By Danielle, Executive Director
PAWV recently had a delightful day spent touring sites along Rt. 19 and the Midland Trail in Fayetteville (Fayette County). The Midland Trail is a National Scenic Byway of 180-miles cutting through the midsection of West Virginia. There is so much to see in Fayetteville. Between the historical and natural sites, there is no way we could fit everything into one day. So for our trip, we visited with a few local folks working on preservation projects, and our tour guide, Adam Hodges of the New River Gorge Redevelopment Authority, picked some of the must-see historical, re-development spots for us to visit. The focus of these tours is to meet with local residents and discuss potential or current historic preservation projects.
On our first stop we met with a local deconstruction contractor. We discussed the possibilities of architectural salvage at demolition sites. The contractor explained that some of his work projects include historic building demolitions. Rather than let the historic building materials go to the landfill, the contractor often works to find homes for the really great stuff, like hardwood floors, glass, and window frames. With the growing demand of historic buildings materials all over the country, we created a Facebook group, SAVE (Salvage Architectural Vestiges Exchange) with the goal of opening a dialogue about exchanging, buying, selling, and donating historic building materials. This initiative is in its infancy, but we welcome all to join the group and post about building materials they have saved from the landfill. Also post if you’re willing to donate, sell, or looking for something for your own building project.
Hawk’s Nest Golf Course was a short stop on our trip, but it proved to be fruitful for informational purposes. We could only see the golf course from the side of the road because it is closed. As far as we know, there are no plans for re-using the golf course site as it’s difficult to develop the area because Hawk’s Nest Tunnel is under the golf course. The tunnel diverts water from the New River for hydroelectric power. It was built to generate power for Union Carbide’s Alloy plant. It is not only important for generating power, but it is also the location of a major disaster where workers developed silicosis on a large scale. Workers built the tunnel through silica, which is highly toxic when breathed. Hundreds of workers died as a result of working without masks – it is unknown how many workers actually died. While looking out over the golf course, we talked about what could be done with the site. Some saw it as a great spot for an archaeological field school. Others thought an ATV track would be appropriate. Maybe even another golf course could re-open. What do you think?
Moving along the Midland Trail, we came across a tie-dyed quonset known only as the Mystery Hole – very mysterious indeed! It is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and we unfortunately couldn’t tour it. I plan to return, and think it would make for a fun Excuse for an Excursion. We all thought it would be a unique addition to the National Register of Historic Places too. Have you ever been there? Is it as mysterious as they say?
It was not the last stop on our journey, but the Prince Depot was one of the more notable spots. The Amtrak station still functions as a passenger rail stop a few days a week. From Prince, you can go to New York or Chicago three days a week. A one-way ticket to Chicago is $113, and the trip takes about 17 hours. The station’s streamline architecture dates back to the Art Deco era. I really loved seeing it as I have been hearing a lot about it! It is unique to West Virginia, and one of our Preserve WV AmeriCorps members is working on a National Register Nomination for the site. The hopes are to apply for grants specifically for listed properties with the goal of restoring the historic station.
We had a delightful time touring Fayetteville, and I can’t wait to return! I have a running list of all the things I want to do there, including a Jet Boat ride on the New River. This tour was part of a new historic preservation initiative and partnership between PAWV and the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. From April – August 2014, Preservation Alliance of West Virginia is participating in the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority’s Bridges to the Past Historic Preservation Initiative. As part of the initiative, PAWV gives monthly presentations and its traveling exhibit, Preserving West Virginia: Saving Communities, will be displayed in five different locations in the New River Gorge Region. Currently it’s on view at the Fayette County Court House. The exhibit is unveiled in each location during a special presentation, and PAWV staff take a tour of the locale’s historic assets the following day. Each tour is arranged by New River Gorge Regional Development Authority staff. The initiative is made possible through grant funding from the National Coal Heritage Area.
The West Virginia Northern Railroad Water Tower was added to the West Virginia Endangered Properties List in 2012. It is a unique structure to the list – and the only water tower, so far.
The Friends of the Cheat are working to revitalize the entire brownfield area, including the water tower, as a rail trail. The goal is to preserve the water tower and have it serve as the trail head.
Learn more about the project and about what makes this water tower historic in the WBOY Channel 12 video.
The Mannington Train Depot was added to the WV Endangered Properties List in 2011. The depot is located in Mannington, Marion County, WV. Mannington Main Street is working to re-use this historic building.
Learn more about the re-use project for this building in the WBOY Channel 12 video.
In historic homes, there are many concerns over hazardous materials such as mold, lead paint, and asbestos.
There are other forms of hazardous household waste that are found in homes (historic or not). Keep an eye out for these hazardous materials, especially in homes with babies or small children.
The Abruzzino Mansion was added to the West Virginia Endangered Properties List in 2013 due to a devastating fire that damaged a significant portion of the house. Located in downtown Shinnston, WV, this building has benefited from recent preservation work and updating. The current owners would like to see this building turned into a children’s museum. Learn more about the building from the WBOY Channel 12 video.
If you are interested in helping with this project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Cool Springs – it sounds great already, doesn’t it? Cool Springs Park (and restaurant and gas station and hardware store and souvenir shop) is the best place to pull off the road on your way to many of the state’s beautiful state parks or just a fun partial-day trip. Established in 1929, it is located near Rowlesburg, WV off of US 50 (George Washington Highway) in Preston County.
As a native north-central West Virginian, I visited Cool Springs on many a family trip. This is the perfect stop for all ages. Inside, you can get their famous footlong hot dog or buckwheat cakes along with a long list of diner foods. Sit at the lunch counter or in a bright red booth. Prices here are absurdly low; you can get a full meal and pay the tip with a ten dollar bill. You can also purchase some local produce, or there are always beautiful potted plants.
The other parts of the one-room building consist of a souvenir shop with everything from mini license plates to pickled beets. The other side of the lunch counter includes camping and hunting gear — they even have generators.
What makes Cool Springs a park is the “explore on your own” yard and small farm outside. Here there are chickens and ducks pecking about, goats and llamas grazing, and usually some kittens hopping around the lazy dogs. An unkempt tractor museum sprinkles the yard along with wagon wheels, and other old farm parts. There’s a bridge across a stream often populated with fish and picnic tables scatter the main yard. You never know what you’ll come across on these grounds from wild mint to turkeys to a rusty model-T.
Last fall, I got a bag of Grimes Golden Apples, one of two apples native to West Virginia. WV honey is also popular here as well as jellies, jams, and other canned goods. Cool Springs is quite charming. You won’t only hear about it from West Virginians, but also mentioned by travelers, including a great story about how Cool Springs inspired Nate Damm to keep walking in his book Life on Foot: A Walk Across America. Currently, Cool Springs is stocked with some great garden plants. Stop on by!
By Raven, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
The Marion County Historical Society has partnered with a local home school co-op, Learning Options Inc. Preserve WV AmeriCorps member Raven Thomas has been spearheading this project by organizing lesson plans and creating fun activities for the children in the class that is hosted by the Historical Society. Raven serves as the instructor for the class titled Appalachian Anthropology, which takes place once a week from 2:30-3:30 and averages about 10 students per class. In the year 2014 there have been five classes and Appalachian Anthropology will become of permanent part of the Learning Options curriculum once the new school year starts in September 2014.
Past lesson plans have been “the mound builders” where Raven constructed small “burial” mounds for the children to excavate. This lesson taught about the early cultures of West Virginia and Marion County, as well as the importance of archaeology and discovery. One other such lesson was titled “Black Days, Black dust” in which the class learned about coal mining and its importance today, as well as in the past. Marion County history was taught through the discussion of the Monangah mine disaster and the immigration patterns of miners in the area. Also included in this lesson was a crash course in the past and present types of coal mining and the students were able to mine chocolate chips out of muffins, which also served as a wonderful treat once they reached their coal quota for the day. Another lesson featured one room schoolhouses and school yard games, which the children thoroughly enjoyed. The last lesson was part of the End of Year Party and the historical society set up a candle station where the students learned about double wick candle dipping and even made their own candles to take home. This class has been enjoyed by students and parents alike and provides an excellent opportunity for the Marion County Historical Society to reach out to the younger community.
Historic preservation is happening in rural West Virginia. Learn about the adaptive re-use of the Elkins Coal and Coke building in Masontown, Preston County, WV. The goal is to turn this building into a bathroom facility for the Mon River Rail Trail. You can contact the Mon River Trails Conservancy to learn how you can help.
Thanks to WBOY Channel 12 for another great feature!
By Michael, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
My name is Michael Burk and I am a native West Virginian who is very excited about being able to serve as a Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps member. I am serving at the National Coal Heritage Area office in Oak Hill and am very excited to be here. After originally receiving a BS in Healthcare Administration from West Virginia University Institute of Technology, I decided to return to school and follow my true passion, history. I graduated with Honors from American Public University with an MA in American History. I currently live in Fayetteville, WV with my wife and 13 year old son.
I am really looking forward to serving with both PAWV and the National Coal Heritage Area. I think that preserving the coal heritage of West Virginia is long overdue and hope to do my part in making it happen. While here I will be working on multiple projects including interpretive signage, National Register nominations, as well as other projects aimed at promoting Heritage Tourism in the 13 southern West Virginia counties that make up the NCHA. One of the major tasks I will take part in is composing a complete inventory of all National Register places in the Coal Heritage Area that are related to the coal industry. This inventory will include current and past photographs as well as a brief history of each site.
I have been here for a short time, but I have developed a very deep passion for the preservation of the past here in the area. The sites that were so prominent during the coal boom era are slowly crumbling away. That is bad enough, but the fact that so much of the history is being forgotten is just as bad. If changes are not made, soon the sacrifices and hard work of the miners and their families will be forgotten. I hope to be able to change that as I serve the people of this area. My roots run deep in southern West Virginia, and I want to make sure that the true story, both good and bad, is told for generations to come.
To describe how it felt to witness this destruction in person is impossible. It was AWFUL. I cried. Ninety-one pictures later and I was ready to show the city of Charleston the wretched state of this “beloved”and “iconic”structure.
Constructed in 1968 by local architect and engineer Henry Elden, Top-O-Rock is a magnificent 10,000 square foot structure of steel and glass that functioned as both working and living environment under the same roof. An unconventional combination of industrial and organic principles, it was designed to incorporate the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. Elden referred to it as “A glass jeweled box set in a hillside without disturbing the beauty of the natural terrain”. This terrain being a steep twenty-seven foot sandstone cliff with panoramic vies of the city. It consisted of 8500 square feet of solar plated tinted glass that was held together by an intricate framework of 90 tons of steel and 880,000 pounds of concrete that engaged the heavily wooded landscape that surrounded it. The structure itself was adapted into its’natural surroundings. Charleston residents had never seen anything like Top-O-Rock. It was considered Elden’s architectural masterpiece. And he joyfully shared this with the community, opening the doors to anyone that wanted to see its grandeur in person. He hosted a variety of galas, parties and other functions. It became known as one of Charleston’s most iconic houses and remained that way until Mr. Elden’s death in 2009. It remained vacant until it was purchased in 2011.
An advocate is defined as a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy and offers support to the interest of another. In a nutshell, an advocate becomes the voice for an entity that is unable to speak for itself.
To say that I was upset was an understatement. I was sad. And I was VERY angry. The house had been abandoned and neglected and left alone to defend itself against the elements of nature as well as vandals and thieves. How could this have happened? How did the condition get the this point? Who was responsible? And what could be done? I wanted answers. AND I wanted everyone in Charleston to see what collective ignorance had done to a once magnificent place.
Naturally, sharing the pictures on Facebook was the quickest way to reach a large audience. Combined with numerous emails to the local media, word spread quickly that Top-O-Rock was in dire need of help. I posted on Sunday evening. The response was overwhelming. By Monday morning, requests to the City of Charleston were made and the necessary steps to determine what was needed to secure the structure began. A violation order was issued to the owners with 21 days to meet the requirements. A collective sigh of relief was felt in the community. Until a local contracting firm said it had been approached to possibly demolish the house. That single word: DEMOLISH was completely unacceptable to me. I knew at that moment, I was going to do anything and everything to save Top-O-Rock.
On Tuesday morning, I started a Facebook group and page called “Save Top-O-Rock”and shared it with my friends. Within 30 minutes I had 150 members. By the end of the day, I had 500 members. It was amazing. Membership requests along with offers of assistance, advice, financial donations, resources to utilize and volunteers was OVERWHELMING. I was relieved that there were so many other people out there willing to lend a voice and become an advocate. Today, we are 1400 members strong. TOGETHER we continue to fight for our beloved Top-O-Rock. It has been an emotional and tough few weeks but to date, the owners have secured the house and are working with the community to save it. For now, demolition is off the table. And we ARE continuing to make, albeit slow, progress.
So the next time you find yourself driving down MacCorkle Avenue, remember to take a look up at the glass jeweled box on the hillside peeking out the trees, where it sits patiently waiting for another chance to speak for ITSELF.
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