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.
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.
Efforts to nominate a former coal-mining town in southern West Virginia to the National Register of Historic Places could spur economic growth there, according to a spokesman for three development agencies engaged in the effort.
Once a mining boomtown, Helen, with a population near 125 residents, is among the last coal camps that remain in the mountains southwest of Beckley, and financial incentives for historic rehabilitation there would be provided if the nomination succeeds.
According to Kyle Bailey, Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, who is conducting the survey to nominate the community, financial incentives such as grants and tax credits will supplement the costs of expenditures needed for property repairs and improvements.
The nomination would also secure the community's status as historically important on official state and federal levels, he said.
"This would help homeowners and other property owners in Helen fund tasks such as replacing the roof, preserving the windows, and updating electrical systems," Bailey said.
"Helen could once again experience growth and expansion, especially in light of recreation initiatives, such as the development of hiking and ATV trails, and transportation initiatives, such as the completion of the adjacent Coalfield Expressway."
A joint effort by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, the National Coal Heritage Area Authority, and the Winding Gulf Restoration Organization, the effort builds on projects already established in the town, including the development of a Coal Miner's Memorial Park and the stabilization of a historic apartment building there.
Helen was recently selected as a stop along the African American Heritage Auto Tour, sponsored in part by the coal-heritage authority, and wayside that interpret the town's history will soon be installed, Bailey said.
Like other camps of the Winding Gulf Coalfield, Helen experienced rapid growth through the early and mid-20th century. Mines there produced some of the highest quantities of coal in the state, and by 1940 almost 2,000 people lived in the town.
Bailey, who grew up in a coal camp in nearby Amigo, is a member of the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program, a statewide service initiative established to help communities capture their history and preserve beloved West Virginia landmarks.
By Patrick Corcoran, Preserve WV AmeriCorps Member Eastern Regional Coal Archives/National Coal Heritage Area
West Virginia continues to gain value, due to successful historic resource improvement projects, just like the one recently undertaken at Old Stone Church Cemetery in Lewisburg, WV. Preserve WV AmeriCorps members partnered with Friends of the Old Stone Cemetery for a day of historic burial preservation education, as well as, hands-on restoration experience.
On Monday, June 26, 2017, at the Old Stone Cemetery, 25 volunteers from local communities and the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program, cleaned and repaired over two dozen tombstones under the instruction of cemetery preservationists, Morgan and Kate Bunn, of Friends of Old Stone Cemetery. This was a record number of tombstones cleaned in a one day workshop. In addition, volunteers helped uncover most of the antique fencing of a lost family plot dating to 1857.
The restoration workshop, organized by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV) and Friends of Old Stone Cemetery, began with a short instruction of the do’s and don’ts of tombstone restoration and a demonstration of the process of cleaning the stones with plenty of water and D/2 (a non-toxic biological cleaner that removes stains from molds, algae, lichen, and air pollutants). Each volunteer was given a take-home bucket of the necessary cleaning tools.
Preserve WV Stories