The EDAs in Doddridge, Ritchie, Gilmer, and Tyler Counties formed a task force and heritage area organization –North Western Heritage By-Way – to promote economic development through historic preservation and heritage tourism. A heritage area is not a national park. Heritage areas in West Virginia are frequently administered by a non-profit organization or other private corporation, but can also be managed by state government. Heritage areas are intended to encourage historic preservation of the area and an appreciation of the history and heritage of the area, including food, music, and art. The mission of North Western Heritage By-Way is to measurably improve the economy within Doddridge, Ritchie, Tyler, and Gilmer counties by developing and promoting heritage tourism, sharing our culture, and preserving historic sites and distinctive natural areas.
Like any successful historic preservation project, this partnership requires diversified funds to jumpstart the planning process. A Flex-E-Grant through the West Virginia Development Office was awarded to the Doddridge County EDA to provide financial support to implement a planning process for the development of cultural-heritage tourism. Matching funds were provided by each county to support the Flex-E-Grant. WVU Extension Service’s Rural Tourism Specialist, Doug Arbogast, with the assistance of a WVU community-based tourism planning team was contracted to facilitate a community-based tourism planning process. The project received additional support of a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member in September 2014 to assist with project activities. Matching funds were provided by each county to support the AmeriCorps member. Preserve WV AmeriCorps is a program of the Preservation Alliance of WV via grant funds from Volunteer WV and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Through the planning process, the task force and planning team identified action strategies including creating thematic itineraries/packages, developing marketing materials, engaging additional community members and external organizations, hospitality training, and site and business development. Since a comprehensive list of tourism assets in the four counties did not exist, a tourism asset inventory of the four-county region was needed in order to identify current strengths and weaknesses, gaps, and potential packages and itineraries. The WVU Extension Service created an online form so that members of the task force could submit information about individual tourism assets in the region that would be categorized and compiled into a database. The form allowed task force members to identify assets that are visitor ready and also those that are not yet visitor ready but have potential to be an attraction. Jaco Cave in Doddridge County, North Bend Rail Trail and Tunnel in Ritchie County, the Sistersville Ferry in Tyler County – these are only a handful of heritage sites identified in the area. Want to learn more about these places and visit? For more information, contact Herk Conner (Doddridge County EDA) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the last four years, the budget for West Virginia’s state historic preservation grant – the Development Grant – has been downsized by 52%. This decrease has hit the preservation community hard by limiting the only source of government funding to be used toward “bricks and mortar” preservation projects.
Last year, PAWV created an advocacy campaign to take to Charleston. We started by researching the economic impact of the historic preservation grant in West Virginia from the years 2011-2015. Through surveys, questionnaires, and research we have composed a document to be distributed to our state legislators during this legislative session. This report demonstrates the economic and social value of Historic Preservation Grants in West Virginia. PAWV found that the grant program generates public and private investments from West Virginians, and it encourages small-business and community-based partnerships.
Over the past four years the funding for the Development Grant has been downsized by 52%. In two years, West Virginia lost as least $267,000 in private investment. We are taking these facts to Charleston and asking our legislators to restore the historic preservation grants to $563,750 – FY2013 levels.
You can help us send the message that these grants are a valuable economic stimulus in downtowns. Contact your legislators and tell them how important these grants are to West Virginia and to you. For a copy of the report, contact email@example.com or call PAWV at 304-345-6005.
Alex McLaughlin, Chair of the Friends of the Blue Committee, said, “We are excited to use this high tech mechanism to raise money for this wonderful old treasure.”
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding mechanism which uses the reach of the internet to give donors a safe way to back a project. It is an all-or-nothing approach where the project receives no funds if the goal is not met. Donors “pledge” using their credit card and the amount is only deducted if the full amount of the goal is pledged.
The fundraising goal for this effort is $25,000. This amount should complete the funds needed for Phase II of the stabilization and restoration process when matched with grants.
Please join all the ‘friends of the Blue’ at the CVB on Sunday, March 1 from 4-6 pm for light refreshments, a rousing good time, and lots of pledges to the Kickstarter campaign.
With the holidays winding down, I found myself gearing up for the New Year – a year full of unknowns and certain challenges. I wondered how I was going to fill the shoes of our past president, Jeremy Morris, who has led our organization for the past four years. How would I lead our great staff, Danielle and Lynn, and the numerous AmeriCorps and VISTA that are dedicated to preserving historic resources? I want to make a difference for our members. Luckily, I took a deep breath and instead of panicking, I made a New Year’s resolution to remember why preservation is so important to me.
Historic preservation is the lifeblood of our nation. Our old buildings and landscapes provide us stories to share; our historic downtowns give us a sense of place, and our historic, industrial, and agricultural heritage form the economic backbone of our state. The preservation and revitalization of the historic resources in communities across West Virginia allows us to stay rooted in reality- and remember what is really important.
Change is inevitable, but with foresight, planning and perseverance, our future is bright.
So, I resolved to expand upon the foundations of my predecessors and publicize our good works, extend our reach to every county in West Virginia, and to continue to work to revitalize our communities.
I am so honored to be PAWV’s new President and look forward to working with our preservation communities to continue to revitalize our great state.
By David E. Rotenizer, Raleigh County Extension Agent, West Virginia State University (WVSU)
“We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so” – Theodore Roosevelt had it right when he crafted these words last century. These words would equally fit the legacy for West Virginia’s long and proud coal heritage.
In recent months, the Raleigh County WVSU Extension Program has launched community development activity, under the banner of historic preservation, in the western portion of the county. This is an area which encompasses much of what has been known historically as the Winding Gulf Coalfield, long recognized for its “smokeless coal” – a high burning fuel with little waste byproduct. Active mining began in the coalfield in the wee years of the 20th century with a peak toward mid-century. While an accurate count has not been made, the region once hosted approximately 50 coal communities. It was boasted that in the 1950s – the 27-mile radius of the Town of Sophia was home to some 350,000 people!
Flash forward to 2015. Western Raleigh County, like many areas in southern West Virginia, is in sharp contrast to its heyday of just a few short years ago. The impact of deindustrialization has had a profound impact on the cultural and physical landscapes. Now that the coal dust has literally started to settle, a dialogue has begun among the communities toward the question, “What next?” Economic and community restructuring is beginning to take hold. Sadly, many of elements of the once ubiquitous coal community landscape are disappearing. The National Coal Heritage Area (NCHA) has maintained an active presence in the region through the introduction and development of heritage tourism and historic preservation activities to help stem losses.
To supplement the on-going NCHA efforts, the community development initiative through partnership with the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, extended services into the region through a number of means. In August, the final stop of a five-month, four-county, month-long traveling exhibit tour of the New River Gorge region concluded with Raleigh County. PAWV’s traveling exhibit, Preserving West Virginia: Saving Communities, highlights West Virginia Endangered Properties and was made possible through grant funding from the West Virginia Humanities Council. In conjunction with the traveling exhibit display, each month PAWV staff participated in special programming that included an educational workshop, unique to each community, and the following day, PAWV staff toured the county’s historic resources. Special programming funds were made available with a grant from the National Coal Heritage Area. The Raleigh County tour was conducted within the Winding Gulf, with the workshop and exhibit held at the Town of Sophia – “Gateway to the Winding Gulf.”
An exciting outcome of the Winding Gulf tour was the identification of a threatened historic structure. The community of Helen is one of the best preserved surviving coal communities of the Winding Gulf. It was learned that a circa 1920s boarding house was slated for demolition through the county’s abandoned and dilapidated properties program. The verdict for the structure’s fate was based on its aesthetic value – the property owner had been unable to properly maintain the property and its tax liabilities. The property owner had expressed an interest in transferring the property to a community non-profit organization. Helen has the potential to qualify as a national historic district, and the building would be a contributing anchor toward that designation.
The county extension office, PAWV, and the NCHA shared resources and communicated with We GROw (Winding Gulf Preservation Organization) – the community organization for Helen – the county’s administrator, engineer, and attorney to develop a plan for saving the property. To support the effort, Lynn Stasick, PAWV Statewide Field Services Representative, conducted a Prioritized Narrative Needs Assessment. This document concluded the property was “…not only savable, but should be saved….as the Winding Gulf….is in a constant state of decline regarding its historic resources.” The study was the final push needed to save the structure. Michael Burk, a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member assigned to NCHA, assisted the project with photo documentation.
Recently, the Raleigh County Commission unanimously approved to support transferring the structure to We GROw, pay owed back taxes, and provide funding to secure the property. This action was precedent setting – the first time the county has removed a property from a list slated for demolition.
Recent activities have included outreach to various communities and towns within the Winding Gulf. A highlight component includes the services of a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member who will travel the Winding Gulf collecting oral histories for the narrative reflecting the life and times of coal communities, as well as assisting with historic preservation needs. Tiffany Rakotz, recently began her one-year service commitment, and Tiffany’s position is possible with support from the National Coal Heritage Area.
Tiffany will be interviewing a wide range of residents in the Winding Gulf. The project focuses on people of all ages with the goal of capturing the many voices and experiences of the region and how they – directly or indirectly – were related to the coal industry. This is more of a community development project, than a history project – it is not writing the history of the Winding Gulf Coalfield. The oral history project is based on a community development model that rural community development should be built on a foundation reflecting community pride and heritage. Tiffany is coordinating a cleanup for the boarding house in Helen, as well as developing plans for the architectural moth-balling of the structure so it can be secured and protected until long range plans are established. Nicole Marrocco, PAWV’s Preserve WV AmeriCorps, is assisting the cleanup project on a statewide level by helping to coordinate material needs and volunteers. This unique project has become a model for other counties around the state, and it has been a wide success with plans to build on programming for 2015. Stay tuned for information from PAWV about workshops being planned in the New River region.
Preservation Alliance of West Virginia introduces the Buildings At Risk Register (BARR). This new program will allow PAWV to better examine preservation needs statewide. Too often buildings are razed because threats go unreported, and PAWV is striving to minimize the loss of West Virginia’s heritage. There is a need to create a preservation network to prevent such easily avoidable losses in the future. PAWV can utilize its full arsenal – assistance with identifying and applying for grant funding; preservation skill seminars; and local, state, and national publicity to assist in re-using historic sites.
This goal of PAWV can be accomplished with three easy steps: See. Speak. Save. If you see a property at risk, speak to PAWV, and we will do our best to work with the community to save it.
How does the Buildings At Risk Register work? When you see an at risk property, you should contact PAWV. This can be done by submitting an online form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1eLl_Md038tM91rOyL-Z-xL8gmywwCWGC9Q0Ymoz1FNY/viewform.
Ideally, you will provide the address of the property and the reason(s) why this property should be considered at risk. Furthermore, any additional information such as former use, last known date occupied, current condition, owner etc. is greatly appreciated. As PAWV collects submissions, we can create a Buildings At Risk Register. Each submission will be reviewed by a PAWV committee and determined eligible for this register.
Some cases may be eligible for PAWV’s Endangered Properties List, which requires significant community engagement, but gains more PAWV support in return. For more information, please refer to the BARR vs. Endangered Properties List guide: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lkKwpUhiAcSa7_nporaim-4vLdDH3Wd7FtcShYx3w1o/edit?usp=sharing.
Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV) is seeking an AmeriCorps VISTA to begin in July 2015. The VISTA will assist with research, grants writing, educational activities, and communication. Preservation Alliance of WV is the statewide, grassroots organization for the Mountain State, in addition to being the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program administrator and statewide partner for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. VISTA oversight is provided through the National Coal Heritage Area Authority VISTA program. Applicant should be self-directed and have degree or background in public history, public administration, marketing, or related field. For more information about VISTA http://www.americorps.gov/for_individuals/choose/vista.asp. For information about Preservation Alliance of WV, visit www.pawv.org. VISTA will serve at the Darden House in Elkins, West Virginia. The position is for one year with renewal possibility for one additional term. Responsibilities will include:
To Apply: Application will consist of resume and cover letter expressing why you think you are right for this position. You will also submit an AmeriCorps VISTA application to the National Coal Heritage Area via the My AmeriCorps portal. Visit http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/join-americorps and search “West Virginia”. Applications should be submitted for CHHA – Preservation Alliance. Applications will be reviewed as received and will be accepted until position is filled. Resume and cover letter materials can be delivered in any one of these ways:
The Morgantown History Museum has been selected to participate in the Museum Assessment Program (MAP). Through guided self-study and on-site consultation with a museum professional, participation in MAP will empower the Morgantown History Museum to provide better services to the citizens of Morgantown. This will help the museum to meet and exceed the highest professional standards.
The program is funded by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and throughout its 30 years has been administered by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). As part of the IMLS National Leadership program, MAP advances best practices and fosters improvement in museums. MAP is a self-motivated program; application to and participation in MAP is initiated by each local institution, and those accepted invest considerable human and institutional resources into the assessment.
The Morgantown History Museum is excited to grow and expand from within in order to better serve the needs of the community. Coordinator, Pamela Ball expressed her gratitude and comments, “We have progressed quite a bit in the last three years in particular. The change from the tiny operating space upstairs and our current facility has made all the difference!” Our commission, staff, friends of the Morgantown History Museum, and volunteers will work together to strengthen the museum in order to have a brighter and more successful future.
MAP is a confidential process of self-study, peer review and implementation. Museums use the assessment process to strengthen operations, build capacity, and enhance communication throughout the organization and in response to community needs. Participant museums choose one of three categories for its assessment: Collections Stewardship Organizational, Community Engagement. The Morgantown History Museum will take part in the organizational assessment process. Small and mid-sized museums of all types, including art, history, science and technology, children’s, natural history, historic houses, nature centers, botanical gardens, and zoos participate in the program.
“Choosing to be part of the MAP program is indicative of the commitment to civic involvement, public service and overall excellence on the part of the Morgantown History Museum,” said Ford W. Bell, president of AAM. “Studies have shown America’s museums to be among the country’s most trusted and valued institutions. MAP is designed to make them even better.”
Since its creation in 1981, the MAP program has served over 4,300 museums. MAP is supported through a cooperative agreement with IMLS. For more information, including a complete list of museums participating in MAP, please visit www.aam-us.org/map, call 202/289-9118 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
AAM is the only organization representing the nation’s entire museum community and has been dedicated to promoting excellence within the museum field for over 100 years. For more information about AAM, visit www.aam-us.org. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. To learn more about the Institute, please visit: http://www.imls.gov.
The Morgantown History Museum is located at 175 Kirk Street in Morgantown, West Virginia. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum features collections that take visitors through the history of Morgantown. The museum also features special temporary exhibits focusing on particular aspects of local history. For any further questions visit our website morgantownhistorymuseum.org or call at (304) 319-1800.
By Alex, PAWV VISTA
Fasnacht is the pre-Lenten festival celebrated in the Swiss community of Helvetia, West Virginia located in Randolph County. This festival celebrates the burning of “Old Man Winter”. It occurs on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday; this year, it will take place on February 14, 2015. The festival is similar to Mardi Gras and has its roots in the Swiss Winter Festival.
Saturday afternoon features food, beverages, and open mic music in the Star Band (Red) Hall, a food at the Hutte restaurant, and milling around the local shops. Masks from previous Fasnachts are featured at the Fasnacht Mask Museum. At 8:00 p.m., a parade featuring large, often frightening, and quite artistic masks travels from the Red Hall to the Community Hall where the costumes are judged and the square dance begins. At midnight the effigy of Old Man Winter is cut down from the ceiling of the Community Hall, carried on the shoulders of the celebrants to the bonfire outside, and burned to signal the end of Winter. (Although, the warming effect is not always immediate!)
Make your way to Helvetia to experience this historic, cultural, and fun West Virginia festival!
See http://helvetiawv.com/Events/Fasnacht/Fasnacht.htm for more information.
The Helen Boarding House has been an eyesore to the members of the community for years after falling into disrepair. It was being processed through the Abandoned and Dilapidated Properties Program. The eight-apartment structure has been stripped of copper pipes; the windows busted and anything of value has literally been torn from the building. Lynn Stasick completed a building needs assessment and concluded that the building is architecturally intact and savable. A Historic Property Inventory Form has been completed and The Boarding House is a potential candidate to be put on the National Register of Historic Buildings. WeGROw recognized the buildings potential and stepped up to save it.
The Boarding House had been auctioned off earlier in the year to a third party because of back taxes owed on the property. If the taxes and fees were not paid by the current property owner by March of 2015 then the third party would take over ownership of the property. WeGROw’s President Tracy Lewis, with support from her board, stepped into action and got in contact with the current property owner. They worked out an agreement to allow WeGROw to pay the $2000 required to take over ownership of the property. With the support of Raleigh County’s Extension Agent David Rotenizer, WeGROw asked The Raleigh County Commission for a $3000 grant to cover the cost and to secure the building and was approved.
WeGROw is currently exploring funding options to help cover the costs to protect it from further damage and do much needed repairs. With the aid of The AmeriCorps we hope to organize a volunteer clean-up day at The Boarding House to get rid of the garbage that has piled up over the years. The building will be mothballed to prevent mold and mildew from forming and keep vandals out. The roof will need replacement and the windows will need to be repaired. A wooden window restoration workshop will be scheduled to save and restore the original windows that are left. The porches need stabilization as well.
Once the repairs are done WeGROw can decided how they want to use the building. Some uses that have been proposed are to make it the new office space for WeGROw, turning it into a convenience store; which would not only benefit Helen but also the neighboring communities of Amigo and Rhodell. It could also be used as a vacation rental for people hunting and fishing in the area. It absolutely has the potential to do all three of these proposed functions.
News and Notes
Subscribe to our mailing list to receive e-news updates on historic preservation news and events in West Virginia.