MOUNT HOPE, WV (WVNS) – Welcome to Mount Hope.

Former Mayor Michael Martin and longtime resident Jo Ann Davis remember the town as it was when they grew up in the 1950s.

“It was busy. That’s my memory. It was always busy,” said Davis.

So busy that Martin remembers his father getting up early to beat the weekend crowds.

“He would come on a Saturday morning and come up on to Main Street and he would park his vehicle, and it would stay there all day Saturday so that when Saturday night arrived, he had a parking spot,” Martin told 59News.

Davis’ most fond memories of Mount Hope revolved around The Sweet Shop.

“Oh my goodness. You went down to see the boys of course when you were the girls. Just a place to go and hang out, get you an ice cream, get you a soda. You could dance. They had a jukebox. As quick as school went out, that’s the first thing you did. Head for the sweet shop,” said Davis.

“It was a good life,” Martin told 59News. “That was through the ’50s and into the ’60s.”

“It was a close-knit town and that was because most everybody who was here was a coal miner,” said Davis.

“This is the reason that Mount Hope enjoyed such a great past,” said Martin, pointing to a book detailing the history of the New River Company. “This is the reason that Mount Hope employed so many people. They all worked for the New River Company. If you worked in the company store you worked for the New River Company. If you worked for the company doctor, you worked for the New River Company. If you were a New River Company coal miner, chances are you lived in New River Company housing.”

Over time though, as the coal industry came under fire, things in Mount Hope began to change.

“I think we probably started to see that (change) in the ’60s,” Martin said.

“I graduated high school in ‘64,” Davis told 59News. “But it was shortly after that that some things started changing.”

“Little bit… little bit… little bit… little bit…” Martin said.

“Sometimes it was so crowded you (pushed your way through a crowd) down the street,” said Davis. “Now you walk down the street and it’s like ‘Hey! Where’s everybody at?”

As the coal industry continued to struggle into the ’70s and ’80s, it was a matter of time before Mount Hope’s largest employer, the New River Company, left as well.

“Somebody had popped in the door and seen that the New River Company’s stock had done this, that and the other, and saw that they could walk in and purchase it for practically nothing, with all its assets. And they did so, and then broke it up,” Martin told 59News.

‘I mean people couldn’t find a job. All they knew was coal mining,” added Davis.

Martin admitted it was hard seeing nearby cities like Beckley and Fayetteville grow, especially while he watched more people in Mount Hope leave town every year.

“Your small town was the county seat. Your small town had the courthouse. Every day the business of the county was conducted in the courthouse. And there were lots of people in and out, in and out. And there were juries seated, and trials, and taxes were paid. But it created business. People would shop at the stores after work and eat at the restaurants. It created business, and your little community prospered, and my little community died on the vine,” said Martin.

As the population continued to dwindle into the 90s and 2000s, the city rallied around Mount Hope High School, with hope that the next generation would breathe some life back into the community.

“It was the town,” said Davis. “I mean the schools were the town.”

But just like the New River Company, the National Mine and Safety Academy, and so many other institutions of the city, in 2011, Mount Hope high school closed its doors for the final time as well.

“It was like it killed the town,” Davis told 59News. “That’s how you felt. Now that the High School’s not here, what else is here?”

People left. Businesses closed. Jo Ann Davis’s beloved Sweet Shop burned to the ground on a cold December night.

But the story of Mount Hope doesn’t end there. In fact, efforts are underway to bring the city back from the brink.

“A lot of people are still interested in things to bring life back, that do want to get involved,” said Davis. “My daughter has a non-profit here.”

Harmony For Hope is aiming to bring art, music, theater and more back into the city for the first time in decades. They recently moved into a storefront right in downtown Mount Hope.

Alexander Berg is an Americorps volunteer who is helping to renovate the downtown area. He is a young person who still believes Mount Hope is worth fighting for.

“One thing that I really love about Mount Hope is that it’s sort of a skeleton. It may not have all the same amenities and everything it had in the past, but there’s so much huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and new investors to come in and provide opportunity to the community,” said Berg.

“I would love to see retail shops, craft shops, another pub,” Berg said with a laugh. “I know that sounds bad, but the pub that was here is gone. The whole town really had everything in place. The bones are there. It’s just putting meat back on those bones through investment and grant money.”

Perhaps the founders of the city knew what they were doing when they decided to name it Hope.