Ichor Falls

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Ichor Falls

From Wiklopedia, the public encyclopedia

Ichor Falls is a city in Mason County, West Virginia, United States, at the confluence of the Ohio and Erytheia Rivers. In the 2004 census, the population was 8,104. The current mayor is Newell Barrett, and the current police commissioner is Honora Volney.

The town is home to two regional newspapers, the Ichor Falls Sentinel and the New Elysium Times. Ichor Falls is also close to a small number of geographically unique lakes, the largest of which is God’s Wound to the southeast.

Districts and Location

Elysia. Northeastern district. Upper-class gated community, the most drastic reconstruction. Primarily new homes, five different floor plans, planned parks, walkways, and the New Elysium Fashion Park. There are still a number of historical homes here, and even original structures from the 1930s and earlier, but due to their dilapidation they have been harder to sell to the young crowd currently moving in.

Alethia. Southeastern district. Lower-middle class housing, not much new development. The newest homes from pre-ghost-town Ichor Falls date back to 1950 and 1951. There are even a few unfinished houses that construction halted on after the evacuation. In its time, Ichor Falls never had much street crime, but the crime rate was slightly elevated in the Alethia district.

Ichor Falls High School and Sweetbrook Hospital are both in Alethia.

Lower Alethia.  Southwestern district. Close to Stillwood Forest, Parks and Reserve. With the increased visitor traffic, Lower Alethia seems to have become the de facto poor neighborhood. The vast majority of the houses date back to the 1910s and 1920s, the original brick and ironwork, and are in need of repairs.

Lower Alethia is also closest to Allegheny State Penitentiary (14 miles west) and the now-closed Amaranth Hospital for the Mentally Disturbed (located in Ichor Falls).

Oneiros. Northwestern district. Sparser housing, more large mansions and ranch areas. Large plots of unused land, sparse woods. Home to town officials back in the day.

Olympus. Town center and business district. Centrally located. City hall, public library, town shopping centers, police and fire stations. Olympus represents an interesting mix of both old and new architecture, and if the developers achieved their goal of rejuvenating Ichor Falls and making it mesh with present day, it’s most apparent here.

The Olympus district houses many points of interest including Ichor Falls Realty and the Rand Historical Society Museum.

Ichor Falls is located at 38.600237,-82.167435.

Town History and Lore

1800 – 1850

In the spring of 1804, Edwin Cuthbert and eighty-one other settlers emigrated from the eastern seaboard to the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau in West Virginia, on the border of Ohio. From a vantage point that would later be renamed St. Denis’ Crown, Cuthbert surveyed a low, broad valley bordered by thick forest to the west and south, and jagged mountains criss-crossed by waterfalls to the north that fed a wide, churning river.

The violent waterfalls stirred up a heavy mist that rolled into the valley, greatly lowering visibility. The settlers assumed that soon the weather would warm and dissipate the fog, but the conditions in the valley were just right to hold the fog in place year-round.[1]

Cuthbert, a Greek history enthusiast, was struck by the beauty of the fog and the crashing water spilling over the craggy mountain ridges. He proposed the name Ichor Falls, from the ancient Greek word “ichor,” meaning blood of the gods.[2]

Iron, coal and salt became the settlement’s chief exports. Fresh water from unconsolidated river aquifers and a variety of small game from the surrounding forests sustained the settlers through many hard winters.[3] There are few wooden buildings in Ichor Falls, as the humidity and soil composition tended to grow sickly trees yielding brittle wood, which compromised those early structures, including an Amish schoolhouse, whose collapse led to the observance of the town holiday Totenkinder.[4]

1850 – 1900

Between 1835 and 1860 the local economy boomed. Ichor Falls used slave labor to work the iron mines to great economic success. The town remained strongly pro-slavery even after the admission of West Virginia to the Union.

During a visitation of Union General McClellan and his men in 1865, Ulster notoriously rounded African slaves up into the West Falls Company Iron Mine and hid them there for nine days without food or water. Nearly all of them died.[5]

Ichor Falls’ iron export is largely low-grade, and was famously called “temperamental” by Ichor Falls councilman and blacksmith Samuel Boston. The geology of the region yielded a peculiarly high amount of coal and iron, which galvanized the valley’s economy for the first fifty years of its habitation. For many years Ichor Falls was known colloquially as “The Iron City.”

But the reputation of Ichor Falls as a major metal producer waned over the years as importers saw a pattern of poor quality goods. Impurities meant coal mined from the region burned cooler than other coals, and blacksmiths found themselves applying more effort than usual on tempering iron alloys from the plants in and around Ichor Falls.

By 1884, many of the mines had slowed production to a trickle or closed down completely. Ichor Falls teetered on the brink of a massive economic depression.

1900 – 1950

Logging operations began as early as 1870, at the first signs of the stagnation of the coal and iron markets. Though much of the wood was not viable for building construction, it was fine for use in hammer and broom handles, chairs and tables.[6]

In 1904, Harold Marsh, a chemist, discovered that Ichor Falls wood was every bit as strong as higher-quality wood if it was treated chemically.[7-8] Over the next two decades, the purchase of varnishing and treating chemicals rose dramatically, leading to chemical companies’ interest in the area.

With demand high, an eager workforce and low property values, two chemical plants specializing in wood sealants and anti-corrosion treatments arrived on the banks of the Erytheia by 1910, with a third one constructed upstream two years later.

Once again Ichor Falls had a steady export, and the new plants meant more jobs and more population growth. This period of growth lasted some forty-four years. As the surrounding forests vanished, new homes and roads were laid down. It was Ichor Falls’ most prosperous period.[9]

1950 – 1980

The first isolated cases of illness caused by chemical exposure were recorded in 1946, but their origins reached back to the late 1920s. A secondary compound in the wood sealant, 1-phenyl-2-4 tricarbethyloxinate-5 (patented under the name Ethylor)[10], was designed to carry the sealant compounds in suspension, penetrate the treated wood, then break down into methyl and isopropyl alcohols and evaporate harmlessly once applied. Unfortunately, researchers later discovered only a partial evaporation in most samples of wood. Ethylor only fully broke down into harmless alcohol after three decades.

By 1953, there were over 6,000 reported cases of lung, brain and bone cancer in Ichor Falls. All three chemical plants were closed and condemned during what became known as “the Ethylor summer.”[11] Civil lawsuits were filed but went nowhere as the three companies imploded with debt and criminal penalties. Within five years, the population of Ichor Falls had fallen to a twentieth of what it was prior.

Ichor Falls was becoming a ghost town.[12]

1980 – present

Ichor Falls lay undisturbed in the mist for nearly thirty years. The relative obscurity of the town left it largely untouched by vandals, although one of the empty chemical plants burned down in 1964 (cause unknown, but arson seemed likely). Looters from neighboring towns took anything of value the first couple years, but when there were cases of minor illness among them (mostly lung irritation), the town of Ichor Falls developed a reputation for being cursed.

In 1978, surviving citizens and/or their relatives were informed by a government probe group that Ichor Falls was once again habitable. In the ensuing years, Ichor Falls received curious visitors, but when the properties were appraised, they were found to be mostly worthless.[13] By now squatters heard of the town’s availability, and Ichor Falls became a hangout spot for degenerates for several years afterward, until West Virginia and Ohio police blocked the roads leading into town.

In 1986 a coalition of land developers consisting of Iroquois Stone Company, Jefferson Land Trust of West Virginia, Redbed Foundations and several others convened to mass-purchase the existing land from the individual owners. Unsurprisingly, they got a good price and were able to take ownership of the majority of Ichor Falls.

The coalition, named the New Elysium Group, built up capital and redeveloped Ichor Falls from the ground up. Many old buildings scheduled for demolition were spared by the government of West Virginia, who demanded they be maintained as historical landmarks.[14] Still, plots with damaged homes and buildings were cleared, and home developers moved in.

The New Elysium Group’s goal was to revitalize Ichor Falls. A name change on the agenda never went through; for all the bad associations “Ichor Falls” had, the Group was convinced it could rejuvenate the town’s image.[15] Forty years was a long time.

In 1995, after nine long years of development, the first new homes were sold to families. Business parks began to fill up. Property values started to increase, and a healthy dose of history and interest in the occult spurred tourism.

Today, Ichor Falls is home to 8,000 people.[16]