

    Travis these are amazing pictures! I randomly found the pics of this school when I was browsing things about West Virginia on Pinterest. I actually went to this school in the early 90’s when it was Switchback Elementary School like Jamey said. I pass it everytime I travel back to west Virginia to visit family and I’ve always wanted to pull over and walk around. Thank you so much for those pictures!! ReplyCancel

  • Doug - August 1, 2013 - 4:05 am

    Travis, nice shots, I don’t know for sure what year it closed, but I would guess at the end of the school year in 2004. There was writing on some of the chalkboards a few years ago that clearly was not graffiti, it was written by a teacher, the typical kind of things that would be written by a teacher at year’s end (awards, finals, etc..)
    Also, I asked an old guy who lived nearby how long it had been closed, and he said 6 or 7 years, he wasn’t sure. This was in 2011, which makes sense. happened upon this place completely by accident, very coolReplyCancel

  • Fred M. Powers - October 6, 2013 - 6:33 pm

    I am a retired coal miner (Keystone # 1 ) and school teacher having taught 25 years in McDowell & Mercer Counties (20 in McDowell). I transferred to Switchback Elem. in Feb 2000 from Northfork Middle School. This school was closed in June 2004 & the students transferred to Kimball Elem. I loved working there. Mrs. Brenda Owens (one year) & John Nofsinger (three years) were my principals there. I currently do coal mining storytelling in miner’s garb & black face for various audiences. Just want to tell the miner’s story.ReplyCancel

  • Amy Gentry - December 14, 2013 - 4:54 am

    This school was used as an elementary school long after that. I started kindergarten there in 1990 and went thru 1997 before going to Northfork Middle School.ReplyCancel

  • sepress gilkerson - December 18, 2013 - 2:39 pm

    i have lived and worked here all my life and since 2012this is the worst times i have seen since ive been working the last 27 years would love to see coal come back as it was 10 years ago because a lot of people have lost their jobs and more and more of us are are going to have to find other jobs i would love to stay and finish my carear here as a coal miner -plant operator but the future here is gone may god bless us all that has lost our jobs and we do goodReplyCancel

  • Thomas Lassak - June 1, 2014 - 8:40 pm

    I grew up in Welch, WV. From 1950 – 1970, later moved back from 1976 until 1987. I was working in the funeral business and after U S Steel and all the other large coal mines decided to close in 82 and 83. I knew it was time to leave so I stayed until 87 and things had really began to become depressing. My father taught school at Elkhorn High School unti it closed then went to Welch High School. People had ask me how come I did not own a funeral home but I was not financially able and I would have been trapped in a very depressing area. I really appreciate all the photos and I have not been back since 2000 when my father died. I retired after 47 years in the funeral business, I had set my benchmark of 50 years so my 47 was my 50. I live in Murfreesboro, TN., to be near family. Thanks again for taking the photos and if you would go back now you would find it more depressingReplyCancel

  • Travis Dewitz - August 5, 2012 - 2:00 am

    Do you know what year it closed, Vicki?ReplyCancel

  • Vicki Su - August 5, 2012 - 2:24 am

    I’m not sure, Travis. I graduated from high school in 1959 so I would have been a 7th grader in 1954-55. I’m thinking it was probably open until about 1960. My family moved out of state after my 7th grade year there. Part of the big slow down in the coal business.
    ReplyCancel

  • Pat Cunningham Foutz - September 5, 2012 - 10:33 pm

    Good article Betty!!ReplyCancel

  • Frances Norris - January 10, 2013 - 6:28 am

    I agree Shirley it was one of the prettiest campus’ in McDowell County!!ReplyCancel

  • Dori Smith - February 20, 2013 - 5:31 pm

    click on this pic and see some amazing photos of wva and the coal mine regions where i was raised…yes, ima hillbilly and proud of it!!!ReplyCancel

  • Jamey Middleton - May 30, 2013 - 12:57 am

    I have a picture of it from when I was up there in 2008 and there was a sign on the side of the building that says “Switchback Elementary” and it looked in very good shape. Its in my Southern West Virginia album in my pictures.ReplyCancel

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