and I remember taking a tour of this building when I was 15 or 16,,,,,
If I remember correctly, it's an old church building
Great write-up. You're riding in my old back yard -- literally!
It's been over 25 years since I've been through Smoke Hole, except to drive my grandmother through a few weeks before she died back in 1992.
As far as this building, if it's what I think it is (and I may be wrong), it has an interesting history. The following notes are taken from the book "A Place Called Smoke Hole" by D. Bardon Shreve.
The first pastor in Smoke Hole was John Shreve, a Methodist preacher who never built a church building -- they just met under a large maple tree. Methodists contimued meeting in the open and in peoples' homes for the next 60-70 years.
1889 - Jacob and Amy Kimble sold a tract of land to the Methodists, and a log church was built. The Methodists flourished in this area and the church was very strong. One interesting note is that this church baptised by immersion in the South Branch Potomac River (which ran by the church) rather than the traditional sprinkling method.
Late 1920s - The church had a big split, possibly over the pastor's salary.
1932 - The church replaced it's board of trustees and immediately sold the property to the Episcopals for $100.00. The Methodist church (national church leaders) decided to abandon the church, so it died a sudden death.
The Episcopal church sent a missionary to build up the following. He had some volunteers -- 5 well-dressed men who were camping along the river who drove nice cars and always had plenty of money and whiskey. Hmmm.... When the mission house and other buildings were completed, the 5 men moved on. No questions asked.
1937 - Attendance grew at the church until a new preacher arrived. (The former preacher's wife was expecting a baby and did not want it born in a place called "Smoke Hole".) The new preacher was not liked and attendance dropped.
1949 - The Great Flood of '49 damaged the buildings and the Episcopal Church decided not to rebuild. The property was sold to some local businessmen who donated it to the South Fork Rotary Club, who maintain it as a historic site.
Whew - sorry for the long story, but I thought I'd let you know some of the history of the area. Of course, you know moonshine would be a part of any Smoke Hole story, right?
Again - great write-up. I'm planning another ride there this summer. My parents still live on my grandparents' old farm just south of Petersburg on Rt 220. I rode out from Illinois last year to celebrate my retirement from 20 years in the Air Force. This year, I have a V-Strom 1000, so I'll be exploring a lot more of the backroads than I did with my Honda Nighthawk 750. Maybe I'll see you on one of the backroads. I see there are several other West Virginia Strommers on this forum too.
Ride safe and God bless!