By Amanda Whitmore, Preservation Alliance of West Virginia VISTA
PAWV’s 2012 conference will be in Jefferson County September 27-29, and there will be a walking tour on Thursday evening of historic Shepherdstown. I am a native of Shepherdstown, born and raised, and have seen many changes in this little town. I recently was pushing my son in his stroller through Shepherdstown and really began to see this town with new eyes. I will not have you read through my own personal walking tour of Shepherdstown, you can experience the town your own way, but I would like to share a few of the buildings and sites in which I have a renewed interest.
First is the Tobacco Warehouse, circa 1788, which has changed a lot in the past few years. Growing up, it was always the vacant stone building by the river, barely noticeable with all the overgrowth surrounding it.. A variety of groups would scheme about potential uses but nothing came to fruition. The Warehouse is the only standing commercial structure on the riverfront and worthy of saving to help tell the history of the Potomac River. A group formed in the early 2000’s, the Friends of the Shepherdstown Riverfront, to do just this thing. They successfully stabilized the warehouse, repointed the exterior masonry, cleared the debris, and nearly gutted the entire inside of old water and sewer equipment to ready the building for an eventual new use.
The block of East German Street, between the railroad tracks and the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant, contains the grandest homes of Shepherdstown; however this is not the streetscape I want to describe. My favorite street is New Street. It is a quiet, well preserved street with a great collection of colonial style houses, ranging from brick to wood siding and detached to row houses. Just one block off the main street of Shepherdstown, it includes worn brick sidewalks, large trees, an old cemetery enclosed by a tall stone wall, wrought iron fences, and even a babbling brook, well not a brook, but the Town Run. The Town Run flows through several backyards on New Street before heading to German Street.
Lastly, I want to take you to two of my favorite downtown establishments, Mellow Moods and the Mecklenburg Inn. Yes, they provide great refreshments, but I enjoy these businesses for their history and character-defining building elements. Mellow Moods is a newer business that opened in a building that had sat vacant for many years. It was once a dry goods store, and a portion of the old counter is still in use. The wood floors and old tin ceiling were also maintained in the renovation of the building. The Mecklenburg Inn, affectionately called “the Meck,” was at one time the post office for Shepherdstown. The bathrooms are now located where the tellers used to sit and distribute mail. Tin covers the walls and ceilings, and the floors and fire places are original. I love sitting in these places and imagining the many people who have come into these buildings over the years to carry out their business.
These are just a few of my favorite places in Shepherdstown. I hope many of you reading this blog come to the conference in September and take the tour of Shepherdstown. It is so rich in history and has so many fascinating stories.
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