“We need a sense of human in hostile, post-industrial communities.”
The WV Humanities Council, with help from WVU professor emeritus Dr. Emory Kemp, brought Sir Neil Cossons to northern WV for three speaking engagements in honor of National Historic Preservation Month to speak about historic preservation of industrial sites in England. He gave some fascinating insight into how England preserves its industrial heritage and uses it for tourism purposes. This is a topic that definitely hit home to West Virginians attending the lecture.
Cossons has an extremely impressive career. He is the former Chairman of English Heritage, the equivalent to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and was knighted in 1994 for his work with museums and historic preservation in England. He was the first director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, a World Heritage site in Shropshire encompassing 10 museums collectively telling the story of the Industrial Revolution. He is the former director of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the Science Museum in London. He is currently Pro-Provost and Chairman of the Council of the Royal College of Art in London. So what did this esteemed professional have to say?
“Every day living imbues a sense of places.”
Cossons gave multiple examples of how the past is captured in practical ways in England. A list of sites include Cornwall, an old tin mining town; Nelson, a former weaving town; and Liverpool, a city suffering from declining population. The industries that were once the defining jobs in many of these communities have died and these towns have to deal with unemployment just like we do in West Virginia. However, all these places had a striking common feature for heritage tourism purposes that is not seen as often in the West Virginia.
Each place has preserved not only the important industrial sites, but also the machinery and skilled trades for making commodities such as bobbins, rope, wrought iron, and silver. Major factories and machinery have been preserved as tourist attractions, and skilled workers continue to create the goods that once defined the town – although on a much smaller scale. Instead of employing hundreds, these factories might have a dozen workers. Not all the machinery is used, but that does not mean that the building has been demolished and with it the machinery. Tourists are drawn to these crafts-places to see the skilled workers in action and to purchase the items they created. Tourists also enjoy cultural foods and music while on their visits. Where are some places this could happen in West Virginia? The Labelle Nail Factory in Wheeling is one place that came to my mind.
“Demolishing a building leaves a scar in the heart of the community.”
In many of these declining towns, vacant buildings are also a problem, as we in West Virginia know very well. Cossons discussed how local municipalities became involved in not only promoting heritage tourism but also in mothballing historic structures and housing for future use. In England, they not only preserve sites for future generations to remember their history but also to redevelop it. Mothballing is the process of temporarily closing a building to protect it from weather and secure it from vandals. Mothballing is an effective preservation tool for historic buildings without a productive use and funding. The purposes of mothballing historic structures include preserving the historic property and context of a town/community and to save the site until a new investor and new plans arises for the property. Although our current generation might not have a use for the property, future generations might. Additionally, mothballing may not be a viable option for every local/county government, but property owners could invoke this low-cost solution for their properties instead of neglecting them and allowing deterioration until the point of demolition. Preservation Alliance has information about mothballing. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
“What can a simple coat of paint do?”
Simple aesthetic tasks like painting and gardening at multiple historic buildings in a community and town can increase pride, visitation, comfort, and value. Although historic places might not be completely rehabilitated, making the effort to paint or do basic maintenance goes a long way. This is something we can do right now in West Virginia. Community painting and clean-up days will engage everyone, in addition to invoking pride in our communities. Who wants to visit a place that even its own residents don’t want to fix up?
After hearing Sir Neil’s lecture, I left feeling inspired and hopeful for West Virginia. There are already so many people working hard and doing what Sir Neil suggested. He ended by reminding us that it takes a lot of partners, citizen/volunteer involvement, and an interested local/county government for historic preservation projects to be successful. I couldn’t agree more.
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop primarily for real estate agents at the Historic Darden House in Elkins, WV. This was the third workshop in a series with other locations including Martinsburg and Wheeling. The WV State Historic Preservation Office (WVSHPO) and three Certified Local Governments teamed up to give the workshops in honor of National Historic Preservation Month.
Historic homes and residential historic districts are a dime a dozen in West Virginia. To increase the sale of these homes, real estate agents learned historic preservation facts while earning seven Continuing Education Units. Speakers, Robin Ziegler with the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions and Jennifer Brennan with the WVSHPO, had a jam-packed session focused on the National Register of Historic Places, historic preservation financial incentives, and best ways to market historic homes. I’ll share those with you shortly!
Before moving onto the tips, let’s recap the financial incentives available in West Virginia.
State Residential Rehabilitation Tax Credit: This is a 20% state income tax credit which is based on qualified expenditures undertaken as part of the rehabilitation to a historic private residence. The credit is applied directly against taxes owed by the owner. This credit is available to private homeowners for approved rehabilitation work on their own residence. The building must be either individually listed or a contributing building in an historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Non-historic Tax Credit: This 10% tax credit is available for the rehabilitation of non-historic buildings placed in service before 1936. The building must be rehabilitated for non-residential use and cannot be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
State Development Grant: This is for rehabilitation of properties that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places or a contributing property in a historic district or/and archaeological development of a site listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The grant will cover up to 50% of the project costs, and a 50% match must be provided to receive the grant.
Federal and State Commercial Rehabilitation Tax Credits: A 20% federal income tax credit and a 10% state income tax credit are available for the rehabilitation of historic, income-producing buildings that are determined by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, to be “certified historic structures.” The State Historic Preservation Offices and the National Park Service review the rehabilitation work to ensure that it complies with the Secretary’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
Real estate agents should always know if the property they are selling is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This information is easy to find too! For West Virginians, just go to the WVSHPO’s website to see if your property is listed. Once you know if your property is listed, you will know what financial incentives are available to buyers.
Now for the marketing tips:
1) Create a Story – Research the home and find a few interesting tidbits. Share these with your potential buyers. The National Register nomination should have some useful information, and you can also research deeds at the county assessor’s office. The deed will tell you the history of ownership, and you might find that one of the owners had an interesting past.
2) Highlight Original Elements – Historic buildings are treasure troves for original craftsmanship. This will interest many buyers. Point out woodworking, light fixtures, crown molding, and other original materials. Maybe the building is from a special period. Is it a Sears Kit Home or a Lustron Home? Find out! These are niche markets, and buyers want to know all about these homes.
3) Financial Incentives – Don’t forget these!
4) Be a Resource – Offer information on FHA 203K loans, historic preservation craftspeople (we can help with this one), and insurance companies.
5) Embrace the Flaws – Know your buyers. They may appreciate the hand-made quirks of historic homes. They might want a fixer-upper and will jump at the chance to stain those old hard wood floors that have been hidden under carpet for the last 30 years.
6) Advertise with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other historic real estate websites/magazines.
7) Know Inspectors who Understand Historic Buildings – They understand that historic buildings were built to last and will tell the truth about the property you are trying to sell.
8) Consider a Specialty – During your research, you may find that there is a prevalent architect, builder, or style in your area. Specialize in a topic that can help you sell these properties.
West Virginia’s population has, for the most part, been on the decline for the last few decades. Real estate agents can help turn around this trend by selling historic homes and increasing investment in West Virginia’s communities.
Watch a short video featuring the 2013 West Virginia Endangered Properties. So many beautiful historic sites to see, and it is so wonderful that many local residents are working together to save, preserve, and re-use these special places.
For more information on the adaptive re-use and activity at these sites, visit http://www.pawv.org/endangerprogressreps.htm.
May is National Historic Preservation Month! Celebrate it by engaging your historic preservation landmarks commission or local historic society in brainstorming ways to promote historic preservation and environmental sustainability. Not sure who to contact? Ask us by emailing email@example.com.
Historic Preservation is an environmentally-responsible movement. Learn more by watching the video or at http://www.pawv.org/whypres.htm.
Video courtesy of the Walkabout Company, LLC.
May is National Historic Preservation Month!
Begin a building project this May and celebrate historic preservation. Not sure where to start? Watch this video about How to Assess a Historic Building and then use this helpful checklist to prioritize your building’s needs.
Have more questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
A FUTURE FOR THE PAST: PRESERVING THE PAST AS AN ASSET FOR THE FUTURE ~ HISTORIC PRESERVATION MONTH EVENT
The West Virginia Humanities Council observes National Preservation Month this May by bringing Sir Neil Cossons, distinguished historian, museum director and former chairman of English Heritage, to West Virginia for a speaking tour. English Heritage is the advisor to the government of the United Kingdom on the historic environment of England, from Stonehenge to manor houses.
On May 7, Cossons begins his tour with the 7:00 p.m. presentation of “A Future for the Past: Preserving the Past as an Asset for the Future” at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town. He will repeat the program on May 8 at 7:00 p.m. at West Virginia University’s Erikson Alumni Center in Morgantown and May 9 at 7:00 p.m. at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling. The programs are free and the public is cordially invited to attend.
Cossons will discuss the philosophy and processes for historic preservation in England. He will examine what is preserved, why and how, consider new uses for historic buildings, and share examples of how communities have used historic places as the framework for creating the future in England and other countries.
Sir Neil was knighted in 1994 for his work with museums and historic preservation and has advised governments, museums, and preservation organizations in several countries. His visit to West Virginia was facilitated by his friend and colleague Dr. Emory Kemp, professor emeritus at West Virginia University. In addition to being former chairman of English Heritage, Cossons was the first director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum – a World Heritage site in Shropshire encompassing 10 museums collectively telling the story of the Industrial Revolution, director of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and has worked on a number of World Heritage nominations.
Officially known as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, English Heritage cares for the National Heritage Collection of historic sites and monuments while serving as guardian of over 500,000 objects and 12 million photographs in their public archives. They protect an amazing range of properties, sites, and objects that include castles, shipwrecks, battlefields, and gardens such as the aforementioned Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, Charles Darwin’s diaries and the Duke of Wellington’s boots.
Support for “A Future for the Past: Preserving the Past as an Asset for the Future” is provided by West Virginia University, Elizabeth Stifel Kline Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Ogden Nutting, Jefferson Distributing, John Allen, Jr., West Virginia Division of Culture and History, and the Bavarian Inn. The Humanities Council also thanks Dr. Emory Kemp, the Honorable David H. Sanders, Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County, Harpers Ferry Historical Association, Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, Shepherd University Historic Preservation Program, and the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.
For more information contact the West Virginia Humanities Council at 304-346-8500.
Four members of the Coopers Rock Foundation Board of Directors who are also rock climbers cleaned off the Henry Clay Iron Furnace, of Coopers Rock State Forest, on Friday September 21st, 2012. “Plants were growing all over that structure,” said Jan Kiger, one of the participating climbers. “And we’re not talking just ferns and weeds. There were lots of small trees that had taken root in the soil between the stone blocks.” Unchecked tree growth could eventually threaten the stability of the structure.
Most of those were birch tree saplings, pointed out Adam Polinski, another CRF climber who helped out that day. “They are the same kind of trees frequently seen growing on or around the rocks we climb on here at Coopers Rock.” While the ferns and weeds were relatively easy pickings, the trees were harder to eradicate. “After we cut the trees off, we dug out as many stumps and roots as we could, to prevent stump-sprouting and tree growth in the same places all over again.” The woody plants are the greatest threat to the long-term preservation of the furnace structure, explained Polinski. “The root systems expand as the trees grow, and that can slowly push apart the blocks.” Carol Tannous added that if something wasn’t done, tree growth on the furnace would lead to its disintegration. “You can see where some of the blocks have loosened over the decades. This is a famous local landmark, and we don’t want to see it fall apart.”
The climbers set up rope systems using trees nearby the furnace for anchors. “We purposely did not use the furnace structure itself for safety anchoring in any way”, explained David Riggs, the other climber who helped with the project. “We took a ‘tread lightly’ approach. This is one of the very oldest surviving structures in the greater Morgantown area, constructed in the 1830’s. We even took pains to not disturb the moss on the sides of the furnace. It looks good and doesn’t do any harm, so we intentionally left it in place.”
This was not the first time that the Foundation, and rock climbers, helped out the Henry Clay Iron Furnace in this way. 12 years ago, on July 22nd, 2000, two CRF Board members who are also rock climbers, Lisa Rayburn and Adam Polinski, were joined by 5 other local climbers in a furnace-cleaning effort: Rob Riffe, Scott Ridenour, Shawn Stafford, Bryn Perrott, and Richie Moyers. They accomplished the same task as this go-around. One of the differences between that time and this was that, in 2000, an approved herbicide was sprayed on any remaining root structures to prevent re-growth. This time, no herbicides were used, and instead, more effort went into physically removing stumps and roots. The other main difference was due to the gear and expertise of David Riggs. David is an expert caver as well as a rock climber, and he provided mechanical ascenders for the group. “The ascenders allowed us to climb up the ropes. Between those and rappelling devices, which enable one to descend a rope, each of us was easily able to go up or down a rope and single-handedly cover an entire face of the furnace.”
“It’s a real privilege to care for such an old and important part of our local history – especially in this hands-on way”, said Carol Tannous. The furnace is about 175 years old. “This work will help keep that structure standing for years to come.”
The prominent Second Presbyterian Church in Wheeling’s Center Market Square District has an interesting past and a promising future. Constructed in 1850, the church reflects a checkered past for antebellum Virginia and the complexity of Wheeling’s population. The church founders included secessionists from both the First Presbyterian Church and the United States. One of the church’s founders, Mr. John Goshorn, was a slave-owner. As the church congregation grew, a tide favoring Abolitionism was evident. The church sexton, Mr. John Gaunt, was a free black man, and the Second Presbyterian Church was the site of the Freedmen’s Association meeting in 1865.
The Near Earth Object Foundation is the current owner of the church, and this organization sees the value in preserving and celebrating the history of Wheeling and the church. It is involved in an adaptive re-use project for the church to create an urban observatory, educational facility, and performing arts center in Wheeling’s popular Market Square.
The Near Earth Object Foundation (NEO) has many long-term goals for the church, but currently, it is engaged in a most-needed restoration effort to fix the collapsed roof and the original 50-foot truss structure. Not only is the NEO interested in science, astronomy, and history, but it’s also into the preservation trades. The group will provide an educational opportunity regarding large timber construction as all of the timbers being used for the truss system will be created in a large beam sawmill at the Garvin’s Dairy buildings located outside of Wheeling. These buildings boast ample room to cut the large truss pieces and do hand hewing of components. The wood for the trusses will be cut from local timber found on the Garvin’s Dairy land. Much of timber will come from trees downed by last summer’s “Derecho storm.” The group will utilize the “windfall” to cut as much of the construction material as possible and has been busy measuring, peeling, and hewing, in addition to getting the large beam sawmill set up.
Ultimately the “historic vision” is to restore the church to its antebellum and Civil War era configuration. It will be used as a digital broadcast/webcast studio, flexible performance and presentation space, and “urban observatory”. The building and site are included in NASA West Virginia Space Grant project “SolarMax2012”, solar astronomy.
The Near Earth Object Foundation has Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s blessing to establish the “Arthur C. Clarke Near Earth Object Observatory” here in West Virginia.
For more information on the 2013 WV Endangered Properties, visit http://pawv.org/endangedlist2013.htm
West Virginia has had its Residential Rehabilitation Tax Credit for over 10 years. With this tax credit, historic homeowners benefit from a 20% credit on qualified expenditures, which include roof replacement, electrical wiring repairs and updates, window rehabilitation, architectural and engineering fees, and much, much more. For the homes to be considered “historic”, they must be listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places or they can be listed in a National Register historic district, a collection of historic buildings in a concentrated area.
In the last 11 years, 67 historic properties have been rehabilitated using this tax credit program. In West Virginia, there are over 1,000 historic resources, and this number does not individually count each property listed in the historic districts. So, why the discrepancy in number of owners utilizing the tax credit and number of historic resources? Property owners continue to fix-up their homes, and many middle-class families live in historic districts. All of these people could benefit from this tax credit.
We at Preservation Alliance believe that two reasons the tax credit is not being utilized more effectively are because homeowners are turned off by anything to do with taxes and that the paperwork is intimidating. To counter these claims, we have created a twelve-page guidebook that explains the tax credit and walks homeowners step-by-step through the tax credit application process. Additionally, this downloadable guide explains who to contact to apply for this tax credit.
So before you start any summer renovations, take a look at the guidebook. You might qualify for this 20% tax credit! If you aren’t certain whether your property is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, contact us at email@example.com. We will help you to figure out whether your property qualifies as “historic.” You can find the downloadable guidebook in PDF format at http://pawv.org/funding.htm.
(For more information about the history of all these springs, check out this excellent online exhibition about medicinal springs from the University of Virginia’s Claude Moore Health Sciences Library.)
It was popular belief that the sulphur waters, taken both internally as well as bathed in were a curative for any number of diseases, and ostensibly that is why people, (mostly the rich) visited the resorts. There was however another reason of equal import; to escape the oppressive heat, humidity, insects, and various diseases prevalent along the summer coast of the Virginias.
John J. Moorman, The Virginia Springs of the South and West, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1859: facing page 217. Historical Collections & Services, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia.
Blue Sulphur, so named for the iridescent color of the springs was constructed in 1834, the year the resort opened. It began its decline in the 1850s due to competition. In 1859, it became a college for Baptist ministers but closed in 1861 with the outbreak of the Civil War. Both Confederate and Union troops utilized the site as a hospital and camp until it was burned by departing Union troops in 1864 leaving only the pavilion and spring un-touched.
The saving of the site is in the planning stages for the Save the Blue group and the Greenbrier Historical Society. Plugged up drains have caused a swampy condition which will be dealt with first. Then work can begin saving the pavilion which is in need of much attention. Once work is complete, the site will become a two acre park, and a most enjoyable park it will be. I just wonder if anyone will “take the waters?”
For more information on the 2013 WV Endangered Properties, visit
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