Broadway, Virginia lies in Shenandoah Valley near the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, and has been booming since the 1850s, though it wasn’t formally incorporated until 1880. It was originally known as ‘Custer’s Mill’ and was successful as the railway ran through it and it was very fertile, being known as the ‘breadbasket’ of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. This being said, much of Broadway was destroyed in the war by a campaign by Union General Philip Sheridan called ‘The Burning’. Among buildings destroyed was the eponymous Custer’s Mill, and because of it’s destruction, the town was renamed Broadway. Broadway gained most of its population during the 1940s from the poultry industry and after World War II. Despite the many abandoned buildings around town, Broadway is actually growing greatly, and today has a population of about 3,800 residents.
Coudersport was founded when the Ceres Land Company purchased the land in 1796 to create a new town and county. Its name comes from a man, John Coudere, who provided loans so that the company could purchase the land. However, the land wasn’t settled until 1813, when a family of seven built a cabin. Shortly after, a blacksmith, mill, prison, bar, store, and school were created. As more mills were built, people moved to the town looking for work. Soon enough, Presbyterian and Methodist churches were founded. One of the resident’s homes is notable for being a station of the Underground Railroad. In his house, he had a secret room to hide fugitive slaves and many of the people of the town helped to hide the slaves as well. The town grew quickly, gaining a hotel, tannery, courthouse, and boarding school among other things. It is also notable for being the residence and death place of Eliot Ness, an American agent who strongly enforced Prohibition. Coudersport reached its peak population in 1900, at about 3,200 residents, and lost many of its residents in the 50s. Today, Coudersport has a population of under 2,500 residents.
41 46’26″N, 78 01’07″W
Sparta was established in 1795 and was a major producer in cotton. After a plantation owner in Sparta died, he left the estate to his daughter Amanda America Dickson, whose mother was a slave, and for a long time, she was believed to be the wealthiest Black woman in the US. Sparta lost most of its population in 1918 after World War I, when the market for cotton crashed. In 1921, Jean Toomer came to Sparta to work as a principal at a Black agriculture and industrial school, and later wrote about it in his first, and often considered most important, novel, Cane. Toomer would later go on to marry Dickson and become an important author and poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Today, there are about 1,500 residents in Sparta.
Tannersville is a little town nestled in the Catskills that was founded in 1895 on the lumber and leather industries and gained its name from the many tanneries around it. Tannersville’s economy was also built around its railroad, and when the car became popular in the 1920s, Tannersville lost much of its population. Perhaps its most incredible historical landmark is the Cold Springs House. The old hotel, built in the 1890s, belonged to Leonard Bieber and has over 200 rooms. It ceased opporating as a hotel in the 1960s when it was abandoned. It was a Jewish hotel (in fact, the first Jewish hotel) and kept all its meals kosher and served many Jewish guests, though it is now soon to be demolished, if it isn’t already. Today, about 500 people reside in Tannersville.
Hamlet was founded in x when John Shortridge started a saw mill in the area. The name is said to be attributed to Shortridge naming it after the word used for a small, rural neighbourhood in England, ‘hamlet’. Hamlet soon got a railroad and railroad workers began to populate the town. Of Hamlet’s residents was John Coltrane, born there in the 20s. In 1991, a fire broke out at a chicken packaging plant, killing twenty-five people. Another famous resident of Hamlet is Ashton Locklear, part of the women’s gymnastic team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.