The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia announced on May 6, 2016, during a press conference at Charleston’s Staats Hospital Building, the addition of four resources to its list of over 40 endangered historical properties across the state. Thank you to Gaddy Engineering for sponsoring this special event.
A 1921 African-American church in the former coal camp of Tams, a 1939 school in the New Deal community of Dailey, a 1928 bridge in Hinton, and a c. 1880-1900 city block in downtown Wheeling have all been designated as endangered by the alliance.
New Salem Baptist Church is the only building that remains in the coal camp in Tams (Raleigh County). The Gothic Revival church was built in 1921 for black miners and their families. The church reached its peak during the 1930s, serving 350 members. After the mine sold in 1955, the community began to empty. Outside coal companies bought and moved many of the buildings. The last residents left in the 1980s. The church has always had an active congregation (currently around 10 members). Maintenance is the chief issue, as is keeping the property as a church for the long-term. The deed’s reversion clause apparently states that the parcel will revert to ownership by the present Western Pocahontas Land Company should it cease to be a house of worship. 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.
Homestead School is an elementary school serving the Tygart Valley Homestead communities of Dailey, East Dailey, and Valley Bend (Randolph County). The 1939, Art Moderne style school was an important part of resettlement plans to relieve desperate families in rural West Virginia during the Great Depression. The Tygart Valley Homestead was part of the Roosevelt Administration’s First Hundred Days legislation and was the state’s third (and largest) successful resettlement program. Homestead School, which featured First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as its first graduation speaker, is the last operational school of the 99 built during the era. Homestead School is in danger of closure due to lack of funding to maintain and rehabilitate the school. The Randolph County Board of Education (RCBE) 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. The goal of the Homestead Association is to raise funds to keep the school functioning and to preserve the memory of the Homestead communities in the Tygart Valley.
Avis Overhead Bridge connects Hinton and the neighboring community of Avis (Summers County). It is recognized in the 1984 West Virginia Bridge Survey as being historically significant. The Luten Bridge Company 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 – built with curved, simply ornamented, solid parapets. The Avis bridge closed in 2003 when a new bridge was constructed nearby. The West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) retains ownership and does not have plans to rehabilitate the bridge, which in need of concrete repairs, conduit replacement for decorative lighting, and grooming of the surrounding area. Local groups would like to see it reused as a pedestrian bridge. 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 National Bridge Inspection Standards and to maintain its safe operations for general public use.
Wheeling’s 1400 Block of Market Street consists of three contiguous buildings (1425, 1429, and 1433) on the west side of Market Street in the Wheeling Historic District (Ohio County). All three (c. 1880-1900) have housed prominent, 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 – with the first floor being a legitimate restaurant, while a plush gambling casino operated on the second floor. In addition to being a part of Wheeling’s fascinating past, the buildings are architecturally interesting. Number 1425 is Italianate, 1429 is Flemish with Medieval overtones, and 1433 is Victorian/Neoclassical. Facades of the upper floors of each building are essentially original, while the first floors have “contemporary” storefronts. 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 them to the right buyer, with a negotiable 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 the Request for Proposals detailing the requirements.
“The Endangered Properties program allows Preservation Alliance to go into communities and assist their efforts to preserve and/or restore places that are important to them,” said Martha Ballman, former PAWV Executive Director, now serving on the Board of Directors. “It is a public statement that these places matter, not only to them but to us all by our shared heritage. Real progress has been made and many sites saved through these efforts. Our [Charleston] community has watched the Staats Hospital [a 2005 and 2012 WV Endangered Property] languish for many years, succumbing to vandals, time and the elements; PAWV recognition and local efforts are now making preservation of this historic building and its stories [a reality].”
Disclosed annually since 2009, the list has become one of the organization’s most useful tools and has allowed it to build interest in the rescue of threatened landmarks and landscapes. After being nominated by individuals and organizations, properties which have been added to the alliance’s list are selected through a competitive application process based on imminent danger, on local support for their reuse, and on their listing on (or official eligibility for) the National Register of Historic Places. Properties that make the list qualify for assistance through the alliance. The organization’s Field Services Representative, Lynn Stasick, works with local residents rallying to save and repurpose these endangered sites – providing advocacy, capacity building, and preservation assistance such as structural needs assessments.
Current Endangered Properties in West Virginia may be found on the Preservation Alliance’s website at http://www.pawv.org/endanger.htm.
Citizens who are interested in assisting with preservation projects may contact the alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-345-6005. Visit www.pawv.org for preservation updates, for more information about each of the Endangered Properties, or to download a nomination form for next year’s Endangered Properties list.
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