For people who lived and grew up in the Charleston area, looking up at the stunning structure was part of the ritual of driving along the Kanawha River. The circular building, built out of wood, steel, and glass, sat atop a rocky ridge – perched strategically for everyone to see as they travelled along the river. Many dreamed of living there, or of just visiting to overlook the Kanawha Valley from the 6,000 square foot cylindrical studio that gave Top 0 Rock its distinguished elegance.
The demolition followed several years of vacancy and deterioration (after Elden’s 2009 death and the property’s 2011 sale), a period capped off by major vandalism in 2014. In early 2015, PAWV named Top 0 Rock one of the two inaugural properties on its new Buildings at Risk Register (BARR), and other groups also made concerted preservation efforts (including a design competition to find potential adaptive reuses for the unique structure). However, insisting restoration costs were financially unfeasible, the owner chose to demolish – causing a very unfortunate loss to West Virginia’s built heritage. There is still no word about future plans for the site.
In West Virginia, we face an abandoned and dilapidated properties dilemma. With over 400,000 homes built more than 50 years ago, the Mountain State is littered with old neighborhoods now sitting empty and decaying, while nearby industrial sites are contaminated with hazardous materials. In the late 1980s, Ranson and Charles Town, like many rural towns before them, suffered the fate of outward migration as factories closed. For this featured preservation success story, we’ll learn about how one university system has spurred a revitalization on in these neighboring communities in Jefferson County.
After losing an 800- employee business in 2001, the two cities joined together with a vision to to create a precedent-setting Area-Wide Brownfields Plan to beautify and re-use brownfields, a term for vacant properties and hazardous industrial sites. A year later, American Public University System (APUS) joined the brigade to revitalize the area – while utilizing energy efficient building techniques, including solar energy and an electric/ hybrid car charging station. APUS is an online, for-profit university offering more than 90 degree programs through American Military University and American Public University over 100,000 working adults. In 2002, it relocated its headquarters to Charles Town from Manassas, VA. Almost 15 years later, with over $55 million invested, APUS has been the defining force breathing life back into these former industrial hubs. What makes this story even more unique is APUS’s dedication to historic preservation. APUS has singlehandedly rehabilitated over 15 historic properties surrounding the Commerce Corridor, a 1½ mile segment connecting the historic downtowns of Ranson and Charles Town.In the 2013 Brownfields Plan, six brownfields were targeted for community redevelopment projects along this corridor – which APUS’s revitalization movement is turning into the “Green Corridor”.
In 2011, APUS opened the doors to its new Academic Learning Center on the Veiner Scrap Yard site. Linking Ranson and Charles Town, it was used for over a century for metal disposal and recycling. The former industrial park closed unexpectedly and sat vacant for almost two decades. APUS not only redeveloped the property into its LEED Gold 45,000 square foot Academic Center, but also opened its LEED Silver Financial Center and the state’s largest solar array-covered parking lot. These brownfield redevelopment projects, along with recent historic home renovations along South George Street, are having significant and lasting economic and social benefits. APUS’s preservation ethic maintains streetscapes and encourages healthy living by walking.
Why did APUS choose the preservation route? It’s simple, explains APUS’s former President and CEO, Dr. Wallace E. Boston: “In addition to revitalizing Charles Town’s downtown, we realized that our renovations were not requiring the city or county to expand its transportation and utility infrastructure. We also concentrated our growth in an area where some businesses had moved out and our presence was supporting local restaurants and other merchants that might have otherwise closed.”
The university owns eight historic properties along S. George Street, the primary corporate campus for APUS’s 600+ employees. In 2015, APUS announced the completion of three exciting, historic home rehabilitation projects at 200, 208, and 300 S. George Street.
APUS preserved the buildings’ exterior integrity while incorporating new interior design elements and energy efficiency techniques. Two are now Guest Quarters for APUS Executive Team members who do not live in Charles Town but work there frequently during the week. The third house opened as the Eastern Panhandle’s first Technology Innovation Center, a small business technology incubator, focused on veteran-based entrepreneurs and technology-based companies.
These projects are all in addition to the significant contribution APUS made in assisting the Friends of Happy Retreat and the City of Charles Town in securing the Happy Retreat mansion and estate. This preservation ethos has multiple benefits, according to Dr. John Hough, Vice President of Community Relations at APUS, who explained, “Developing the property [at Happy Retreat] helps beautify the community and recruit potenial employees [to APUS].” With an innovative and smart approach to property redevelopment, APUS exemplifies the rehabilitaion projects that PAWV promotes. APUS is a model for best practices in brownfield and historic property redevelopment. Join PAWV in celebrating APUS’s successes and its laudable pledges to continued economic development in the state’s eastern panhandle.
The small, boutique hotel will give you something special to remember together. No two rooms in the hotel are the same but each have their own elegant character and unique style. This Valentine’s Day, there are three romance packages to choose from.
The “Traditional” package for a simple, loving stay. Rose petals are scattered to set the mood, along with Holl’s Chocolates and Champagne to share. The “Indulgence” package adds a little extra touch. And finally, the “Signature” package is for couples who want some serious pampering. Enjoy being treated with a couple’s massage before you return to your Traditional package room.
The Blennerhassett Hotel is a Historic Hotel of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance.
The century-old Blennerhassett Hotel stands today as a reminder that it is possible to merge old-world atmosphere with all the modern-day amenities that make a historic hotel a genuine treasure and will be a wonderful place to spend a romantic weekend with your Valentine.
For more information about these packages call: the Blennerhassett Hotel Reservations Manager at 304.865.8650
Or visit: http://theblennerhassett.com
For more information about the historic Blennerhassett Hotel visit:
For more information about Historic Hotels of America visit:
Top 5 Historic Preservation Blog Posts for 2015
Did you know you can support PAWV by becoming a contributing member? By investing $25 today, you not only give much-needed support to PAWV, but you can also receive a tax deduction on your federal income tax. Join today, and get the deduction for 2015! Your generous donation supports projects all over the state like the ones featured in our Top 5 Blog Posts, and by becoming a member, you also will receive the “Preservation News” quarterly newsletter and discounted entry into PAWV events.
Thank you for your support. To become a member, visit the membership link at http://pawv.org/join.htm.
Built about 1910, the 18 ft. x 40 ft. structure served as the first Lewisburg passenger and freight depot for the L&R. It has been a private residence for more than 50 years and is one of the last remaining pieces of the L&R history. When the L&R designed the depot, it appears that the it acquired plans from the C&O for its Standard Combination Station No. 1 which had become a C&O standard station about 1892. Characteristic of this design are the gingerbread decorations in the gables at each end. The L&R station is believed to have had waiting rooms on each side of an office with an extension to handle mail, express, and baggage. This style became one of the most iconic station designs on the C&O, and a hallmark of its presence in Virginia, West Virginia, and later in Kentucky.
According to Tom Dixon, a foremost railroad authority and president of the C&O Historical Society, the L&R depot is the only surviving example of what appears to be a nearly exact C&O Standard No. 1 station. Dixon writes, “It deserves to be preserved as an important artifact of the American railway experience, and a reminder of how Lewisburg attempted to compensate for its not being located on a major railway.”
For a very nominal price, the new depot owner may be entitled to some financial assistance, state tax credits, and possible nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
For additional information, interested parties may contact Commissioner Skip Deegans at 304-646-8475.
The Cockayne Farmstead is an incredibly unique place in a sea of historic homes. Built in 1850 and willed to the city in 2001, four generations of the same family lived in the home. However, what makes the home really special is that the family kept everything. And I do mean everything. With an eclectic collection covering everything from Adena arrowheads, an 1895 electric bill, and a calendar from 2001, I’m constantly surprised by the contents of our collections.
Although I’ve only been at the Cockayne Farmstead for a little over two months, I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what to expect for the upcoming year. Thus far, I’ve acquired a grant to create the first permanent exhibition on the life of the Cockayne family from 1850 through WWII, set up and began operating the Farmstead’s social media pages, and assisted the county convention and visitor’s bureau in their move to our office next door to the Farmstead. More broadly, I’ll be working on developing the Farmstead as a heritage tourism destination, and improving its capacity to become an arts and educational center within the county. Suffice to say, it’ll be a pretty exciting year! I can’t wait to discover not only what West Virginia has to offer, but also what I can offer my corner of it.
The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia is still accepting applications for new sites to be added to the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail. Theater owners, interested community organizations, and others can apply to add a theater to the Trail by submitting an application form to email@example.com by December 7, 2015, at 5:00pm. Download the application form at the WV Historic Theatre Trail website:
The WV Endangered Properties List is a collection of historic resources identified annually as the historic assets in the Mountain State most in jeopardy of being demolished or destroyed. These properties are also good candidates for re-use in their communities. The alliance revived its endangered list program in 2009 with a competitive application process and with technical assistance provided to the stewards of the selected properties. Technical assistance includes on-site visits from staff and Preserve WV AmeriCorps members, guidance in preservation projects and assistance in organizing clean-up days, hands-on workshops, or other skilled preservation activities.
There is special criteria to be identified as a WV Endangered Property. Each property must be listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; suffer from a demonstrable preservation emergency; and maintain owner and local support for the re-use of the property in the respective community. Owner support is necessary because it’s the first step to ensuring the preservation process begins. It is PAWV’s goal to encourage owners to turn these properties into viable contributors to WV’s economy. Properties that were formerly on the endangered list but have graduated to saved include the First Ward School in Elkins and the Quarrier Diner in Charleston. The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia is the statewide, nonprofit dedicated to promoting historic preservation and our state’s cultural heritage.
So far in my term, I have been able to increase Facebook presence from 500 likes to almost 700. Many shows and events have been booked including a movie matinee which happened due to a partnership with other organizations, a blues concert, a first annual WV Hootenanny concert, a group of comedians, and more. Lately, every weekend has an event from October 31st to December 12th beside Thanksgiving weekend. On Saturday, November 21, 2015, LOL@Alpine II Comedy Show with Jacob Hall will be the featured presentation. The show starts at 8pm and is $10 (for mature audiences).
I’ve inventoried the entire theatre, testing equipment and determining the priorities of repairs/replacements that are needed. I have also created revenue/expense spreadsheets and determined utility usage costs. Along with that, I have worked with my supervisors to re-evaluate the cost structure to rent out the theatre so that it is consistent and reasonable. Throughout my term as an AmeriCorps member I hope to help make the Alpine Theatre a go-to spot for music, arts, etc. By the end, I hope to see an event in the theatre at least once a week if not more, along with more renovations and upgrades. I want the theatre to be preserved, utilized, and kept in the hearts of the Ripley residents.
For Main Street Fairmont’s project, we were rehabilitating the Citizen Building, an 1880s commercial building and one of the oldest in downtown. The Citizen Building is not on the National Register of Historic Places but it is a contributing structure to the Downtown Fairmont Historic District. In addition, funding for our project came from the Natural Capital Investment Fund, a federal grant program under the USDA. For this reason, we had to undertake a section 106 Review.
Our review process was pretty straightforward.
First we had to define the “Area of Potential Effects” or note the historic structures that would be impacted by the project. We were making direct changes to a historic building, so our APE was limited to the building itself. In larger projects, the APE could include the potential for damage by blasting for a road, or having the view from a historic structure or landscape interrupted by a pipeline.
The second step is to gather documentation for our project. For us, this included submitting our proposed changes to the Citizen Building. For a non-rehabilitation project, it might be new construction plans or the plan for a highway. In addition we submitted a letter from the local Historic Review Commission, as evidence that our changes would not impact the historic character or integrity of the building.
Our review project was relatively simple, but there can be a whole host of actions taken for larger projects including surveys for potentially historic buildings and public hearings for how to diminish impacts. Ultimately a deal for saving a historic place could be reached an Memorandum of Agreement between, but this is not always the case. For more information about what is required for a Section 106 Review please visit (http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/review.html) and for more information about the Section 106 Process in general please check out this handy guide published by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (http://www.achp.gov/docs/CitizenGuide.pdf)
News and Notes
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