Princeton became a main hub partially because the Virginian Railway reimagined the way the train industry should work.
Instead of winding track from big cities to other big cities, the Virginian blasted through mountain and powered through rural countyside to create a direct route to its destination. So instead of looping to Bluefield, it ran through Princeton, where it set up the main machine shops for the line.
The Virginian was financed by one of the world’s richest men, who spared no expense to make his vision work. The line went down in history as one of the world’s most innovative. The machine shops are still preserved in a unique historic district, and you can learn more at the Princeton Railroad Museum.
Beyond rail history, Princeton has a rich agricultural and war background, which you can discover in the local museums, too. The McNutt House is the first stop on the West Virginia Civil War Trail, and the last remaining structure from that era still standing in the town.
1837: Mercer County was created out of Giles and Tazewell Counties. Mercer County was named after General Hugh Mercer.
1839: The original Mercer County Courthouse was built. The building was built so poorly that it was torn down and rebuilt the following year.
1840: The McNutt House was built. The foundation consists of 15-inch hickory sill logs. This house still stands and currently houses the Princeton Mercer County Chamber of Commerce. This home marks the first site on the West Virginia Civil War Trail. This building is the only Civil War Era structure that still stands in Princeton.
1862: Bramwell was settled by the Flat Top Coal Land Association, the largest holder of coal lands in Southern West Virginia.
1862: The Battle of Pigeon Roost, a Civil War battle where 23 Union Army soldiers died and 3 Confederate soldiers were killed in action. Many buildings, including the courthouse, were ordered to be burnt to the ground by Captain Jenifer of the Confederate Service.
1903: The Princeton Inn was built by Dr. Robert Blaine McNutt. The Inn was built right next door to the original McNutt House and still stands today as a private residence.
1920: The Virginian Railway acquired PA classes of steam locomotives which were used to power passenger trains.
1931: The Mercer County Courthouse was dedicated. The Courthouse was designed by Alex B. Mahood and has been serving Mercer County ever since.
1943: Maidenform, a women’s undergarments manufacturer, opened a plant in Princeton on Straley Avenue.
1951: The Oakwood Motor Court was opened as the first modern motel facility in the region.
1954: The West Virginia Turnpike was dedicated and is still used today. Interstate 77 made Princeton a crossroads and growth is still seen every year.
1955: The passenger trains Numbers 3 & 4 made their last run through Princeton. Today a replica of the original passenger station stands where the original station stood. It is used as a museum and houses artifacts from the Virginian Railway.