On September 18, 1901, a private school was founded in the north of Alderson, West Virginia. Named Alderson Academy, the school owed its beginnings to both the Alderson family and the Baptist Association.
The aim was to create a school that would help young boys and girls to develop the character and attitudes of true gentlemen and ladies.
The Alderson family, after whom the school was named, were very supportive of the idea and Emma Alderson was vice-principal there for some years. The Reverend John C. Killian, who served the Greenbrier Baptist Church, was also a founder.
Although it was quite unique when it opened, over time public high schools became increasingly popular. They offered a similar level of education and, unlike Alderson, didn’t require parents to pay for it. As a result, the institution began to suffer.
In 1911, the school came under the management of the General Baptist Association of West Virginia and changed its name to Alderson Baptist Academy.
After the school had struggled on for a while, someone came up with the idea in 1918 of offering two-year courses at a college level to help keep the school open. As a result, the academy turned into Alderson Junior College.
Up until this point, the school had been running from a three-story frame building that was located on a three-acre site. The facilities included classrooms, dormitories for boys and girls, and a gymnasium.
In 1922, after six years of fundraising, the school was able to purchase 36 acres of land and in 1924, the construction of a four-story brick building was completed.
Around that time, the school consisted of about 115 students, with only 12 of them being college students. Studies included music, art, and the Bible. In addition, football and basketball teams were formed and the teams participated in competitions.
More social school activities included an autumn hike and various parties such as the Christmas party, a Mother Goose party, and parties for students in the different junior and senior years.
By 1930, the college had become a higher educational institution and saw a peak of 412 students. However, as the number of students grew, so did the college’s debt. During the Great Depression, the school faced even greater financial difficulties.
On October 15, 1931, the Baptist Association decided to merge Alderson Academy with Broaddus College in Philippi in order to save costs. This joint institution was called Alderson-Broaddus University. All classes moved to the Broaddus campus leaving the Alderson building empty.
Several other educational establishments tried to find a use for the abandoned building but none were particularly successful.
In 1932, the building was used by Dr. Bush from Charleston, who founded Armstrong College there. But the college only lasted for three years, and from 1935 to 1953, the building remained vacant and abandoned.
In 1953, the four-story brick building was purchased for $40,000 and became the Mountain State Baptist High School. However, like the Baptist Associaton before them, the new governing body struggled.
The governors did not have the necessary working capital, they could not obtain accreditation from the state, and in addition, the school had strict rules that forbade its students from playing, drinking, dancing, and watching films. Unsurprisingly, students were not queuing up to attend.
The school struggled on until the 1980s when it was closed and the building was once again abandoned. After that, the building was used as rental apartments until the mid-1990s.
Currently, the school is in a terrible state of repair. The floors are so rotten that some rooms have become inaccessible. Every window in the building is broken and only the basic shell of the auditorium remains. There is a grand staircase inside that just abruptly ends and vines creep through the walls as nature gradually reclaims this land.
All photographs were taken by Gin Minsky, and you can check out her own article about her visit to that location on her website.