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Life in Thomas, West Virginia

Hiram B. Cottrill, born in Harrison County in 1865, came to Thomas in 1887 to work for the Davis Coal and Coke Company. He left the coal business to start a saloon, but lost much in the great fire of 1901. His Opera House became a center of entertainment and culture not only for Thomas, but for many neighboring towns.

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Despite it's name, the Opera House featured primarily vaudeville shows and movies, and had an elegant saloon on it's first floor. The Sutton family bought the theater in 1917 and operated it into the 1970s.

Thomas residents enjoyed a variety of entertainment and social activities. The town had many musicians, including Patsy Santangelo, a gifted trumpet player and owner of a shoe repair shop (Tour No. 40). Patsy taught music lessons to many young people and his son Ralph became a professional musician in Los Angeles.

The Thomas town band and a number of jazz ensemble played the Imperial Hotel, dances and other venues. The Roma Restaurant (No. 39), with it's upstairs dance hall, and the Varsity (No. 2), which had the first jukebox in town, we're favorite local hangouts for people of all ages. Historic photos of these spots evoke images of the classic soda fountain, authentic diner food, friendly conversation and neatly-dressed waitresses.

Thomas also offered alternative opportunities for letting loose, described in some historical accounts as boozing, carousing and rowdyism. In 1912 alone, eight saloon licenses in the town we're approved by the County Court.

Several generations of the Thayer family operated a saloon in their building (No. 37) almost from the day Phoebe Thayer purchased the lot from the Davis Coal and Coke Company in 1893, in spite of the fact that the deed specifically prohibited the sale of alcohol on the property. The Sportmans Club, run for many years by Phoebes grandson Stuart Thayer, was famous for it's taxidermy collection, particularly a semi-hidden mounted rattlesnake that would startle the unsuspecting newcomer.

290 Spruce Street

This large home was originally constructed by the Schatz family, one of the first Jewish families to settle in Thomas.

West Virginia Central and Pittsburg/ Western Maryland Railway Rail Yard

The West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway (WVC&P) sent it's first train to Thomas on August 10, 1884. The area between East Avenue and the Blackwater River contained row upon row of train tracks.

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