The real excitement began once Kanawha Falls came into view (a small portion is shown above). The wide expanse of whitewater tumbling over the rocky cataract signaled the beginning of the ride out of the river bottom. First, we would pass the historic Glen Ferris Inn, sitting by the riverside as it had since the stagecoach days. Then we’d cross the Gauley River Bridge, while glancing over to the old bus situated on a large rock island at the confluence of the New and Gauley Rivers. After bouncing across the railroad tracks, we’d gaze quickly at the beautiful Cathedral Falls (pictured below), and then begin the climb up Gauley Mountain.
The goal was to avoid becoming carsick as Dad weaved his way up the twists and turns, always hoping to catch the slow moving tractor-trailers at one of the few designated passing zones. Although it was best to try to focus out the front window to avoid carsickness, there were opportunities for incredible views overlooking the steep hillside into the canyon below—if you dared to look out the side windows.
Eventually, we’d reach the plateau at the top of the mountain, which was first signaled by the iconic “Mystery Hole” (a West Virginia landmark which has to be visited to be fully understood), followed soon by Hawks Nest State Park. Finally, we’d enter Ansted, the first small town along the highlands of Route 60.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time at each of the aforementioned places along this scenic stretch of highway. This past summer, I added Ansted’s “Contentment Historical Complex” to my list. When I was young, this was just an old white house with a long front porch overlooking Rt. 60 on the western edge of Ansted. Built in 1830, the house was purchased by former Confederate Colonel George Imboden in 1872. His wife named it “Contentment” because of all the happy times they enjoyed there.
Today, it serves as the Fayette County Historical Society’s museum. During the summer months, docents provide tours of the home, refurbished with household items from the 1800s. In the backyard, they have relocated a former one-room schoolhouse and filled it with ink-well desks, a pot-belly stove, etc. Another building was added in the backyard that houses lots of old antiques and memorabilia from Fayette County. For example, there are old pictures, tools, and other items related to coal mining and railroading in Fayette County.
The day we visited the complex, our tour guide provided a fascinating explanation of the historic keepsakes at Contentment. The Fayette County Historical Society has done a wonderful job of preserving these important possessions and sharing them with visitors. If you are ever in this area during the summer months, add the Contentment Historical Complex (pictured below) to your list of sites to see along Route 60.
[This story was featured in the May issue of "Two-Lane Livin'" magazine.]