Matewan Flood Wall
Matewan, West Virginia
For decades the town of Matewan was repeatedly drowned by floods from the adjacent Tug River; it had an unwelcome reputation as the most frequently flooded town in America. The soggy assaults peaked in 1977 and 1984, and that's when the Army Corps of Engineers was brought in. A giant flood wall was commissioned, 30 feet tall, with massive steel doors that could slam across local roads, sealing in the town. It wouldn't be completed until 1997.
The wall stretches 2,350 feet along the river, and was credited for saving Matewan from a particularly disastrous surge in 2003. But it's not all grim practicality. The west-facing, sunnier side of the flood wall has been outfitted with a pedestrian path along the river, and the wall itself was built with stylized graphics cast into it, outlining the history of the town, including the bloody "Matewan Massacre" mine wars and the local Hatfield and McCoy clans, posing with their guns. It is art built to withstand the fury of a raging river, so it should last for a while.
Another river-centered Matewan tribute to the world's most dysfunctional neighbors is its annual Hatfield-McCoy reunion, held on the second weekend in June. It features a tug-of-war across the Tug River by the two now (mostly) reconciled families.