The back of the Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial is etched with the miner tributes and the history of mining in West Virginia. Other smaller tributes and memorials are located within the memorial park.
The Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial in Whitesville, WV, designed by Chapman Technical Group, a division of GRW, continues to receive recognition several years after its completion. Most recently, the project was the focus of an article in West Virginia's business news publication, The State Journal. The memorial was established as a way to honor the memory of 29 miners who died in the April 5, 2010 disaster.
According to the recent State Journal article, the nonprofit group Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group Inc., partnered with Chapman Technical Group "to design the memorial and plaza. By autumn of 2011, a fundraising goal of $500,000 had been exceeded, thanks to donations from businesses and individuals, the newspaper reported.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a 48-foot long, 8-foot high, granite monument cut to reflect the mountains of West Virginia. The front is etched with silhouettes to represent the lost miners. The back of the monument is etched with the miner tributes and the history of mining in West Virginia. Other smaller tributes and memorials are located within the memorial park.
The memorial was designed to be visible from the highway and yet also provides intimate spaces for quiet contemplation and opportunities for learning about West Virginia's coal heritage.
Rob Dinsmore, a professional landscape architect with Chapman Technical Group, was the project manager and lead designer for the memorial. According to The State Journal, the memorial group's vice president, Mike Gwinn, Dinsmore told them the idea for the design, "just came to him. He didn't know what to do with it. He sent a picture of his design to the Whitesville Town Hall, who sent it to the Whitesville Bank who sent it to us. It was perfect. We didn't have to make any changes to it. For a year, our wheels were turning, but it fell right to us.”
The group's president Shiela Combs, according to The State Journal, agreed. "When I saw his design, I got chills when I saw the 29 silhouettes," she said. "His direction was exactly the direction that we wanted to take."
The project also received the Honor Award for design excellence from the West Virginia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.