Flat Top Lake is a dream, which has come true. On April 20, 1949, Dr. Robert W. Chambers, his brother, George B. Chambers, John Harvey and Ted Carney, while on a fishing trip at Norris Dam in Tennessee, conceived the idea of an artificial lake in the vicinity of Beckley. This dream was not forgotten, and on their return to Beckley, many others were recruited who were willing to work to achieve the same goal.
Immediately, a search for a site was started. The first location was found on May 15 of the same year. but was soon rejected in favor of the present site, which was located on June 1, 1949. George Chambers traveled into adjoining counties and states to secure options on 28 pieces of property totaling about 2,100 acres. It was necessary to renew these options a second time before actual transfer of property was effected. Much later, in 1953, additional acreage was acquired bringing the total to about 2,200.
Initial impetus was given the movement by a group headed by Chambers, which was designated a strategy board. This board consisted of Phil W. Wilson, Leo Vecellio. William Whitney, Floyd M. Sayre, C. D. Houck, Fletcher Mann, Oscar Vecellio, and C. D. Parsons, all of Beckley; Carl Jarrell, Dry Creek; A. G. Wilcox and A. J. Lilly, Beaver. The Association was incorporated by the State of West Virginia as a nonprofit corporation. The membership grew rapidly. The price of each lot was set at $ 1,000. An organizational meeting was held on April 12, 195 1, at which time George B. Chambers was elected the first president; Dr. J. G. Anderson, Vice-President; Harry Anderson, Secretary-Treasurer; and the following Directors: Dr. J. G. Anderson, Floyd M. Sayre, Fletcher Mann. A. J. Lilly, E. S. Pugh, Jr., Leo Vecellio, A. G. Wilcox, J. G. Lilly, Leslie C. Gates, Ted Carney, Carl Jarrell, P. H. Wilson and C. D. Parsons. Shortly thereafter, it was decided that the dam would be constructed under the supervision of Leo Vecellio, serving without pay, and that the equipment would be furnished by five contractor members on a rental basis.
On the 23rd day of June 1950, the Board of Directors appeared before the Public Service Commission in Charleston and after a hearing on a petition to construct a dam across Glade Creek, the permit was granted on that date. Movement, of equipment onto the site took place on June 29. Although some preliminary work was started immediately, actual construction began on July 8.
A gravity earth-filled dam, 400 feet long, 45 feet high and 230 feet across the base was constructed. An 18-inch reinforced concrete core wall was built into the upstream face and a 144-foot spillway was constructed on the West End. A 36-inch overflow pipe, with sluice gate and trickle tube was also constructed. Included, too, was a 10-inch cast iron pipe for future sewage disposal purposes. The actual construction of the dam was completed on November 8, but the Korean War delayed the delivery of the 36-inch gate valve until February, 1951. This construction cost amounted to $259,000. Impounding of the water was begun at once and the lake was full by April 1, 1951.
Finances became a major concern of the Board of Directors during the winter of 1950-51 and indeed, of the entire membership. After months of countless hours of deliberation, the Board concluded that the solution was to be found within the membership. At a meeting, called for that purpose, in March, 1951, the membership was informed that the Association had an indebtedness of about $190,000. The Board recommended that the best solution would be for the members to take an additional lot for an additional $ 1,000 each. Of the 180 members at that time, 144 agreed
to take a second lot.
The first meeting of the membership was held on March 26, 1951. The choice of lots for members was decided by a mass drawing. Those members who had agreed to take two lots were given a choice of drawing for two together or two separately. That night, as members arrived at the Circuit Court Room of the Raleigh County Courthouse, those desiring to draw their lots singly, drew numbers for order of draw from one bowl, while those who desired to draw for double lots, drew numbers for order of draw from another. After a brief preliminary meeting in the Circuit Court Room, members went to the Criminal Court Room and those drawing for double lots, drew from the odd numbers only in the order previously described and were given, the next even number lot. The even number of lots thus taken were withdrawn and the balance of even numbers were placed in the bowl with the odd numbers. Then, all those drawing for single lots drew in the order described above.
On that night, the long held dream of our founders became a reality!
During the winter of 1951-52, the Board of Directors wrestled with the problem of constructing a perimeter road. It was decided that this road should border on the back property lines of the lake front lots. Three different types of surfaces were considered, i.e., permanent type blacktop, water bound macadam, and red dog. The decision of the Board was to obtain bids for all three types of surfaces for a 16-foot width road. Various means of financing this road were discussed, and as a result of numerous conferences, it was determined that it could be financed through a lien against each lot. At a meeting of the general membership on April 21, 1952, the Board of Directors was authorized to proceed with the construction. Several contractors submitted bids, and after careful study, the Board of Directors accepted the low bid of $96,700 submitted by Acme Construction Company. This bid included clearing, grading, and the surfacing with red dog of a 16-foot roadway. Later, a road committee prepared a plan to have the road stone based from rock crushed in our own quarry and shot with tar, which was covered with gravel, to give a dustless road. This road was used for several years and sections of road were blacktopped each year until all Association roads were hard surfaced.
Through the years, Flat Top Lake has prospered and new improvements continue for the benefit of its Members.
A bridge over the spillway was completed in 1976 at a cost of $149,986. It was named the “George B. Chambers Memorial Bridge” as a tribute to the Association’s first President.
The beach has been enlarged and a concrete pier, parking lot, playground equipment, picnic tables and shelters added to this increasingly popular summer recreational area.
In 1978, the Board of Directors adopted a long-range recreational master plan. Some of the facilities in this plan are now a reality, such as tennis courts, a softball field, basketball court, and nature trails.
An Association office, maintenance building, and a boat storage area have been necessary improvements to the efficient operation of the Association.
By 1975, 180 residences had been built. This number has now grown to 278 residences, and many of the older homes have been remodeled or demolished and re-built for year-around living. Current membership includes numerous second and some third generation members.
An electronic gate security system was installed in 1984. It enables Members to conveniently admit guests from their home phones.
A new 1/5 mile section of perimeter road was built in 1983, eliminating dangerous curves in the original road. The entire original perimeter road was resurfaced in 1988.
The ‘90s saw great improvements to the infrastructure of the Association. In the spring of 1998 the $1.7 million construction project (funded by the membership) began for the installation of a public water system and gas service. The water system is owned and maintained by the Cool Ridge-Flat Top PSD. Natural gas service is now available to all members.
In the spring of 2007 the installation of a much awaited public sewer system began for the lake and surrounding area. The project was completed and in operation by late spring of that year. This system is also owned and maintained the Shady Spring PSD. The sewer system eliminated the need for septic systems on individual lots.
A project at a cost of $465,000 of dredging the lake began in October 2008 and took several months to complete. This task was much needed to recover coves from several decades of accumulated sedimentation. Probably more dredging in coves will have to be continues in the future as needed.
In 1950, our dam was designed and built to be in compliance with a 50 year storm event. After the Buffalo Creek disaster in 1972, dam compliance standards were revised to the 100 year storm of being able to handle 28” of rainfall in 6 hours. So after several years of negotiating with the Dam Division of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in August 2017, they approved our corrective design. It was one using concrete grout pumped into 7,170 SY’s of articulated block mat fabric forming a 6” overlay on the downstream face of the dam anchored by 683 anchor cables driven 5’ into the earth. Also 650 lineal feet of concrete roadway was installed in place of the asphalt pavement. The contractor, All-Con began this $965,000 project in September 2017 and was scheduled to be completed in June 2018. In October 2016, the 64 year old sluice gate located 28’ below the lake’s surface at the bottom of the primary spillway or trickle tube was replaced by underwater divers at a cost of $45,000.
The Board of Directors is always looking to the future to protect and maintain the lake and all of the Association property. A long range plan has been drawn up to make sure that all facets of the Association are addressed now and for future generations of members.
In an effort to remain current and in touch with the membership, the Association maintains a website. Its use is geared toward notifying members of rule changes, special events, association forms, etc. Members are provided a username and password to access this site.
The reality of Flat Top Lake has certainly surpassed the dream for an artificial lake conceived in the early 1950’s by those founding fathers. It has become a thriving, progressive community.