Avis Overhead Bridge
Hinton, Summers County
Construction Date: 1928
Threat: Deterioration; Funding
May 2019 Update: Progress on the bridge is at a standstill. The West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) is willing to have a non-profit organization take over ownership of the bridge if they can demonstrate financial ability to restore and maintain the bridge. Additionally, they must agree to dismantle the bridge if they can no longer maintain it. However, as of the site’s last update, they have been unable to find a non-profit organization capable of taking on the expense of the bridge’s restoration. The bridge continues to need concrete repairs, conduit replacement for decorative lighting, and grooming of the surrounding area. Until a financially capable custodial organization is found, the bridge will continue to deteriorate. The local community would like to see the for former automobile bridge restored and repurposed as a pedestrian bridge.
2016: The Avis Overhead Bridge connects Hinton and the neighboring community of Avis, above the railroad tracks, along WV 107 and, later, WV Route 21. It is recognized in the 1984 West Virginia Bridge Survey as being historically significant. The Luten Bridge Company of York, Pennsylvania, constructed the bridge in 1928. Its designer, Daniel B. Luten, claimed to have designed over 17,000 bridges, and the concrete Avis Overhead Bridge features his patented Rainbow Arch. Rainbow arch bridges are famous for having been built with curved, simply ornamented, solid parapets. This style of concrete arch was widely built as a proprietary bridge type in the first quarter of the twentieth century.
The bridge closed in 2003 when a new bridge was constructed nearby. The West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) retains ownership of the original bridge and does not have plans to rehabilitate it now that a new bridge has been built. Local groups would like to see this former automobile bridge reused as a pedestrian bridge reconnecting Hinton and Avis. Before its potential reopening, however, the bridge is in need of concrete repairs, conduit replacement for decorative lighting, and grooming of the surrounding area.
The DOH would consider giving up ownership of the bridge to a nonprofit if that particular organization could demonstrate the long term fiscal ability to inspect the bridge in accordance with the National Bridge Inspection Standards and to maintain its safe operations for general public use. Interested organizations must submit a plan to the DOH outlining how the organization expects to maintain the bridge and for what duration. The organization must also agree to demolish the structure at its own cost at which time it is determined that they do not have the financial capability to maintain the safe operation of the bridge. The bridge would require an in-depth inspection and load rating for its intended use before it could be open to any type of traffic.
1400 Block of Market Street
Wheeling, Ohio County
Construction Date: c. 1880 - 1900
Threat: Vacancy; Neglect
2018 Update: These properties are still owned by the City of Wheeling. The City is looking into roof repairs and finding a developer. The back of one of the buildings was demolished in 2017.
2016: The endangered 1400 Block in Wheeling consists of three contiguous buildings (1425, 1429, and 1433) on the west side of Market Street in the Wheeling Historic District. The vacant buildings are located on the same block as the iconic West Virginia Independence Hall and are near the growing West Virginia Northern Community College campus. All three of the buildings have housed commercial interests on the first floors and have historically been mixed-used structures with residences on upper floors. All three of the buildings were home to some of Wheeling’s most prominent businessmen and have housed locally owned and operated businesses - including Standard Cigar Works, Wheeling Candy Kitchen, and, most famously, Zellers Steak (in the middle of the three buildings, number 1429). Zellers was owned by Wheeling’s most notorious underworld figure, “Big Bill” Lias. The first floor at the time was a legitimate restaurant, while a plush gambling casino operated on the second floor, and back rooms and upper floors supported Lias’s extensive gambling operations.
In addition to being a part of Wheeling’s fascinating past, the buildings are architecturally interesting. Number 1425 (3 stories, approximately 5300 square feet) is Italianate in design; 1429 (5 stories, approximately 13,000 square feet) is Flemish with Medieval overtones; and 1433 (3 stories, approximately 4500 square feet) is Art Deco, with the different styles undoubtedly reflecting their different eras of construction. Facades of the upper floors of each building are essentially original, while first floor “contemporary” storefronts are not true to the histories of the buildings. Renovation of these first floors would enhance the architectural value of the entire block.
The City of Wheeling acquired the buildings in 2014 and is willing to sell the properties to the right buyer with a negotiable purchasing price. Anyone interested in buying any of the three buildings should contact the City of Wheeling’s Planning Department at 304-234-3701 and ask for a copy of the City’s Request for Proposals that details the requirements to purchase the properties. Requirements include an indication of a business plan for each or all of the properties’ re-use, financing options, and a timeframe for rehabilitation.
Dailey, Randolph County
Construction Date: 1939
Threat: Maintenance; Funding; Closure
April 2019 Update: The Tygart Valley Homestead Association has made a lot of progress in the building in recent years, but there is still much work to be done to make the building fully functional. The Association repaired and replaced the entire roof as of August 2018. However, before the roof was repaired over the kitchen and cafeteria, water had leaked into those areas and ruined the floor. The Association has been unable to use the kitchen to sell concessions or prepare food for fundraisers because the floor is not ready to move the appliances back into the kitchen until the subflooring is replaced and laminate placed on top.
When the school closed following the storm that blew off the roof, much of the supplies and furniture were left inside the building. So the Association has been doing a lot of cleaning and going through items left behind in the building.
The Association has begun to rent the classrooms and gym for parties and events, and there have been "Open Gym" opportunities every Saturday for local children to play basketball. The gym floor is in need of replacing, also, and PAWV's AmeriCorps member, Sharell Harmon, recently recruited the local Youth Build AmeriCorps members to tear up the floor.
Another challenge has been the utility bills, which have been very high and have used up much of the Association's savings. The Association has been fundraising through various events and hope to start a farmers market/flea market in the spring.
2017 Update: In May of 2016, Homestead School was one of two schools under consideration for closure by the Randolph County Board of Education (BOE) - due to financial constraints, several failed school levies, a decrease in student enrollment, and costly structural and maintenance issues. Tygart Valley Homestead Association (TVHA) and the community had a long struggle to sway the BOE to reconsider the Homestead School closure because of the building’s historical value, as well as its value as a community centerpiece. In December 2016, the BOE unanimously voted to keep Homestead School open.
On August 9, 2017, the Homestead School was closed indefinitely by the Randolph County Board of Education (BOE) and the State Board of Education due to a severe windstorm that hit the Dailey community. On March 1, 2017, the windstorm blew off the gymnasium roof. That roof subsequently landed on the cafeteria roof causing additional damage. The devastating damage made it necessary close the school and move the students to a different school to finish out the school year. The temporary roof cover that was applied and was immediately blown off after installation. The BOE has made no attempts to start repairs on the roof and water continues to enter the building causing further deterioration.
As part of the Depression-Era New Deal program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had deeded the building and its 17 acres to the County BOE. The County BOE has agreed to send a letter of support to the USDA to deed the property and land to Tygart TVHA. Until the deed is given to TVHA, no repairs can be made, the building will continue to deteriorate, and TVHA’s hopes of repurposing the building as a community center will be at a standstill.
2016: Homestead School is an elementary school serving the Tygart Valley Homestead communities of Dailey, East Dailey, and Valley Bend. Located on a 17-acre tract, the school, designed in the Art Moderne style, was an important link in the initial resettlement plans that responded to the issue of desperate families in rural West Virginia during the Great Depression. The Tygart Valley Homestead was authorized as part of the Roosevelt Administration’s First Hundred Days legislation and was the third, and largest, successful resettlement program in West Virginia. The school, which featured First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as its first graduation speaker, is the last of 99 original homestead schools built that is still in operation.
Homestead School is endangered with closure due to lack of funding to maintain and rehabilitate the school. While the actual economy in the region is declining, settlement in the Homestead zone that feeds the school has increased; in the 10-year period of 2004-2014, the school population increased from 99 students to 150 students. The school is owned by the United States Department of Agriculture, but it has a long-term lease to the Randolph County Board of Education (RCBE) necessitating it to be run as a school and community center. Homestead School is one of fifteen schools the board maintains in a county with a sparse population and a low tax base. The Board was recently unable to pass a bond levy, which would have helped to pay maintenance costs at this school and others. A Friends group, the Homestead Association, helps counter these costs by fundraising and applying for grants to rehabilitate the school and keep it operating. The main maintenance issues for the school are related to electricity, the furnace, plumbing, and the roof, as well as the need to update the HVAC system. The goal of the Homestead Association is to raise funds to keep the school functioning and preserve the memory of the Homestead communities in the Tygart Valley.
New Salem Baptist Church
Tams, Raleigh County
Construction Date: 1921
Threat: Maintenance; Funding; Reversion Clause
2021 Update: PAWV is in the process of nominating the building to the National Register of Historic Places.
2017 Update: No updates have been made available to PAWV in 2017.
As of the last update provided to PAWV in 2016, no further preservation action has been taken by the church congregation. Despite the lack of preservation progress, the church continues to receive routine maintenance, and the congregation is in the process of setting up a social-media based fundraiser.
2016: The New Salem Baptist Church is the only building that remains in the coal camp in Tams. A racially segregated community, Tams was divided into Colored Town, American Town, and Immigrant Town. This congregation consisted of black miners and their families, who resided in the northern section of Tams. The Gothic Revival church was built in 1921 after the board of trustees of the congregation approached W. P. Tams, Jr., who owned the company town, requesting that a church be built for them. Tams obliged and provided the funding for the construction of the church. The congregation was able to repay Tams in 1928 and received a clear title to the property. However, a reversion clause in the deed apparently states that the parcel will revert to ownership by the present Western Pocahontas Land Company should it cease to be used as a house of worship.
The church reached its peak during the 1930s, serving 350 members. Once Tams sold his mine in 1955, the community emptied with the eventual closure of the mine, and the town began to decay. Outside coal companies bought many of the buildings and removed them from the community. The last residents of the community of Tams left in the 1980s, and every structure in the black camp of Tams has now disappeared, with the exception of the New Salem Baptist Church.
For over 90 years, there has been an active congregation at the church, and its goal is to continue holding services in the community that many of the congregation once called home. With a congregation of about 10 members, maintenance is the chief issue for the church, as is maintaining the property as a church for the long-term. The congregation and all other engaged parties agree the church should be preserved perpetually as a monument to the communities that once populated the Winding Gulf and as a memorial to the former black community of which the church is the sole remnant. The congregation continues to accept donations to maintain the church, which has become a popular tourist attraction to those riding the ATV trails throughout the Winding Gulf.
Endangered Properties List
If you are interested in assisting with any of these preservation projects, contact the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia at firstname.lastname@example.org.