After selecting items to use for the exhibit, she scanned and inserted the items into Prezi, the program used for the online exhibit. She focused on ensuring that the pieces accurately depicted the theater’s history. As a result, some of the pieces originally chosen were removed, while new things were added as the research uncovered more aspects of the theater’s history. She states, “working on this exhibit was definitely challenging at times, trying to fill all the gaps in the theater’s history but overall it was an enjoyable experience.” The theater has a unique and vital history to the Clarksburg community. This exhibit demonstrates and documents this role.
The original Robinson Grand Theater was built in 1913. It was constructed by the Clarksburg Amusement Company, which was owned by the Robinson brothers, Claude and Reuben. Reuben Robinson got the idea to open the Robinson Grand after a fire destroyed the town’s opera house, leaving little to no places for people to go for entertainment. Reuben would serve as the first manager of the theater before handing it over to Claude. To keep up with the entertainment industry, the theater underwent several renovations and an expansion. Claude ensured the theater remained at the forefront of technology in Clarksburg by bringing silent films to the theater in 1915 and later “talkies.”
In 1927, the Robinson brothers expanded the theater to add more seating and the interior was redecorated to reflect a 19th century English style Garden. In 1939, a fire broke out on the roof destroying a majority of the stage and seating areas. The theater was restored and reopened on Christmas Eve, 1939. Many saw the Robinson Grand’s reopening as a Christmas gift to Clarksburg. In 1984, the Robinson Grand was bought and turned into the Rose Garden, which continued to culturally enrich the residents of Clarksburg. In 2014, the theater was acquired by the City. Since then, the city has received a series of grants and loans to re-establish the building as the Robinson Grand. The theater will be re-opening in the summer of 2018. The Robinson Grand Theater has long played an important role among the residents of Clarksburg and will continue to in the future.
The online exhibit is posted on Waldomore’s web page at http://clarksburglibrary.info/waldomore/exhibits. Please check it out! Waldomore is an elegant antebellum built in 1842 by local businessman Waldo P. Goff and his wife, Harriet Moore. Today, Waldomore is a local history archive, genealogical research facility, and museum associated with Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library.
In May 2018, Kyle Warmack, the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with the Clio Foundation, organized a Civic Service Project at the DuBois on Main Museum in Mt. Hope (Fayette County). The DuBois on Main Museum presents the history and contributions of DuBois High School (1919-1956). The outstanding teachers, accomplished graduates, scholars, athletes and dedicated families created a remarkable environment little seen today, and the museum informs, educates and provides opportunities for inter-generational and interracial gatherings and workshops through exhibits of pictorial, biographical and historical artifacts.
One community volunteer and six AmeriCorps members joined together to clean out the DuBois community garden, dust and clean the museum exhibition, create a collections list of museum items, catalog over 230 museum items, lay the foundation for a future collection's database and even install a printer. The AmeriCorps members' service prepared DuBois on Main Museum for more community interaction, such as community garden planting and the summer tourism season to the museum. Most importantly, the Museum has a template for cataloging its collection and a huge head-start on the total number of items in the museum.
"I am ever so grateful to Kyle Warmack for choosing to get AmeriCorps [out here]." - Jean Evansmore, Museum Director
The project served the residents of Mt. Hope (population approximately 1,350), for whom the Museum serves as both a vessel of community memory and gathering place. The Museum's community room recently hosted 11 candidates for the upcoming local elections, allowing residents of Mt. Hope to stay informed on their future city and county officials--as such, the physical upkeep of the Museum is important, and with Director Jean Evansmore having recently been through two shoulder surgeries, volunteers play an important role. Heavy work like gardening and lawnmowing helps preserve the visual integrity of this important Main Street landmark and the pride of Mt. Hope.
Additionally, our project served the 150+ remaining DuBois alumni who meet every two years to commemorate their school and its important chapter in African American and West Virginia history. This museum is the only comprehensive repository of DuBois knowledge. A digital collections database is not only essential to the long-term preservation of the Museum's materials, it is the first step in preparing the Museum's original documents for high-res scanning. Our project was essential to this process.
The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia's Preserve WV AmeriCorps program, a statewide service initiative dedicated to preserving West Virginia's history, has partnered with local volunteers and the West Virginia and Regional History Center of West Virginia University Libraries to create safe archival housing for thousands of documents that will likely prove to be of historic value. Currently at Morgantown City Hall, these documents include maps, property deeds, meeting minutes, city manager files, building permits, and others. The operation will occur on Wednesday, June 6th and Thursday, June 7th, 2018 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Volunteers will be responsible for organizing, cataloging, scanning, and moving documents into acid-free containers and transporting them from Morgantown City Hall to the West Virginia and Regional History Center.
Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s Preserve WV AmeriCorps Member serving at the West Virginia and Regional History Center, Samuel Richardson, organized the project with the help of Morgantown City Hall Engineer, Alex Stockdale. “The data provided by these documents can never be replaced once lost. It is imperative that these documents are placed in appropriate archival housing, and stored at the West Virginia Regional History Center. These efforts will enable researchers, historians, lawyers, and scientists to access these files and extract legal data and geographic information, as well as discover the industrial heritage of the local community,” said Richardson.
Richardson is still recruiting volunteers to serve the local Morgantown community in this effort. Interested parties should contact Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up and receive additional details. Volunteers will be provided lunch by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. Students seeking volunteer opportunities will have the ability to sign up and register their hours of service with the West Virginia University Center for Service and Learning.
This project is created in part by a Preserve WV AmeriCorps position made possible through a Preservation Alliance of West Virginia grant from Volunteer WV, the State’s Commission for National and Community Service, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Helen in its heyday was home to over 1,000 people.
The Raleigh County coal camp bustled with multiple mines, a company store, a miner’s clubhouse and even a movie theater.
Today, like many of the coal camps in the area, Helen’s population has nearly gone away altogether, along with some of the prominent buildings of the town.
What is left are memories and a group of people who would like to see those memories preserved.
Some of those folks were at the town’s Miners Memorial Tuesday morning to install interpretive signs discussing Helen and the surrounding area’s history.
Six signs in total were installed thanks to a cooperative effort between the National Coal Heritage Area Authority, the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and a local nonprofit, the Winding Gulf Restoration Organization, commonly called We Grow.
"This has been a long time coming,” said Traci Lewis, president of We Grow.
According to Lewis, the signage was years in the making and she hopes that it will help draw more visitors to the area.
Founded in 2004, We Grow aims at keeping alive the history and heritage of the Winding Gulf Coalfield region and has organized many events and projects, including the installation of the Miner’s Memorial on the site of Helen’s old company store.
Lewis isn’t the only one in her household involved; her husband John L. Lewis Jr. has also been part of We Grow since the beginning.
John Lewis was raised in Helen and the project is very personal for him.
“People don’t understand throughout this nation what a true coal mining community meant,” he said. “This was all family.”
According to John Lewis, families in the town traded each other for individual family specialties, often based on their nationalities, and relied on each other for support.
In the case of Lewis’ own family, which was Greek, it was baking bread.
According to the Helen native, the community involvement and the self-sustaining nature of a coal camp meant a tighter community bond. A fact that he reminisces about.
“I remember the vibrance as a young man,” John Lewis said.
Many of Lewis’s memories are based on his time with his grandfather who is featured on one of the interpretive signs.
“I remember as a child, I couldn’t have been 5 or 6 years old, going to that company store with my grandfather. I can remember it clear as day, an orange creamsicle Popsicle walking across this bridge and eating it with my grandfather,” John Lewis said in the exact location of the memory.
While personal, Lewis also views the region’s coal heritage as a central part of the American story.
“It wasn’t about coal-fired electric,” Lewis said. “It was about steel. Steel was what built this nation. All the big warships. All the tanks.”
Read the rest of this story at the Register Herald website.
A New Deal-era house in Arthurdale is better preserved thanks to a collaborative project between Arthurdale Heritage, Inc., and local AmeriCorps members.
On March 15, AmeriCorps members with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia worked with the Arthurdale Heritage community to apply UV protection film to the windows of the site’s historic house museum. This UV film will help ensure the longevity of artifacts inside the house, such as documents, photographs, textiles, and furniture, that are sensitive to light and changes in temperature.
The two-story Wagner-style house built in 1935 gives visitors a sense of life at Arthurdale, the nation’s first New Deal Subsistence Homestead Community. Established by the Roosevelt administration in 1933, Arthurdale provided jobs, education, and modern housing for impoverished and unemployed local people. It also served as a laboratory for new educational, industrial, and farming techniques. Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.,was formed in 1985 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the cultural heritage of historic Arthurdale, located in Preston County.
This hands-on service project brought together a number of AmeriCorps members from West Virginia. It was organized by Pamela Curtin, a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with Clio, a nonprofit website and mobile app developed by Marshall University that connects the public to historic and cultural sites.
“Arthurdale’s historic structures and artifacts have unique stories to tell,” says Curtin, who is based in Morgantown. “These stories are not only nationally-significant, but also personally meaningful to the families who lived and continue to live there. This project presented a wonderful opportunity to help preserve this history.”
Curtin coordinated the project with Nora Sutton, an Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps member serving with Arthurdale Heritage as a Museum Associate. “Collaborative projects like this one are so important to Arthurdale Heritage’s mission to preserve the structures and artifacts in our care,” says Sutton. “Applying this protective film to the house windows will help us care for unique textiles and furniture that were made here by original homesteaders. It was great to work with other AmeriCorps members dedicated to preserving the past.”
Both Curtin and Sutton are alumni of West Virginia University’s Public History MA program.
Several other AmeriCorps members volunteered for the project, including Rachel Niswander, Charlotte Riestenberg, Sydney Stapleton, and Jason Wright. Ed Turnley, Vice President of the Board of Directors and member of the Arthurdale Heritage Maintenance Committee, oversaw volunteer tasks, such as cleaning the windows and measuring, cutting, and applying the UV film. Turnley is also an Arthurdale homesteader descendant whose family lived not far from the house the volunteers worked on.
This project contributes to a larger effort by Arthurdale Heritage to preserve its historic structures, which also include community and administrative buildings, barns, a former gas station, and an iron forge.
Supplies for this project, including the professional UV film, were generously funded by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, the state’s leading grassroots organization dedicated to the support and promotion of historic preservation. In addition to education, outreach, and advocacy, PAWV coordinates an AmeriCorps program that places volunteers with small museums, heritage tourism agencies, and main street groups.
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.
By Rachel Niswander, Preserve WV AmeriCorps serving at Happy Retreat
My name is Rachel Niswander and I am the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member with Happy Retreat. One of my duties was to create an archive for the organization during my year of service. Over the course of ten years, Happy Retreat has accumulated plenty of donations and various documents, letters, and blueprints from a previous owner of the home. In order to sort, document, and archive all these items, I began archiving all these items into the museum archiving software Musarch.
I had previously used Musarch at an internship I had in college. This, along with the fact that Happy Retreat wouldn’t have to pay anything to obtain it or set it up, was the primary reason I chose this archiving software. After I set up Musarch, I began the process of putting all the items that Happy Retreat has acquired into the software. I first began with the McCabe items.
The McCabes owned Happy Retreat in the 1950s and conducted a substantial restoration of the home. We have in our collection blueprints showing the alterations and modifications done to the home as well as correspondence and letters between the McCabes and the architect. The blueprints are incredibly helpful for Happy Retreat to have, as they show every change and alteration that the McCabes did to the home. These include putting in a bathroom, a curved staircase in the west wing of the house, bookshelves in the parlors, and other small alterations throughout the house.
Other items put into the collection are furniture and books. Most of the furniture was either donated by board members or purchased from estates. Happy Retreat's books, however, came from donations. With over 300 history books donated, this took up the bulk of my time. It was a difficult task not to read every single book that I archived!
In my final weeks of service with Happy Retreat, I set up a training session for interested Happy Retreat board members to learn the software and continue the efforts to maintain Happy Retreat’s archive.
PRESERVE WV AMERICORPS MEETS WITH DR. EMORY KEMP - ESTEEMED WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR EMERITUS AND PAWV CO-FOUNDER
Written by Samuel Richardson, Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving at the West Virginia & Regional History Center (Samuel (left) pictured above with Dr. Emory Kemp (right))
It was no surprise that I was going to face some serious challenges in my Year of Service with AmeriCorps. I would be examining and arranging the life’s work of Dr. Emory Kemp, with the goal of making his 300 box collection of blueprints, maps, restoration project reports, structural analysis papers, drawings, correspondence, and much more accessible to patrons of the West Virginia and Regional History Center (WVRHC). Public History, as an academic field, was foreign territory for me. However, as a graduate from the Public Administration program at West Virginia University, I was prepared to tackle any project that served the public’s interest. The transdisciplinary shift was a challenge, but complimented my “Clifton Strength’s Finder” examination which discovered my strength in adaptability.
Transdisciplinary shifts into public history are not unheard of, as according to Dr. Kemp, the structural mechanics PhD, was moved from civil engineering to the History Department at West Virginia University. Despite resistance in his early educational career to studying history as an academic discipline, he choose to remain in engineering. His resistance however, was no match for the orders of West Virginia University President James G. Harlow, who would implore Dr. Kemp lead the newly founded Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology in the Department of History, not engineering.
This was one of the many anecdotes that developed in the Monday afternoon meeting with the retired academic stalwart. Perhaps, in the process of officially retiring, as he promises his newest developing book on the Big Sandy River will be his last.
The materials in the collection were assembled to support projects over Dr. Kemp’s 50 year career. The materials were arranged in a manner with no particular emphasis on a preserved original order. Dr. Kemp stated that he expected the professional expertise of the faculty and staff at the WVRHC to arrange the materials in a fashion that would make his work most accessible to researchers.
Kemp also agreed with the proposed series arrangement, where WVRHC faculty member, Jane LaBarbara, and I hope to divide the collection into three major series, Kemp’s Personal Library, Publications by Kemp, and finally, “Subject Files” or “Research Projects.”
In hopes of understanding which areas of the large collection are appropriate to highlight and exhibit, Dr. Kemp will provide Jane and I with a list of 35 projects that were of noteworthy accomplishment and could be listed as potential engineering breakthroughs. Some of which, were his role in the construction of the Sydney Opera House, and saving the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company potentially millions of dollars, by engineering a way for them to integrate new equipment without completely destroying an older building. Kemp hopes to sit down with LaBarbara and me to discuss each of the projects in further detail.
By Sharell Harmon, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
What started as a conversation, quickly turned into my first project as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member…
My name is Sharell Harmon, and I am a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV). My term with Preserve WV started August 28, 2017. This is my third contract with AmeriCorps, but my first contract serving in Historic Preservation.
I was extremely excited to take on my first historic preservation project at the Manos Theatre in Grafton, Taylor County. The purpose of this project was to create an inventory report regarding the condition of the theater's seats for the International Mother’s Day Shrine (current non-profit owners of the Manos). The Shrine requested an inventory report of the seats in the Manos Theatre with hopes to bid seats to donors for rehabilitation. Rehabilitation of the theater seats will bring the Shrine one step closer to re-opening this special place.
About the Manos Theatre
This theater has over the years operated under three different names. Originally known as, the Hippodrome, the theater was built by Messrs. Necessary, Cady and Hiehle and opened on August 12, 1912. The first show featured the Vaudeville acts the Great Henri French, dancer and impersonator; blackface performer Goff Phillips; the singing and dancing Church Sisters, as well as two photoplays. John Lester Bush, owner of the Dixie Theater also in Grafton, purchased the building and upon returning from World War I reopened it as The Strand.
The final incarnation, the Manos Theater opened June 27, 1949 with a grand inauguration beginning with a parade from the Post Office. The first show featured a cartoon, sports review, musical and the full-length film The Life of Riley. It was named for Michael Manos, President of the Elkins Theaters Co. which managed the theater. The Manos closed in 1995 after 46 years in business. Following a very brief reopening, the Manos closed for good in 1998.
The Preservation Work Day
On November 20, 2017— 14 AmeriCorps members from sponsor organizations like PAWV and Appalachian Forest Heritage Area partnered together with a local volunteer to participate in a preservation work day at the Manos Theatre Members and volunteers cleaned all theater seats, took inventory on each of the seats condition, and photographed every seat in the theater (which were utilized for the inventory report I created for the Shrine). All of the participants enjoyed a tour of both historic properties—the Shrine and the Manos Theatre. The project was a great success!
Thank you, to all volunteers that were involved with this Civic Service Project, the International Mother’s Day Shrine and Dottie at Biggies Restaurant in Grafton for providing lunch to the service members and the volunteer.
If you are interested in volunteering for a Preserve WV AmeriCorps project, contact Sharell at email@example.com.
Preserve WV Stories