Thomas in Tucker County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
"All that Humanity Could Desire…"
Thomas, West Virginia
The town is well equipped with store and shops, and for its population, of unusual size and attractiveness. In them can be found all that humanity could desire in the way of merchandise." — T. Nutter, Thomas, WV: History, Progress and Development, 1906
Commerce in Thomas
Although the Davis Coal and Coke Company operated its Bruxton and Landstreet company store, private industry flourished in Thomas. People from surrounding towns visited Thomas for their shopping needs. Many business owners were immigrants who started as laborers in the mines or as pack peddlers, and patiently saved until they build buildings and open their own businesses. The population of Thomas at the turn of the century truly represents the classic American Dream of prosperity through hard work.
Thomas grew quickly between 1884 and 1990. However, the appearance of the town drastically changed in 1901 due to a destructive fire that broke out in the early hours of November 12. Eighty-three buildings were destroyed in two hours due to the 50 mile per hour winds that spread the fire quickly. Most of the
Joseph DePollo, Shopkeeper
Joseph DePollo immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1891. He was recruited in the New York to come to Coketon as a worker for the Davis every year until he could bring them back to Thomas around 1903, the same year he opened his general store in a small wooden building on Front Street.
The present building (No. 15) was constructed in 1915-16 and the family of 10 lived on the upper floors. Joe's son John began working at age 14 as a delivery boy and went on to help his father manage the store. He became owner when his father died and tended the store for over 50 years, even as the coal industry faltered and the population declined.
DePollo's store features expansive glass storefronts and plenty of shelves to display merchandise. The store also served as kind of clubhouse, where men would gather for a beer and the latest news. The current roof over the sidewalk replaced the original overhanging enclosed porch which was supported on slender metal columns.
Buildings as Ads
In the era before television and radio advertising, the building was the business owner's way of communicating with customers. One of the best ways to entice bypassers into a shop was to display goods in large glass storefronts, which can be seen in almost every building on East Avenue. Commercial architecture of the early 20th century reference architectural styles of the past using new materials in an economical way. For example, most of Thomas's buildings have symmetrical window patterns on their front facades and at least a simple cornice at the top, which reflect principles of ancient Greek architecture. Brick, an inexpensive material, was laid in decorative patterns to resemble columns, cornices, arches and other architectural features. Though constructing a blank brick wall would surely have been less expensive, it was smarter marketing to put one's best face forward. The rise of factory manufacturing also allowed affordable production of decorative materials such as pressed tin ceilings, machine-carved woodwork, metal facades and concrete cast to look like stone. These items could be ordered from catalogs and shipped by train in modular pieces so that a shop owner could easily "dress up" his building.
Erected by The City of Thomas, West Virginia.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture • Industry & Commerce . In addition, it is included in the West Virginia, The City of Thomas series list. A significant historical date for this entry is November 12, 1906.
Location. 39° 8.91′ N, 79° 29.947′ W. Marker is in Thomas, West Virginia, in Tucker County. Marker is on Appalachian Highway. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 114 Appalachian Highway, Thomas WV 26292, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Thomas Underground (within shouting distance of this marker); Thomas, Yesterday and Today (within shouting distance of this marker); Historic Thomas and the Coketon Industrial Complex / News Flash! (within shouting distance of this marker); Exploring the Coketon Industrial Site / West Virginia Coal (within shouting distance of this marker); The Story of a River / Life in a Coal Mining Town (within shouting distance of this marker); Thomas, West Virginia Mine Disaster Memorial (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Dwellings and Design (about 500 feet away); A Lesson in Resourcefulness (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Thomas.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 18, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 18, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 56 times since then and 16 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 18, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.