By William “Skip” Deegans, Lewisburg Historic Landmarks Commission
Many Greenbrier Countians have stepped inside “The Westly,” but few, if any, knew it had a history until Rose Thornton saw it. Thornton, a nationally-recognized expert on kit homes, immediately realized it was an early version of a Sears Roebuck home known as The Westly. Most locals knew it only as the West Virginia University Extension Office.
The house was built about 1925 and was bought by the Greenbrier County Court in 1941. After the county purchased it, the house continued as a residence until it was converted into an office for the extension service. A few years ago it was vacated and has quickly deteriorated because of neglect.
The house is located next to the county courthouse and a proposed expansion of the courthouse would have caused the house to be razed. Last year, the Lewisburg Historic Landmarks Commission (LHLC) served as an intermediary with the President of the County Commission and a local realtor to move the house to a lot about a block away. Since then, the commissioners have shifted their thinking around to preserving and using the house for offices for a county program and moving the courthouse expansion to the rear instead of the side.
Fortunately, The Westly is much like it was when it was first erected. Even though it was used as offices for much of its life, the floor plan has changed very little. All of the original interior woodwork, including lovely double doors and hardwood floors, are intact. All of the windows are believed to be original.
The most immediate needs of the house include new asphalt shingles on the roof and painting. The LHLC has encouraged the county to submit an application to WV State Historic Preservation Office for a matching grant to make these repairs. While Lewisburg is well known for its large colonial and Victorian homes, The Westly represents an important post-WWI period in Lewisburg’s history when companies like Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and Aladdin offered folks an affordable well-designed home built of quality materials.
For more information about “The Westly” check out Rose’s great article:
For more information on the 2013 WV Endangered Properties, visit http://pawv.org/endangedlist2013.htm.
Many industrial construction projects require cultural surveys for locating cemeteries, battlefields, and other historic and prehistoric sites before beginning work. Cultural surveys are typically required as part of federal and state permitting and licensing processes. This is to protect such places from being inadvertently desecrated during highway construction, coal production, wind farm construction, and natural gas production and transmission. Despite this seemingly obvious concept, cultural surveys are not required for non-jurisdictional gathering lines used in the transportation of natural gas.
–>What is a Cultural Survey?
A cultural survey is a search executed by a trained professional, i.e. an archaeologist, to make sure that construction plans avoid culturally significant resources like cemeteries, churches and other historically and culturally significant sites.
–>What Does this Bill Do?
–>What is a Non-jurisdictional Gathering Line?
A gathering line generally runs from the gas well to a processing plant or larger transmission line. Pipelines that perform a gathering function are exempt from FERC regulation under the Natural Gas Act of 1938. The WV Public Service Commission, in cooperation with the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, regulates approximately 555 miles of Class II, Class III, and Class IV gathering lines in West Virginia for safety. Class I gathering lines are most common in rural areas and are not regulated by WVPSC/PHMSA. Such lines are generally referred to as “non-jurisdictional gathering lines” as they are not regulated by any state or federal agency. Since they are not issued permits, licenses, or approval by a state or federal agency, such pipeline construction projects are not currently required to conduct cultural surveys prior to construction.
–>Why is this Bill Important?
West Virginia’s history is as dynamic as its landscape, as is evident by the wealth of rural cemeteries, graves, and other historic sites. SHPO records the presence of cemeteries, but only when reported by the public. Many go unreported and remain absent from the state’s records and maps. Also, many rural cemeteries and graves have a variety of markers in addition to the typical modern headstone, necessitating the need for a trained professional to recognize their presence to assure proper identification. This bill not only extends protection to the remains of West Virginian descendants, but helps preserve our state’s rich heritage for future generations.
Show your support for HB 2893 by contacting your State Delegates. Contact information for Delegates is available at http://www.legis.state.wv.us/house/roster.cfm
The West Virginia Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program offers a 20% tax credit on allowable expenditures like roof repair and window restoration. Privately-owned homes listed in the National Register of Historic Places and those listed in National Register historic districts are able to receive this tax credit. This very effective program is in jeopardy as bills are being fast-tracked through the State Senate and House of Delegates to repeal this tax credit.
Please show your support for historic preservation and this tax credit program by contacting your state Senators and Delegates and ask them to VOTE NO to the following bills:
HB 2916 for the House of Delegates Bill,
SB 436 for the State Senate.
Many have already been contacting their Delegates asking them to Vote NO to HB 2916. We appreciate this support and ask that you do the same for the SB 436.
To find your State Delegates by District, follow this link:
To find your State Senators by District, follow this link:
For contact information for your State Delegates and Senators, visit:
We also ask that you contact the President of the Senate, Jeffrey Kessler, asking him to vote NO to SB 436. His contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org. His Phone Number is (304) 357-7801.
You can also show your support for the residential tax credit by contacting the Speaker of the House Richard Thompson at email@example.com
Please help us to protect this tax credit, which creates opportunities for investment in our downtowns, saves our historic neighborhoods, and preserves our vast heritage. Without it, historic districts like South Park in Morgantown, Luna Park in Charleston, and the Wees District in Elkins would not exist.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preservation Alliance of West Virginia is accepting nominations for the 2013 West Virginia Historic Preservation Awards. The annual Historic Preservation Awards banquet will be held at the Hotel Morgan in Morgantown, WV on Saturday, September 21, 2013. All are welcome to submit nominations and attend the banquet.
Visit http://www.pawv.org/update.htm for downloadable nomination forms and guidelines.
All nominations are due May 15th, 2013. Please submit your nomination via email to email@example.com.
As the statewide non-profit organization supporting historic preservation in West Virginia, we have received many calls of concern about the rising natural gas wells, pipelines, and drilling and the disregard for family cemeteries during these projects. Until recently, the only advice that I could give to these folks is to contact the WV State Historic Preservation Office (WVSHPO) and complete a Cemetery Survey Form. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/cemeteries.html Once the cemetery survey form is completed, at least the WVSHPO would have a record of the cemetery, and if a Section 106 review was necessary for a natural gas project, your cemetery would be considered in this project.
We are, hopefully, on our way to having greater protection for family cemeteries! On Monday, March 11, 2013, Delegates Manypenny, Marshall, Moore, Wells, Caputo, Longstreth and Fleischauer introduced HB 2893 – a bill that would require cultural surveys to be performed before any natural gas project, as well as prohibit natural gas pipelines, wells and associated facilities from being constructed within one hundred feet of a cemetery or grave site.
Preservation Alliance sees this as a huge step towards protection of our historic resources. Please take a moment with us to contact your state legislator, and show your support for HB 2893. Also, don’t forget to thank the sponsoring Delegates for their support of historic preservation and the protection of family cemeteries.
By Lynn Stasick, Preservation Alliance Statewide Field Representative
Oftentimes, when devastating events such as fires occur, what to do and where to turn can be both overwhelming and daunting for the stewards of historic properties. It is important to remember however, that the restoration, preservation, and adaptive re-use of a building should be viewed as a series of inter-connected baby-steps taken one step at a time. This helps to calm the spirit and clear the head, which aids in moving toward the project’s completion.
In my capacity as Field Representative, I met with Tom and Margaret to survey the house and open up a discussion as to their plans for saving the building. It was then that they expressed the need for some guidance. Through further discussion, we agreed that I would act through PAWV as an agent on their behalf in an effort to gather estimates to have repairs made. In the past months I have done so.
Although it is PAWV’s mission to help with the saving of West Virginia’s historic properties, it is always refreshing to receive a message like the Feasters sent in thanks for our efforts.
“A note to express our appreciation for your assistance in the Abruzzino Mansion project. . . . The situation was completely overwhelming for us. . . . Without your assistance we would still be wondering where to start. . . .You have taken the lead in starting the job and got it moving while we were still thinking about it. . . . As it is now, the electricity has been re-connected and we have bids to seal the roof.”
It is true that projects such as this take other people’s input and expertise. However, a voice of thanks should be given to the Feasters and others like them for their dedication to preserving West Virginia’s precious heritage sites not only for our enjoyment and edification, but that of generations to come.
For more information on the 2013 WV Endangered Properties, visit http://pawv.org/endangedlist2013.htm.
By Bekah Karelis & Liz Paulhus
February is traditionally a time of love; a time when people shower those they care about with flowers, candy, and thoughtful, heart-shaped gifts. In Wheeling, a group of young preservation enthusiasts are expressing their love this Valentine’s Day . . . not for each other, but for a group of historic downtown buildings that they love.
The Ohio Valley Young Preservationists (OVYP) launched the inaugural “All We Need is Love” campaign this month. Inspired by Buffalo’s Young Preservationists’ “heart-bomb” project, and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, OVYP’s Bekah Karelis and Liz Paulhus envisioned “lovescaping” downtown Wheeling with a week-long, heart-felt demonstration of their love of history, architecture, and the spirit of the city’s historic downtown.
OVYP soon had a list of several dozen buildings within a large section of the Wheeling Historic District (a.k.a. downtown Wheeling). Members reached out to the community and invited high school classes, colleges, businesses, organizations, and families to “adopt” a building and decorate it on a temporary basis with hearts and other Valentine’s Day decorations. OVYP encouraged adopters to learn about the history of their building and incorporate it into the decorations. For example, the former King’s jewelry store has diamond-studded hearts with the saying “I was loved by kings!”, a former bank, “Tall, dark and handsome!”, and the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building, which is currently for sale, sports hearts saying, “Brace Yourself. I’m a Steel!”
Wheeling has lost many structures on Main and Market Streets in the years since the beginning of the city’s economic decline. Most recently, the city demolished a block of buildings in the heart of downtown, and OVYP is concerned about the fate of the remaining structures. The aim of “All We Need Is Love” is to educate the broader public about the incredible history of downtown Wheeling and to show that there are individuals who love these old places and prefer to see them rehabilitated and restored, rather than fall to the wrecking ball.
Click HERE to read about the project from a crafter’s perspective, and HERE’s an article from the local newspaper, the Intelligencer.
The Ohio Valley Young Preservationists formed in October 2012. This group of young individuals (including all who are “young at heart”) from diverse backgrounds – historians, archivists, teachers, real estate developers, preservationists, artists, urban farmers, masons, and policy wonks – share the common goal of preserving the history, culture, and buildings of Wheeling and the greater Ohio Valley.
Learn more about the Ohio Valley Young Preservationists at http://www.ovyp.org/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OVYoungPreservationists
Refusing defeat, activist groups including the Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Friends of Blair Mountain, West Virginia Labor History Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, continue their work to protect Blair Mountain Battlefield in Logan County from mountaintop removal.
(Scroll down for a video about the historic significance of the site).
On Thursday, November 29, 2012, activists filed an appeal to challenge an October 2,2012 ruling in a U.S. District court in Washington D.C. that declined to address the groups’ claims that Blair Mountain Battlefield – the site of the largest civil insurrection in the United States since the Civil War – was unlawfully removed from the National Register of Historic Places and denied their efforts to list the battlefield back in the National Register. In December 2009, the National Park Service de-listed the 1600-acre battlefield because property owners objected. These activist groups sued to have that status restored in October, but they lost the court challenge after it was ruled that the groups lacked legal standing and that there was insufficient proof an imminent threat of coal mining at the site.
The October court decision ignored abundant evidence that coal mining companies, including Missouri-based Arch Coal Company, have been applying for permits to strip mine mountains in Boone and Logan Counties in southwestern West Virginia.
Having the 1921 battlefield listed in the National Register of Historic Places does not protect or preserve the site for perpetuity. Once properties are listed in the National Register, any federally-proposed work, permitting or monies cannot be issued until the proposed project undergoes a Section 106 Review Process. Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, federal agencies must consider the effect of their actions on historic properties, consult with concerned parties and provide interested individuals and groups, as well as the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) the opportunity to comment on proposed actions. When it is determined that these proposed projects will harm historic properties – as in the strip mining permits at Blair Mountain – Section 106 review usually ends with a legally-binding agreement that establishes how the Federal agency will address the adverse effects. In the few cases where this does not occur, and the ACHP issues advisory comments, the head of the Federal agency must consider the comments in making a final decision.
Section 106 is a very important tool for historic preservationists, and it gives us a chance to work with businesses and government agencies and create a cooperative agreement.
For more information on the details of Section 106, visit
In 2010, Preservation Alliance of WV listed the Old Greenbrier Count Library on the WV Endangered Properties List, a collection of at-risk historic properties worthy of being saved. The property was especially notable for its construction date of 1834 and its original use as a law library by the jurist of the State Supreme Court of Virginia. Since its listing, this property has undergone quite a transformation and is now open to benefit the community.
In October 2012, the New River Community and Technical College Greenbrier Campus celebrated the opening of the historic structure for its college library, which serves all five campuses, as well as the general public
This project began in 2007 when the old Greenbrier County Library closed its doors, and shortly thereafter the owner, the City of Lewisburg, leased the building to the New River College. This partnership has allowed for the renovation and restoration of the building with work highlights including a new roof, new heating and air conditioning system, repaired wood floors, fresh paint, and rehabilitated historic wood windows.
Preservation Alliance is delighted to see this building reopened and the project goals come to fruition. We congratulate and commend the City of Lewisburg and the New River Community and Technical College for the reuse and return of this historic gem to its library roots. It often takes many years and much convincing for city governments to see the benefits of historic preservation. The City of Lewisburg, however, is unique in that it has supported historic preservation for many decades and encourages great projects like this one. We know why you’ve been deemed America’s “Coolest Small Town.” Keep up the great work!
If you would like to comment on the future of the Blair Mountain Battlefield, you have until November 24th.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is accepting public comments until November 24th about the permit renewal request for the Adkins Fork Surface Mine. The permit boundaries encompass much of the Blair Mountain Battlefield and specifically White Trace Branch and White Trace Ridge – the two most promising sites for historical and archaeological information about the miners’ army.
You can send your letters in response to Renewal of Adkins Fork Surface Mine S-5005-03 to:
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, 1101 George Kostas Drive, Logan, WV 25601
If you do not know much about Blair Mountain Battlefield, please know that it is one of the most important Labor History sites in the United States and is considered to be the largest armed uprising on American soil since the Civil War. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the permit.
If you would like to know more about Blair Mountain Battlefield, please continue reading.
In the early twentieth century, coal alone fueled American industry. Work stoppages threatened steel production and the railroads, and political and economic pressure to maintain order in the coalfields allowed coal companies a great deal of latitude. Increasingly, however, mine workers began to organize as a way to withstand the industry’s back-breaking demands and garner a small piece of its extraordinary profits. These efforts were consistently resisted by the coal companies, whose suppression of the unions were also supported by a widespread national fear of Bolshevism following the Russian revolution.
By 1921, southern West Virginia was ripe for violent confrontation. More than half of the state’s one hundred thousand miners were organized, but the union had largely failed to organize southern coalfields, which produced the region’s best specialty coal. The United Mine Workers of America believed that organizing the southern coalfields would improve working and living conditions for the miners, in addition to securing the survival of the union.
At the time, coal companies enjoyed a great deal of political influence, and martial law was regularly employed to quell unrest. Lacking a National Guard, martial law in West Virginia meant that local law enforcement, including “deputies” in the pay of coal companies, exercised an inordinate amount of power, enabling widespread violence against miners and their families. The governor regularly requested the support of federal troops in disputes, but was usually rebuffed by federal officials, who did not want to set a precedent for the use of the Army in times of civil unrest.
Following several violent conflicts, including those memorialized in the John Sayles film Matewan, Bill Blizzard, Frank Keeney and Fred Mooney of the District 17 United Mine Workers of America assembled 600 armed miners near Charleston for a march to Mingo County to demonstrate their solidarity, gathering additional miners to their cause as they advanced. Although no count was ever taken, it is likely that the miners’ army grew to at least 7,500, and may have surpassed 10,000. They intended to sweep through the southern counties of West Virginia, unionize workers and drive out the hired gunmen who guarded the coalfields and terrorized the miners.
Meanwhile, Logan County Sherriff Don Chafin, whose salary was heavily subsidized by coal companies, learned of the miners’ intentions and began organizing local recruits to help stop the march. Hundreds of volunteers from across southern West Virginia flocked to Logan town to “do their patriotic duty” and end the rebellion by joining Chafin and his deputies, many of whom were also in the pay of coal companies. In the end, approximately 3,000 men comprised Don Chafin’s defensive force.
The Battle of Blair Mountain took place between August 30 and September 4, 1921. Spruce Fork Ridge formed a natural dividing line between union and non-union territories. On August 30, the miners began their assault on Blair Mountain. Defensive positions blocked the miners along on the upper slopes of the ridge, with particular concentrations at the gaps: Mill Creek, Crooked Creek, Beech Creek and Blair Mountain. Here the defensive force dug trenches, felled trees, blocked roads, built breastworks and placed machine guns. Most of the hostilities between the two groups occurred along the fifteen-mile ridgeline, reflecting the miners’ use of natural pathways up and over the ridge to breach Chafin’s line.
During the battle, private planes organized by the defensive militia dropped as many as ten homemade bleach and shrapnel bombs at Jeffrey, Blair, and near the miners’ headquarters on Hewitt Creek. In Charleston, eleven Army Air Corps pilots arrived, led by Billy Mitchell, a pioneer in aerial bombardment who was eager to experiment with the strategy. While troops were used in labor disputes throughout the nation during this era, West Virginia alone bears the distinction of having been the focus – and potential target – of military aircraft. Fortunately, the Army did not allow Mitchell to bomb the miners; the military planes performed reconnaissance flights.
The end of the battle began with the arrival of federal troops on September 3. Six hundred miners, many of whom were veterans of World War I, formally surrendered rather than fight the soldiers. Far from considering the Army as an enemy, the miners considered the soldiers to be brothers and refused to fire on them. In the end, despite the valiant charges of a few miners and close-range gunfight at Blair Mountain itself, there was little face-to-face combat. Visibility was so limited by the thick, late summer underbrush that few combatants actually saw the enemy. Lon Savage, who wrote the most authoritative account of the battle, sets the number of documented deaths at sixteen–all but four from the miners’ army. But the defeat heavily damaged the UMWA, which lost members and territory in the wake of the battle.
Although they did not win the Battle of Blair Mountain, the miners accomplished a great deal in their revolt. It forced national scrutiny of their situation in the press and in the federal government. They amassed sufficient force to require intervention by the United States Army, and they broke down racial and ethnic barriers to the solidarity they would need later when they did organize. Following sanctioning legislation in the 1930s, the UMWA became the leading force in organizing the nation’s industrial workers. UMWA president John L. Lewis formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1937, which spearheaded the struggles for unionization in the auto, rubber, steel and other industries.
As with other wars, this battlefield must be considered an important part of a larger effort. The events at Blair Mountain are overwhelmingly significant to the history of labor in the United States, because they set in motion a national movement to better the conditions of working people by demanding the legalization of unions and the use of the federal government to protect workers’ rights.
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