White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Coal is a rock-solid source of energy and an excellent home-building material, too. West Virginia boasts at least three coal houses as proof of this versatility. They may not win points for beauty, but when was the last time you saw a house made out of hydropower or sunshine?
The coal house in White Sulphur Springs was made from 30 tons of the black gold in 1959 for Tip Myles (and built by Ray Young, Joe Crookshanks and Sammy Idell). It has been used as a West Virginia visitors center in the past; more recently it was an establishment called "The Playground" (A lounge with beer and video slot machines. "No one under 21 permitted" warned a sign). In 2005, we heard it was open again, as a gift shop selling not-always-easy-to-find coal jewelry and coal figurines. Reported closed again in 2006. Then open as a visitor center, then closed. There may be another tenant when you visit, but the coal house endures.
Observant visitors will notice another, larger coal house a few hundred feet away -- a private, ranch-style home neatly maintained in all its black shininess.
There's another Coal House along WV's underbelly, in Williamson at 2nd Avenue and Court Street. It's been around since 1933 -- a year when building a house out of fuel made sense -- and is the heftiest, tipping the scales at 65 tons.