In 2019, the Davis Coal & Coke Company Administrative Building in Thomas was placed on PAWV’s West Virginia Endangered Properties List due to years of vacancy and deferred maintenance.
The Vandalia Heritage Foundation and Friends of Blackwater have continued to work alongside the City of Thomas to rehabilitate the former headquarters of the company founded by coal magnate Senator Henry Gassaway Davis. Some promising progress has been made so far through funding from a 2019 West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office grant matched by the Vandalia Heritage Foundation.
In 2020, significant repairs were made to the basement level of the building by Past Respects. A failing foundation wall was replaced, the floor was leveled, the basement door was restored, and brick and stone were salvaged for use as a sidewalk. Some rotting flooring on the first level was removed, while other serviceable parts were left intact.
An update from the Friends of Blackwater notes that the completion of initial repairs and stabilization work allows one to “see how the building – state of the art for the era – functioned as the command center of a huge workforce of laborers and craftspeople of every description – from miners to teamsters, from trackmen to engineers, from masons to clerks.”
Judy Rodd, Director of Friends of Blackwater, is hopeful for the future of this historic Tucker County building, and notes that Friends of Blackwater, along with community partners, are currently searching for more funding to continue restoration efforts. To learn more, visit https://saveblackwater.org/?s=engineering+building
The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia has announced that the Davis Coal and Coke Company Administrative Building just south of the historic River Street District of Thomas has been recognized as a significant endangered historic building for 2019.
It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011 because of its importance as the Tucker County headquarters of the company founded by legendary railroad and coal magnate Senator Henry Gassaway Davis from 1900 until 1950. The Alliance is adding it to the West Virginia Endangered Properties List because it has been sitting vacant since the 1980s and is structurally failing.
In 1995, the City of Thomas assumed the building and has been able to maintain the exterior walls and roof but not the structural problems inside the building. The Friends of Blackwater took an interest in the building and has partnered with the City of Thomas and Vandalia Heritage Foundation to seek additional funding. The future is looking bright. In July 2019, the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office granted $29,100 to Vandalia Heritage to replace joists on the first floor and repair a structural wall in the building.
There are still many unknowns, and the Friends of Blackwater are looking to bring more attention to this important project by nominating it to the West Virginia Endangered Properties List. The current plan is for the City to enter into a long term lease with the Vandalia Heritage Foundation to redevelop the building, but no actuals plans are in place, making this project still unsecure. The Friends of Blackwater initiated this endangered properties recognition process on behalf of the City of Thomas and has solicited the assistance of the Preservation Alliance for historic preservation technical assistance, as well as applied for grant funding to develop an adaptive reuse plan for the building. The mostly likely redevelopment path for the building would be to have retail space on the main floor, with offices or residential space on the second floor and in the attic. You can donate to this project by visiting, https://saveblackwater.org/donate/.
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.