Youghiogheny Forest Colony

December 17, 2011 |

Photo by Volkmar Wentzel.

“It’s the year 1935. The Hemlock forest near Aurora is full of laughter and music. Through the snowy trees a cabin is aglow, with about 12 people gathered inside. This was the Youghiogheny Forest Colony”.

During the Great Depression, geologist Frank Reeves and his wife Lottie invited artists and intellectuals to join them on their 100 acre forest property. Living in small wooden studio-cabins , the group worked on their writing and art while they “waited out” the Depression. Some of the residents at Youghiogheny included WPA muralist Robert Gates, painter Joe Goethe, architects Arved Kundzin and Thomas Hood, and photographer Volkmar Wentzel.

Wentzel, who came to Youghiogheny as a runaway teenager from Germany, was inspired when one of his postcards was purchased by first Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was passing through on her way to visit the Arthurdale Homestead. He finished highschool in the local Aurora School and ended up pursuing a successful career as a photographer for National Geographic.

Click to read more from this story.

Most visitors would pass by this site without knowing it, and truthfully one probably wouldn’t be able to find the original hand-built cabins without a local guide. It is worth taking the side trip from US 219, since the area surrounding the Youghiogheny Forest is also the site of Cathedral State Park (the largest virgin timber forest in West Virginia), the Red Horse Tavern, Brookside Inn and Resort, and historic Aurora.

To get here, take US 50 West at the intersection of US 219 in Redhouse, MD for about five miles. Just before the turnoff to route 24, when the hemlocks and pines loom large along the highway, you’ve reached the area where Frank Reeves invited a group of intellectuals to live in handcrafted studio cabins, scattered throughout the forest.

Photo by Erika Smith

Want to see more? Pleasant Valley, MD

Thomas, WV

Blackwater Falls

Related links:

Cathedral State Park

Brookside Inn


For more information about traveling to historic sites nearby, contact the Preston County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

references: 1. article by Michele Mouré Reeves in the West Virginia Encyclopedia.

2. interview recorded With Viola Wentzel, Feb 2011.





Tags: ,

Category: Art & Music, Deep Creek Lake to Elkins, History

Comments are closed.