By William “Skip” Deegans
Shown is a circa 1940s post card of Hawk’s Nest State Park. Located on U.S. 60 midway between Lewisburg and Charleston, Hawk’s Nest began in 1935 when the State purchased 37 acres, including the overlook of New River. The property was formerly known as Marshall’s Pillars, and named after Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall who was smitten with the site when he visited it in the early 1800s. The overlook is thought to have been used by Native Americans and then by Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War.
As part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to provide relief for the unemployed during the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began constructing the park. Based at two camps in Babcock State Park, the men built a concession booth, restrooms, a caretaker’s quarters, picnic shelters, and tables. Later, a three-story circular museum was added. Built of stone and wood, the park is a testament to the remarkable craftsmanship of the CCC crews.
Under the leadership of the late Senator Pat Hamilton of Oak Hill, $24 million was allocated by the State in 1965 for improvements at the park, including a 31-room lodge, restaurant, swimming pool, and aerial tramway. The lodge and restaurant, with stunning views of the New River, were designed by The Architects Collaborative of Cambridge, Massachusetts, of which Walter Gropius, was a founding member. Gropius, a German-American architect was a pioneer of modernist architecture. The lodge is undergoing major renovation, and the now closed tramway will be replaced.