St. Paul, Virginia, was a hopping town 100 years ago when coal mining and a convergence of railroads guaranteed its prominence.

After suffering economically over the past few decades, the town worked to attract a boutique hotel to resurrect an old downtown building – originally the first apartments in St. Paul where tenants didn’t have to share bathrooms and use coal stoves for heat.  

The town worked hard at the effort, and the latest episode of Save Our Towns shows the hotel’s grand opening, where crowds gathered for the ceremonies as well as the debut of Milton’s restaurant, operated by celebrity chef Travis Milton.

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Elsewhere in the episode, Holly Kobia explains how an epidemic of the advanced form of black lung disease is sweeping Appalachia in the segment called Small Town Big Number. The expert tip comes from Barry Whittemore, who uncovered a wealth of information about small towns in Southwest Virginia during his dissertation research in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Pennington Gap, the town being followed for a year, makes headway on its greenway.

Save Our Towns, produced by Outreach and International Affairs, has won communications, higher education, and public service awards since its launch in 2014. The series speaks to small-town mayors and town managers throughout Appalachia with a mission to guide and inspire those who are working to build strong communities.

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