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.
By Crystal, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
As I have learned through my AmeriCorps training, there are a variety of reasons why someone serves as a volunteer. Some volunteer because they are passionate about an organization’s cause. Others volunteer because they are required to fulfill a community service requirement. Then, there are those people who volunteer because they are a caregiver for an ailing family member, and they are searching for an opportunity that allows them to do something enjoyable for a few hours a week. This type of volunteer cherishes these few hours as a much needed respite from the stresses of caregiving. The Harrison County Historical Society has such a volunteer named Carol Bennett.
I recruited Carol Bennett as an archive volunteer while the Harrison County Historical Society was promoting its re-published local history books at a craft fair in November. She expressed an interest in historic photographs and documents, and she really liked the she could set her own volunteer hours at our archive. At first, she found the archival training and handling procedures slightly intimidating, but she always maintained her willingness to learn. Accessioning photographs and documents is tedious, but every once in a while, Carol and I discover something unique in the archives that makes us excited. Once, we found a late nineteenth century wedding album which included the wedding guest list and gifts given to the couple. But, what made this find special were the pieces of the wedding dress and other swatches of fabric from the bride’s trousseau attached to the album. Carol and I were amazed at the colors of the fabric the bride choose for her dresses. The vibrant purples, greens, and yellows used contrasted with our preconceived notion that people from the Victorian era dressed mainly in drab colors. We were so fascinated by this album that it was all we could talk about when people came into the archives that day. Every time Carol or I find something interesting, we turn it into a small show-and-tell which helps lighten our work day. Moments like these make the work fun and has shown Carol that accessioning isn’t always tedious or intimidating.
Since that initial training, Carol has been my most regular volunteer at the archives, and that dependability has certainly helped me get things accomplished. She volunteers approximately six hours a week on average because she is the primary caregiver to her elderly parents. Having a mother with multiple sclerosis and cancer, I personally know how having an outside activity is beneficial to your emotional well-being when you are a caregiver. I am glad the Harrison County Historical Society’s archive provides that outlet for Carol Bennett, and we, in turn, are grateful for her service and dedication.
In preparation, the Blockhouse Hill Cemetery Association paid a contractor to mow the cemetery. They also bought the 20 bags of sand and gravel that were used to level the headstones. A local restaurant, the Bee Hive, and the Doddridge County Historical Society donated pizza, coffee and water for lunch.
The SDB portion of the Blockhouse Hill Cemetery is considered Doddridge County’s pioneer cemetery. A few of the more notable citizens buried there are Nathan Davis (founder of West Union and a captain in the War of 1812), Lewis Maxwell (Congressman), Judge Chapman J Stuart (responsible for naming West Virginia), George Revels (black civil war veteran), Samuel J Cupp (confederate soldier), William J Maulsby (union soldier), Captain John Carroll (union soldier) and Joseph Cheuvront (physician and merchant).
The cemetery sits on the site of the original SDB church that was built ca 1800. The DAR erected a monument in 1925 stating that the church was there from 1792 until 1832. I believe this to be an error, because after much research, the earliest I can place any SDB member living in Doddridge County (then Harrison County) is in 1802. The SDB Church in Salem, erected before the one on Blockhouse Hill, was not even built until 1796. A tornado in 1833 razed the hewed-log church and another tornado in 1837 killed a father and daughter, both who are interred at the cemetery.
Blockhouse Hill is a historical and cultural asset to the 8,300 citizens who currently live in Doddridge County. Not only are our foundering fathers buried here, but many of the families that live in Doddridge County today can trace their roots back to those resting in this long-forgotten cemetery. There is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done, but thanks to AmeriCorps’ help, we can now efficiently and safely assess what repairs need to be made.
Our endeavors uncovered many exciting finds:
Thank you so much to all the AmeriCorps members and community volunteers that helped.
By Raven, Preserve WV AmeriCorps serving at Marion County Historical Society
My name is Raven Thomas and I am excited to be starting my second year of service as a Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps member in my hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia. I am continuing my service at the Marion County Historical Society, Inc and Museum until 2015. I enjoy giving back to my community and preserving the heritage of my family and every other family that has roots in Marion County.
Part of my service to the county is to completely restore and preserve the attached portion of the Marion County Jail for future use. This is an ongoing project and once the jailhouse is finished, it will be open to public tours. The training at Jackson’s Mill provided a nice refresher course on hazardous materials and historic preservation and restoration techniques that are used for structures such as the jailhouse. I used the information that was given during the training to properly test the jail for lead paint and other materials and purchase the appropriate safety gear for myself and the volunteers for this project. I am looking forward to the coming year and the progress of this project.
The Preserve WV AmeriCorps program is made possible with grant funds from Volunteer WV and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Preservation Alliance of WV is seeking applications for sites to sponsor Preserve WV AmeriCorps members for the 2015-2016 program year. Here is a Word .docx file of instructions and the Site Sponsor Application.
AmeriCorps is a national service program founded in the same spirit as the Peace Corps, VISTA, and the Armed Forces, and other forms of national service. The AmeriCorps program provides members with a full- or part-time service experience in exchange for a modest living allowance and an educational award. The Preserve WV AmeriCorps program is administered by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV), the statewide grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting historic preservation in the Mountain State through education and outreach. Other PAWV programs include preservation workshops, field services, heritage tourism development, and the West Virginia Endangered Properties List.
The purpose of the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program is to promote historic preservation and heritage tourism in West Virginia through historic resource re-use, improvement, and development. Members’ service will focus on historic resource improvement and capacity building by utilizing heritage tourism for economic development, historic preservation for economic development and environmental stewardship, and volunteer management for community engagement. Site historic resources are expected to include at least one historic building and may include museum collection, landscape, structures, and historic districts. Preserve WV AmeriCorps is funded in part by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service, and by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the first day of the conference, I attended the Historic Gravestone Conservation Workshop at Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington. Jonathan Appell, a historic stone conservator, led a group through several different hands-on techniques for cleaning gravestones and monuments; resetting and leveling leaning gravestones; and conservation, or repair, of broken gravestones. This in-depth session allowed for more than just a speaker presenting his ideas and techniques – we were able to participate and get our hands dirty. Our group cleaned four gravestones during the morning session, removing moss and lichens from the bases and focusing on making the inscriptions more visible and readable. In the afternoon, our group worked on four other gravestones. Each one presented a different challenge toward conservation and repair. We reattached a top portion of a grave marker that had been laying on the ground; we leveled a leaning gravestone; we adhered a large head stone with its base to eliminate the possibility of it falling over; and we used a tripod and hoist to lift and reset large and heavy segments of the final grave marker.
My name is Robert Wolfe and I am currently finishing my MA in public history from West Virginia University. Starting in December I will begin serving at Main Street Fairmont in Fairmont, West Virginia. Given my educational background in historic preservation and public interpretation, along with my interest in adaptive land reuse, a Main Street program is an ideal place for me to undertake a service position. Throughout my education I have had the privilege of working for a number of institutions including; George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Pendleton Historic Foundation, and the Heritage Trail Conservancy of Madison Indiana. I know my time at Main Street Fairmont will be equally as rewarding.
Since finishing my Undergraduate Degree I have been fascinated with discovering new ways to utilize our heritage. Like many people in the field of public history, I believe there is an excess of historic house museums. Too many stories competing for a limited audience is creating a strain on budgets. While it would be nice if house museums could sustain themselves on admissions alone, it simply is not feasible in the 21st century. Historic houses need to gather new audiences so that we all may retain our cultural heritage. Just because a building is old, doesn’t mean it must be a museum!
The workshop “Charetting the Jenkins House” at the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia 2014 Conference, was a natural workshop to attend. The Jenkins House (Green Bottom) is an 1825 plantation house on the Ohio River. The home, currently owned and mothballed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has been meticulously restored to its appearance in 1825. The Jenkins House operated as a house museum for a time. During this period the house would host Civil War encampments and special holiday events. The Jenkins House currently awaits a new use.
The charette was a refreshing change in house museum narratives. Local historical societies typically receive the unfair stereotype of being inflexible in their beliefs. The stakeholders of the Jenkins House were interested in restoring the old museum events but also interested in expanding the scope of activities at the site. The site has an excellent view of natural wetlands and ample space for people. The natural beauty lends itself to its use as an event space. Other options discussed include a community garden, a historic gardening site, or community space for local events. As a government property, the Corps of Engineers is responsible for upkeep and bills for the Jenkins House. The Jenkins House is in an advantageous position to experiment with new uses. This gives the property an advantage, allowing the stakeholders to put more resources into developing alternative uses for the property.
Charettes are just one example of how historic preservationists can interact with the local community to preserve local heritage. The PAWV Conference allowed me to get hands on experience on the benefits and uses of charettes. Classroom experience can never equal field experience.
By Nicole, PAWV Preserve WV AmeriCorps
Hi there! My name is Nicole Marrocco, and I’m the 2014 – 2015 AmeriCorps member for the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. As a newcomer to the field of historic preservation and a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, I’m very excited to dive headfirst into this experience and to call West Virginia home for the next year.
While I may be a newbie in terms of preserving and reusing historic buildings, I’m no stranger to the study and preservation of material culture. In 2010, I graduated from Boston University with a dual B.A. in Archaeology and Classical Civilizations. In my classes I developed an interest in cultural resource management and the preservation and interpretation of archaeological sites. In addition to my coursework, my love of history and historic buildings runs deep.I have fond childhood memories of visiting Lowell, Massachusetts, in awe of the dilapidated, textile mills that lined the canals of the city—some of you may know Lowell as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and the first planned industrial city in the country. Years later as a college student, I returned to a vibrant and bustling city to serve as an intern at the Lowell National Historical Park. As an intern, I had the opportunity to truly get a sense of how much historic preservation and heritage tourism had revitalized the city of Lowell in the time since my childhood.
Having seen the good that historic preservation can do close to home, I’m so happy for the opportunity to serve with Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. PAWV is the statewide grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting historic preservation in the Mountain State. With a commitment to preserving West Virginia’s unique cultural heritage, PAWV and its members work to save the past and to benefit the present with a vision for the future by supporting and promoting historic preservation through education and outreach advocacy, preservation tools, and heritage tourism.
While the first few weeks of service have been chock-filled with training, we have already had the opportunity to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. At the combined Preserve WV / Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps training at Jackson’s Mill, a group of AmeriCorps members assembled “Little Free Libraries” as a community service project. A cross between a dollhouse and a birdhouse on a post, these small shelters for used books operate on the “take a book, leave a book” principle.
Prior to the training at Jackson’s Mill, Lynn Stasick and I prepared all the materials necessary to assemble each of the libraries, including making a pattern model and cutting the wood required (Did I mention I learned how to use a power saw?!). We then instructed four teams of AmeriCorps members how to assemble the libraries at Jackson’s Mill. Each of the four AmeriCorps-constructed Little Free Libraries will be painted by residents of the community in which it will be placed, creating a shared sense of pride and allowing us to generate enthusiasm for the libraries before they’ve even been installed. Once installed, neighbors will have the opportunity to share their favorite books with each other.
Although it seems small, this is a fantastic project because it can have such a large community impact. The Little Free Library movement promotes literacy and a love of reading by providing access to books worldwide. And as our experience demonstrates, the libraries also build a sense of community as we—AmeriCorps members, skilled tradesmen, schoolchildren—share skills and creativity during the construction process.
The 2013-2014 Preserve WV AmeriCorps year is coming to a close. Members, staff, and supervisors gathered yesterday to celebrate a successful first year and to discuss ways to improve the program. Old Hemlock Foundation in Bruceton Mills (Preston County) hosted an afternoon of good food, sharing ideas, and enjoying each other’s company.
PAWV Executive Director, Danielle LaPresta, led a discussion on improving the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program and developing ways to collect data more efficiently. All members gave excellent input, and their responses will be used in applying for more grants and measuring the effects the program is having in communities all over West Virginia.
For the 2013-2014 program year, members are serving at Craik-Patton House (Charleston), Cockayne Farmstead (Glen Dale), Downtown Wheeling, Inc. (Wheeling), PAWV (statewide), Wheeling National Heritage Area (Wheeling), Main Street Morgantown (Morgantown), Main Street Fairmont (Fairmont), Old Hemlock Foundation (Bruceton Mills), Marion County Historical Society (Fairmont), Adaland Mansion (Philippi), and National Coal Heritage Area (Oak Hill). This year has been so successful that we are expanding to more sites for 2014-2015. More information on that soon.
The Preserve WV AmeriCorps is made possible through a grant. However, it requires a lot of PAWV staff commitment that is not paid by the grant. If you are interested in showing support for this program and PAWV, please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to PAWV HERE. Your donations are used to expand services and this program.
The PreserveWV AmeriCorps program is Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s statewide service initiative to promote cultural heritage tourism and enhance historic resource re-use and redevelopment projects in West Virginia. Particular focus is placed on non-profit capacity building through organizational policy development, volunteer management, and community engagement. AmeriCorps members’ service will contribute to West Virginia’s economic development and environmental stewardship.
AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent federal agency whose mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. To learn more about AmeriCorps see www.americorps.gov. The PreserveWV AmeriCorps program is sponsored by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service: www.volunteerwv.org/
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