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.
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.
David is a longtime promoter of travel and heritage tourism in West Virginia, he brings a wealth of expertise in marketing and public relations to the table. David is publisher of the online guide West Virginia Explorer, now in its fifteenth year of publication, and is the executive director of Sibray Public Relations. He is a member of the West Virginia Press Association and was formerly a publisher for Thomson Newspaper niche publications mid-Atlantic division, through which he founded The West Virginia Retirement Times.
Sibray was born in Wheeling, raised in Beckley, and spent summers at the Sibray farm near Fairmont, so he says he claims to be both northern and southern. “It certainly benefits my understanding of West Virginia’s wonderfully diverse culture.” He said he hopes to benefit the board as a fundraiser and by emphasizing preservation as a key to solid economic development in West Virginia. “I never tire of talking about the value of our historical resources, and I think many West Virginians are willing to listen.” Before embarking on a career in publishing and public relations, Sibray studied Cultural Resource Management and Appalachian Studies at West Virginia University.
As the statewide historic preservation nonprofit, PAWV administers the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program, the Endangered Properties List, and provides preservation advice to individuals and groups across the state. For more information about PAWV, visit www.pawv.org or call 304-345-6005.
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.
The Waldomore is an excellent example of preservation which has become Clarksburg’s landmark example of showcasing the county’s image through architecture and public use. In addition, the Robinson Grand Theater, The Waldo Hotel, The Gore Hotel, Goff Building and the Olymbec/Chase Buildings are outstanding examples of current and future rehabilitation of some of Harrison County’s major inner city buildings. Private homes on “Quality Hill” are excellent examples of that designated historic district.
Shinnston, Salem, West Milford, Lumberport, among other smaller communities, are examples of residents and business owners taking pride in their local heritage. HCHS feels that it takes a community to preserve its history.
The Historical Society will partner with the Preservation Alliance staff to discuss economic incentives, developing community awareness and pride. Collaboration with local government, along with public and private involvement in preservation will be related to heritage tourism.
The Harrison County Historical Society’s historic house museum, the Stealey, Goff Vance House built in 1807, is a prime example of a historic building that can stand out proudly with further development, renewed use and community involvement. Discussion, collaboration and promotion can lead to increased economic value.
Preservation Alliance and the Historical Society will offer examples of preservation efforts, building re-purposing, and heritage tourism outcomes. Local business and property owners are encouraged to bring questions, ideas and thoughts on preservation, economic development and heritage tourism for a discussion to follow the presentation. The Historical Society will continue programs involving both architectural and archival preservation in 2015.
The discussion on community development through preservation and heritage tourism will take place at The Waldomore in Clarksburg, January 27th, 5:30 pm. Coffee and refreshments will be available. For more information or questions contact Carol at email@example.com. For a list of presenters see the web site harrisoncowvhistoricalsociety.org
By Alex, PAWV VISTA
Winter is in full force in West Virginia and that means it’s winter sports time. West Virginia has several ski resorts including Snowshoe, Timberline, Canaan Valley, Oglebay, and Winterplace for downhill and Whitegrass and Elk River for cross-country skiing.
Here’s a look into the history of Canaan Valley and West Virginia skiing: During the winter of 1949-50 skiers from The Ski Club of Washington, D.C. (SCWDC) drove through West Virginia looking for snow and the next year started working on putting in a rope tow in Canaan Valley. This ski area, called Cabin Mountain, Driftland, or Little Tuckerman’s fits into the very early stages of United States skiing history. Two other private ski areas, both called Weiss Knob, were also started in Canaan Valley in the 1950’s. These early areas spawned a total of 13 West Virginia areas: first, Bald Knob Beckley in 1958, then, Oglebay Park in Wheeling and Chestnut Ridge near Morgantown in the 1960’s, next, Canaan Valley Resort in Canaan Valley, Alpine Lake in Terra Alta, Snowshoe near Marlinton in the 70’s, and finally, Silver Creek near Marlinton, Winterplace near Beckley, Timberline Resort in Canaan Valley, and Tory Mountain near Harman in the 80’s. The early Canaan Valley ski areas also stimulated the West Virginia Department of Commerce to commission a feasibility study of skiing in West Virginia in 1965. Checci and Company pinpointed four locations as the best in West Virginia for commercial ski areas. These areas were: Cabin Mountain in Canaan Valley, Job Knob near Harman, Elk Mountain in Randolph County, and Spruce Mountain in Pocahontas County.
Canaan Valley Resorts Ski Area greatly increased its ski able acreage, snow-making and, of course, the number of skiers. Many ski business firsts occurred at Canaan Valley, over the years. In 1972, John a West Virginia native came to Canaan by way of Stowe, Vermont. He, with the help of Ted Fries, also a West Virginia native, started one of the country’s first blind ski programs at Canaan Valley Resort. Hundreds of blind persons have learned to ski with this program, which is still operating at Timberline. He also started an amputee ski program, a deaf ski program and held one of the country’s first 5 Winter Special Olympics in 1979. His ski school was the first in the country to allow instructors on Nordic equipment to teach alpine lessons. The ski patrol was also one of the first to allow patrollers on telemark equipment. Canaan Valley also pioneered ski classes for college credit with four West Virginia colleges offering ski physical-education credit. Several world-class skiers have skied at Canaan, including World Cup downhiller Holly Flanders. Skiers from the area have gone on to become race directors at Aspen Highlands and Copper Mountain, CO, and to hold supervisory positions in many other large ski areas. Canaan Valley has produced excellent powder skiers. In the 1970’s, skiers started climbing the mountains around Canaan and skiing powder through open woods and down right-of-ways, including Bald Knob. The last thirty years have produced an average snowfall of 167 inches at the 3400’ elevation of the north face.
Canaan Valley has had a long and rich ski history and at this time offers the best skiing in the East south of New England. The skiing at Canaan Valley and Timberline Resorts combined with the abundant snowfall and beauty of the area make Canaan Valley an excellent ski vacation experience. This area has also consistently attracted people who love the sport and believe in the quality of the Valley’s skiing.
Skiing has improved the area’s overall prosperity and quality of life. Many people have been able to remain here and find employment that otherwise might have had to move away. The large numbers of skier visits have spawned other businesses and have increased West Virginia’s tourist industry.
Come and visit for yourself. Go ski!
From “Skiing from Top to Bottom: The History of Skiing in Canaan Valley” by John Lutz
For a more complete version of the history, go to:
for more information on skiing in West Virginia.
BAD Buildings Program News
A Brownfields, Abandoned and Dilapidated Property Initiative
The Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center has announced the availability of the 2015 BAD Buildings Program’s Technical Assistance grant program!
The BAD Buildings Program is a statewide initiative that provides technical assistance and site analysis tools to develop and enhance abandoned/dilapidated buildings programs in West Virginia communities. The program also addresses barriers to identifying, prioritizing, and redeveloping BAD buildings. The BAD Buildings Program is funded through a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
The 2015 BAD Buildings Program will provide technical assistance to up to 8 communities from across the state to create or enhance community-driven revitalization and redevelopment of abandoned, dilapidated, or vacant properties.
BAD Buildings – How to Apply
Begin your application process by downloading the Request for Applications and the Program Guide.
Completed applications may be submitted on or before Friday, February 13th, 2015 by U.S. Postal Service, commercial delivery service, or via email to Luke.Elser@mail.wvu.edu.
Who Should Apply
Eligible applicants include the following:
The BAD Buildings Program is designed to offer technical support to communities at varying stages of local redevelopment and with differing levels of local capacity. Communities with an existing abandoned/dilapidated buildings program are encouraged to apply as well as communities who are beginning to address this issue.
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.
By Alex, PAWV VISTA
Hawks Nest State Park is located on 370 acres in Fayette County near Ansted, West Virginia. Hawks Nest State Park has welcomed visitors since the mid-1930s. The park first opened in 1935 as a roadside park when the state purchased 51 acres. The planning was done by the National Park Service.
The original building, now a gift shop and museum, was built as a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) project in which Eleanor Roosevelt was a driving force to build State Parks in WV and other areas. CCC Camp Lee (1935-1942) men built the concession building, public toilet building, and other facilities at Hawks Nest. CCC Camp Beaver (1937-38) men built the picnic shelter and museum building. These structures are unique and a great place to rest and picnic. Hawks Nest Lake was built in 1967.
The hydro-electric project tunnel that passes underneath nearby Gauley Mountain was the scene of the tragic Depression-era Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster. It was a large-scale incident of occupational silicosis as the result of the construction of the Hawks Nest Tunnel near Gauley Bridge, as part of a hydroelectric project. This project is considered to be one of the worst industrial disasters in American history.
Hawks Nest State Park is nested in whitewater country. The New River was designated an American Heritage River on July 30, 1998. There are currently fourteen American Heritage Rivers in the country. With great views, some good trails, and plenty of wildlife, Hawks Nest is a good destination to visit in West Virginia in all seasons.
News and Notes
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