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Nitro, West Virginia
Living Memorial Park in Nitro, WV
Living Memorial Park in Nitro, WV
Living Memorial to World War I
Location of Nitro in Kanawha County, West Virginia.
Location of Nitro in Kanawha County, West Virginia.
Coordinates: 38°24′55″N 81°49′52″W / 38.41528°N 81.83111°W / 38.41528; -81.83111Coordinates: 38°24′55″N 81°49′52″W / 38.41528°N 81.83111°W / 38.41528; -81.83111
Country  United States
State  West Virginia
Counties Kanawha, Putnam
 • Type Municipal Government
 • Total 5.82 sq mi (15.07 km2)
 • Land 5.24 sq mi (13.58 km2)
 • Water 0.58 sq mi (1.49 km2)
594 ft (181 m)
 • Total 7,178
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,215.53/sq mi (469.29/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 304/681
FIPS code 54-59068
GNIS feature ID 1555228

Nitro is a city in Kanawha and Putnam counties in the State of West Virginia, named after a World War I era nitrocellulose plant built by the government. The population was 6,373 according to the 2019 Population estimates.

City name origin

The name Nitro derives from nitrocellulose, the main ingredient in gunpowder. The Nitro area was to be the American ammunition production facility during World War I. Daniel C. Jackling "supervised the construction and operation" of the plant, which by the time of the armistice "was producing one hundred thousand pounds of high explosives per day."

Its name was selected by the United States government because of the establishment there, during World War I, of a large federal plant for the manufacture of explosives. The city is known as "a Living Memorial to World War I."


Nitro is located at 38°24′55″N 81°49′52″W / 38.41528°N 81.83111°W / 38.41528; -81.83111 (38.415281, -81.831249), primarily in Kanawha County.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.67 square miles (12.10 km2), of which, 4.28 square miles (11.09 km2) is land and 0.39 square miles (1.01 km2) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1940 2,983
1950 3,314 11.1%
1960 6,894 108.0%
1970 8,019 16.3%
1980 8,074 0.7%
1990 6,851 −15.1%
2000 6,824 −0.4%
2010 7,178 5.2%
2019 (est.) 6,373 −11.2%
U.S. Decennial Census
2014 Estimate

Nitro is a part of the Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). As of the 2010 census, the MSA had a population of 287,702. New definitions from February 28, 2013, placed the population at 363,000.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 7,178 people, 3,250 households, and 1,914 families living in the city. The population density was 1,677.1 inhabitants per square mile (647.5/km2). There were 3,507 housing units at an average density of 819.4 per square mile (316.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.7% White, 2.3% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.6% of the population.

There were 3,250 households, of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.4% were married couples living together, 12.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 41.1% were non-families. 33.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.82.

The median age in the city was 40.5 years. 20.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.2% were from 25 to 44; 27.7% were from 45 to 64; and 17.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.9% male and 52.1% female.

Agent Orange

In February 2012, Monsanto agreed to settle a case covering Dioxin contamination around a plant in Nitro that had made Agent Orange. Monsanto agreed to pay up to $9 million for cleanup of affected homes, $84 million for medical monitoring of people affected, and the community's legal fees.

Scientific Research Activities

In 2001 Clonaid operated a lab in Nitro that was tied to the Raelians. It was located inside a rented room within a former high school. The FDA said that the equipment in lab was state-of-the-art and had been bought by a former West Virginia state legislator Mark Hunt.


The city's public school students do not all attend the same schools, because West Virginia school districts are divided strictly along county lines, without regard to city boundaries.

Kanawha County residents are served by the following schools in the city:

  • Nitro Elementary School (public)
  • Nitro High School (public)

There is no public middle school in Nitro on either side of the county line, nor is there any public school within the Putnam County portion of the city. Middle school students in Kanawha County must bus to Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes. Putnam County students must bus to Rock Branch Elementary, Poca Middle, and Poca High.

Notable people

Famous people with ties to the town:

  • Major League Baseball player Lew Burdette was born in Nitro in 1926.
  • Country singer Kathy Mattea, who grew up in nearby Cross Lanes, is a graduate of Nitro High School.
  • J. R. House, who played for several MLB teams in the early 2000s, was a record-setting quarterback at Nitro High from 1996 through 1998.
  • Actor Clark Gable worked at "Explosive Plant C" in Nitro in 1918.
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