When I first started my service term at the Martinsburg Roundhouse, I was familiar with historic tourism but I didn’t know anything about the roundhouse. Though I grew up in Martinsburg I had only visited the building once for a local festival. I didn’t really learn any of the roundhouse’s history until I started my service. Prior to meeting the site supervisors at the interview, I didn’t know anyone who volunteered or knew a lot about it.
The first project assigned to me at the Martinsburg Roundhouse was to create an inventory of the numerous artifacts housed at the site. It is also the project I have worked on the longest and there are a few remaining artifacts that need to be tagged. When I started this process I felt overwhelmed. There are hundreds of items and documents stored at the Martinsburg Roundhouse. And new artifacts come into the site a couple of times a month, typically donations made by family members whose fathers and grandfathers worked at the roundhouse.
Creating an inventory and tagging artifacts at the roundhouse has involved looking at lots of railroad spikes and railroading tools. I occasionally have been completely stumped about what an object is. Part of the process of researching and identifying the unknown objects at the roundhouse has been the extensive use of Google Lens and online railroad tool catalogs. During this project, one of my favorite ways to identify artifacts has been by collaborating with past and current railroad employees.
One of the people I have talked to about the variety of tools and objects at the roundhouse is Jim. Jim worked at the Martinsburg Roundhouse from about 1949 until 1985 when jobs were moved from Martinsburg to Barboursville. During his visits to the roundhouse, Jim has identified several objects. Some of the more peculiar pieces, the ones that he struggled to or wasn’t able to identify, he told me were specialty made at the Martinsburg shops to address a specific need at the time.
Another person who has been helpful as I attempt to name these objects is Mark. Mark works for CSX and is supervising an ongoing project in Martinsburg, and is frequently on the roundhouse property. Yet Mark’s connections to the roundhouse are deeper than working for CSX, Mark’s great-grandfather worked at the Martinsburg Roundhouse shops. Throughout the late summer and early autumn, he has made several visits to the roundhouse, including coming on a tour of the site with his mother and daughter. During his visits to the roundhouse, Mark has been incredibly helpful in identifying the artifacts housed in the roundhouse. One day I was losing my mind trying to figure out what an object was. My running theory was that it was a bucket from a digging tool. I was exhausting my enthusiasm for research by scrolling through website after website. Then Mark walked into the office, picked up the object, and casually told me that what I was looking at was a rail brace, which sits against the rail supporting it. Mark has been helpful in other ways. He also brought in a retired railroad worker, Stevie. Stevie helped me identify some of the more challenging artifacts at the Martinsburg Roundhouse.
The volunteers and board members care immensely about the artifacts at the roundhouse. Volunteer and tour guide, Mike Giovannelli, brims with excitement every time he leads a group into the site’s artifact room. Yet I have found that some of the people who care the most about the artifacts are those who have worked on the railroad.
Claire served as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member with the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority during the 2019-2020 program year.
Within the New River Gorge National River, the National Park Service is responsible for maintaining a staggering number of assets and resources. This list includes 27 administrative buildings, 9 campgrounds, 11 public restrooms and 16 vault toilets, 5 staff housing units, 2 year-round and two seasonal visitor contact stations, 131 miles of trail, and 35 miles of roads. It requires a huge amount of labor, money, and time to maintain the assets listed above, and much of the park’s maintenance staff and budget are devoted to that purpose.
Not listed above, but certainly worth attention, are the three historic farmhouses that the NPS owns on River Road near Hinton. For my civic service project, I planned a project to stabilize one building at one of these three historic farms. The plan was to install water bars and a French drain around a spring house to prevent the continued accumulation of sediment on and around the building. Carpentry repairs would also be made to the buildings walls and door, which had rotted from prolonged exposure to sediment and water. This work, like a lot of small but important tasks at the park’s lesser-known historic sites, would go a long way towards preserving the building.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the project, and I was left wondering if it could be completed at all. In mid-summer, the project was revisited and re-imagined. It was deemed unsafe to work with volunteers, but the park’s maintenance staff and an AmeriCorps crew from the Appalachian Conservation Corps were available for the task. With these resources we were able to expand the scope our project to include not only one building at one farm, but the entirety of all three farms on River Road.
On the day of the project, we had over 30 people working on different tasks between the three farms. Downed trees were cleared, grass was mowed, gutters were cleaned, ivy was removed from the outside of buildings and debris was cleaned from their insides. The stabilization work at the spring house also went off as planned. These tasks, though small, are often lost in the shuffle of the park’s busy day-to day maintenance operations. The day also provided the park’s maintenance staff a chance to safely work together on a common project in a year where large gatherings of people could not be held. Some people involved in the project had never been to the farm where they were working, and I really liked how this work day allowed them a chance to learn about and appreciate another site in the place where they work.
Though my civic service project did not go the way of my original plan, I was very pleased with how it turned out. In a year where so many things had to be cancelled or set aside, it felt good to work with the staff at the park to adapt to challenging circumstances and develop a plan to safely carry out an effective project to care for some important, though sometimes overlooked, historic resources.
Will was the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member for the New River Gorge National River's Maintenance Division during the 2019-2020 program year.
As a retired history professor and academic, I had numerous opportunities to work with primary source collections, and handled many rare and unusual documents in my research work. Over time, I became very interested in the processes behind the acquisition and care of rare books and special collections, so much so that I took early retirement as a professor and pursued a Master’s of Library and Information Science with a specialization in that area. I received the degree in August, 2016, and completed an internship at Cleveland State University that same year. I saw an opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps member in the West Virginia & Regional History Center (WV&RHC) at West Virginia University (WVU), applied for it, and was accepted into the program. I began the appointment at the end of August, 2019.
My major project at the Center was to work with the Dr. Emory Kemp Collection. Dr. Kemp, a noted engineer, architect and historian, was a member of the WVU History Department until his retirement. In 2016, he donated many items from his working life to the WV&RHC, including all of those related to the Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaelogy (IHTIA), which he founded and ran for a number of years. In addition, a series of oral interviews with Dr. Kemp that were conducted by Dr. Barb Howe, also an emerita professor of history at WVU, formed part of the collection.
In the fall of 2019, my primary objective was to complete the transcriptions from the oral histories, and to review the transcriptions previously done for any needed corrections/additions/deletions. Part of this work involved selecting a new transcription software program to be used in processing the transcriptions. Supervised by Jane LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, this project was finished by early 2020.
On December 19, 2019, Paula Martinelli, Director of Development for the WVU Libraries, arranged for me to meet Dr. Kemp and his wife, Janet, at their home. While Dr. Kemp was not in good health (he would pass away on January 20, 2020), we were able to have a nice conversation about his life’s work, and I was very happy to have had an opportunity to meet him.
Upon the completion of the transcriptions in early 2020, I began helping with the physical part of the collection: documents and maps that were part of the IHTIA archive. For the documents, I inspected and conserved them, labeled and listed them in a detailed Excel spreadsheet, and then transferred them into new archival boxes in anticipation of re-storage.
The IHTIA maps, which were created from the early 20th century forward, were of varying sizes, both in length and depth. Many of them were also in a fragile condition, and in need of repair. As an intern curator (again under the direction of Ms. LaBarbara), I checked their condition, described them for use as a finding aid on the library website, labeled them for cataloging, and rehoused them into new archival boxes in anticipation of re-storage. Unfortunately, the closure of the library due to the pandemic stopped the progress of this project, but I am hoping to get back to work on this again during the next program year.
Dr. Connie Evans served as the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member at the West Virginia & Regional History Center at West Virginia University during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 program years.
Duffields Depot, located in Jefferson County, West Virginia is considered to be the second oldest surviving combined freight and passenger train depot in the nation. The two and a half story stone building, with a now destroyed wooden warehouse attached, was built by Richard Duffield between 1839 and 1842 with the $2,500 he received from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for right of way access to his land.
During my AmeriCorps service year, my main project was researching the property for as much information as possible. This research resulted in a new brochure, several grant applications, and an extended research report. We have also executed several work days at the property, including clearing brush, replacing windows, and evaluating and removing rotted floorboards.
The Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission has a goal of rehabilitating and reopening the depot to the public, as it has been in a consistent state of decline over the last few decades. The research report and interpretive material helps to inform the public about the space, connect it to their local history, and place the structure in its context, while the grants provide the fiscal support needed to stabilize Duffields Depot.
Other groups in the region have also expressed their interest and support for the project, such as the Civil War Trails, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, local historical societies, and several individuals. The goal for the property is to have it stabilized, restored, and opened to the public as a learning space and site specific museum.
Duffields Depot encapsulates several areas of Jefferson County and West Virginia history, such as the impact of the railroads in the 19th century, rural county farm products, the creation and success of villages, and the role of local personalities in the development of an area, appalling to many different interest areas.
McKenzie served as the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member with the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission during the 2019-2020 service year.
For the past twenty years, the Martinsburg Roundhouse has been under renovation. This has included the installation of new roofing and windows, a fire suppressant system, and the construction of bathrooms. There are many projects in development with the aim of improvement and preservation yet the goal remains clear: a rebirth of the Martinsburg Roundhouse, for it to serve a new role in the community. This place once so vital for the city, for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, and the state of West Virginia has been reduced to a mysterious structure for Martinsburg citizens. Many people have largely ignored the roundhouse since it was shut down in May of 1987, a situation exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Multitudes of the festivals and shows have been canceled, and only a small number of visitors have gone on tours throughout this summer. During my service at the Martinsburg Roundhouse, I wanted to strategize a way to share the history and significance of the Martinsburg Roundhouse with a broader audience, but I especially wanted to show local people why this site mattered.
The best way I thought that this story could be spread was through the schools in Berkeley County. The West Virginia history curriculum requires state and local history lessons, primarily in grades four and eight. The history of the Martinsburg Roundhouse is relevant to several historical topics: industrialization, the Civil War, and labor history in West Virginia. Yet the project has evolved from simply being a virtual tour of the site. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with a great videographer, Ronald, on this project. Ronald has helped me develop the project beyond my original idea into a more expansive one: a full-length documentary of the site. A crucial part of the documentary project has been oral history interviews. Interviewees for the video have been local historians, past employees of the roundhouse, and their family members. These interviews have illuminated and captured the history of the site, as well as serve to demonstrate the site’s importance to individuals and the community.
Two key questions that have helped me to understand the feelings people have for the Martinsburg Roundhouse and why they are invested in the landmark’s future. One of the questions we’ve been asking when talking with past employees is “What did you enjoy about working at the Roundhouse?” For Chief Clerk Jim Rickard and laborer Donnie Castleman, the answer was the same: the people. This answer shows that these men had, and still have, a sense of comradery and that they are proud of the work that they did at the Martinsburg Roundhouse. The other key question that we’ve been asking all interviewees and the question we usually end the interview with is, “What the roundhouse means to you?” The employees of the Martinsburg Roundhouse and family members of employees had a similar answer to the question, that to them the roundhouse meant their livelihood. This answer reveals an essential element of what makes the roundhouse special, that this place and this industry-supported Martinsburg. I think these answers would be surprising for those who view the Roundhouse as merely a collection of vast and empty buildings. Yet for the people who worked there and their families of those who worked there it meant putting food on the table and paying the bills. It meant spending time with and growing to know people who were dedicated to the job. All interviewees have a singular vision of what they want for the site that means so much to them: that it has to be revitalized and needs to become central to the community again. How the roundhouse fulfills that role and place once again is still in question yet the ideas include the building of an amphitheater, a venue space, and the addition of a formal museum space. Each of these ideas seek to honor the history of the Martinsburg Roundhouse while simultaneously meeting the needs of Martinsburg.
The documentary is still in production. The oral history interviews will conclude on September 22 and we will begin the editing phase of this project. It will take an estimated eight months for the footage to be edited and for the film to be completed. In addition to the documentary, the virtual tour is still being made. We will be utilizing the same footage, yet the narration will be tailored toward kids. There will be worksheets provided for grades kindergarten to twelfth grade along with the tour.
As it stands the intention is to sell the documentary in the Martinsburg Roundhouse gift shop, as well as to play sections of it at the beginning of tours and Roundhouse events. Yet I ultimately hope that it uncovers for the people of Martinsburg and students across Berkeley County the magic of the Martinsburg Roundhouse
Claire served as the Preserve WV AmeriCorps Member for the Martinsburg Roundhouse during the 2019-2020 program year.
Built in 1908, Matewan’s jail is one of the town’s oldest and most historic structures. It’s the very building where Smilin’ Sid Hatfield, the town’s Chief of Police during the Battle of Matewan and the miners' hero, called his work quarters.
During my AmeriCorps service, I had the pleasure of planning my Civic Service Project around the restoration of this wonderful and historic resource in the town of Matewan. Community volunteers gathered inside the jail on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and spruced up the inside with a fresh coat of paint.
This was merely a stepping stone in the building’s rehabilitation. In fact, the Old Jail has undergone major facelifts and improvements in recent years: new windows, an outside paint job, a new HVAC system, jail cells, and so much more. And it’s thanks to a special and dedicated group of volunteers working in Matewan the past 7 years.
The project has been locally driven by community members, and the United Methodist Church owns the historic property. This building is part of a heritage-destination vision that community members drew up in 2015 during the Turn This Town Around Initiative, sparked by the WV Community Development Hub. With years of dedication, work, and perseverance, their vision has blossomed into a reality. Now, the Old Jail is a wonderful addition to Matewan’s many heritage stops and attractions.
The restoration group aimed to have it’s grand reopening as part of the heritage activities offered on the weekend of May 16--the 100 year observation of the Battle of Matewan. Plans were postponed due to the pandemic. The group hopes to have the opening of the jail once the pandemic is behind us.
Kenzie New served as the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member assigned to the Matewan Train Depot Replica & Visitor's Center for the 2019-2020 service year.
During the two years I’ve been a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving at the WVU BAD Buildings Program, I have been extensively involved with the work of the Abandoned Properties Coalition (https://badbuildings.wvu.edu/abandoned-properties-coalition). The APC is made up of stakeholders, partners, representatives from key organizations, and topic area experts (Including PAWV and the BAD Buildings Program) that are committed to working with communities to adequately address the issue of vacant, abandoned, and dilapidated properties across West Virginia. At the start of my service, the APC was just beginning the transition period from being headed by the WV Community Development Hub to the BAD Buildings Program. Thanks to my position, not only was I able to see the APC grow and develop, I took an active role in that progress.
My original task for the APC was the maintenance and growth of the Abandoned Schools Inventory. One of the issues the APC is focused on is the amount of abandoned school buildings in West Virginia. Once schools are shut down or consolidated, the buildings (many of which are historic) are left to stand there and become dilapidated. The inventory was created by the Abandoned Schools Team to keep track of the buildings and to create a clearer understanding of the scale of the issue. I created a survey that would allow people to submit abandoned school buildings and all information they knew about them online so that these buildings can be added to the inventory. The survey was a great success. Thanks to it, over 80 new school buildings were added to the inventory. This inventory along with the map, that is based on it, have been important parts of the APC presentations and future plans.
Besides the Abandoned Schools Inventory, I was a member of the APC Transition Team. This team was created to facilitate the moving of the APC from the WV Hub to the BAD Buildings program. Members of this team would meet to discuss what has been working, what can be changed, and what the future of the APC would look like as hosted by the BAD Buildings program. We wanted to ensure that the APC was developing in a way that would improve the cohesion between committee members, the general constituency, and the larger communities we serve. For this purpose, I wrote an outreach improvement strategy that was approved by the steering committee. Additionally, I started an official newsletter for the APC that makes it easy for interested individuals to subscribe and stay informed about the efforts of the APC.
The Abandoned Properties Coalition is dedicated to pursuing the revitalization of abandoned and dilapidated properties across West Virginia and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it during my service term. I am proud of the contribution I made for this coalition. Various members of the APC have thanked me for what I’ve been able to do and I hope the short term and long term effects will continue to provide support to the APC’S mission of revitalizing abandoned and dilapidated properties around West Virginia.
Summer Phillips served with the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program during the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 service years where she was assigned to assist the West Virginia Northern Brownfields Assistance Center with its WVU BAD Buildings Program.
names of buildings, current owners and tenants, and original construction date. During the pandemic, I was able to get out into the community and walk around to have a better understanding of the buildings to continue the building inventory and update any needed information for the inventory that was not available online. Much of the district now has been completed and includes all of the main streets that are home to many of the businesses and historic homes.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the museum that the Berkeley County Historical Society has to close. During this time, it provided time for the society to change and update a few exhibits. One of the exhibits that I was able to work on was one of the schools in Berkeley County. This exhibit provides an historic resource improvement to visitors especially now during the pandemic because it provides a glimpse of how different schools looked like not long ago. The exhibit focuses on how schools in Berkeley County looked like from the late 1800s until the 1950s. The exhibit includes photos of the smaller one room schools, school activities, class photos and school schedules that reflect that time-period. Due to the pandemic and how schools as we know them are currently changing, this exhibit may help remind the audience of the evolution of schools.
The historic resource improvement for both sites can help both sites in current and future historic preservation efforts by having some groundwork completed and available. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Downtown Martinsburg Historic district may evolve with the change in business, but the current inventory can provide some background information on the buildings. The school exhibit is a reminder that schools have evolved in the past and the information may help in the transformation in how schools evolve now due to the pandemic.
Susan served in the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program during the 2019-2020 program year. She served at two sites during her term: Main Street Martinsburg and the Berkeley County Historical Society.
Hinton’s oldest standing residential structure, The Campbell Flannagan Murrell House Museum, built circa 1875, has recently gone through more than the obvious face lift. This current day museum has also received lots of much needed preservation attention and preventative maintenance.
In June of 2017, the former Preserve Alliance of West Virginia’s AmeriCorps Member, Sarah Rogers, submitted a (successful) National Coal Heritage Area grant in hopes to address the concerns of the safety of the CFM House and to preserve the structure and its contents. Combined with that, Candice Helms, the current PAWV AmeriCorps Member, submitted a mini grant through the Hinton Area Foundation to fund the painting of the exterior. The City also contributed their labor to doing a majority of the work. In September 2019, the project started and successfully ended in July 2020. Jumping in after Sarah left, was quite seamless. The entire Board of the Museum has been very supportive and excited as Candice was to see a much needed, finished product.
A staple in the repair process was the installation of a much needed retaining wall. Water damage issues were in abundance with this Historic structure, and redirecting the water away was just the beginning of the process. Tree removal, installation of supplemental guttering, and equipping a dehumidifier in the basement were also needed to complete that effort. Throughout the house there were windows that needed attention, walls in need of patching, flooring to be replaced, and much more. Lastly, the entire house was painted to what the Museum Board deemed as the most accurate, original color scheme.
Hinton is coming around the bend full force in Community Development and this project is just one of the many to consider successfully done! We are very proud of this new, shining beam in the West End and every passer-by gets greeted with a lovely sight, and all who put in any effort, receives a reminder that it takes a village to keep moving forward, FULL STEAM AHEAD!
For my Civic Service Project as an AmeriCorps member with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and the history app and website Clio, I helped lead volunteers in organizing a collection of historic newspapers and documents held at the Aull Center for Local History and Genealogy Research. Opened in 2004 as an annex of the Morgantown Public Library in the historic home of the Garlow family, the Aull Center contains a unique collection of primary and secondary resources related both to the history of Morgantown, Monongalia County, and West Virginia and genealogy of local families. This collection began on the second floor of the Morgantown Public Library next door but moved to the Garlow home in order to accommodate its continued expansion. The opening of the Aull Center resulted in the collection’s tripling in size. Within this collection is an assortment of historic newspapers and other documents in a filing cabinet on the second floor. This particular collection began life on the second floor the library as a keystone of the historical collection there but became disorganized in its transportation to the Aull Center and has since languished. Without the staff necessary to both operate the Aull Center on a daily basis and reorganize this collection patrons have been unable to benefit from the historical resources and knowledge held within it, once such a key part of the research capacity of the library’s historical records.
In the hopes that patrons might once again be able to benefit from the information in this collection, I helped to lead a small group of volunteers in cataloging, organizing, and when necessary more suitably preserving the documents in the first drawer of the filing cabinet that holds it. Over the course of three hours, we were not only able to complete our task, but enjoy the many interesting and enlightening documents across which we came. As they sought to bring order to this drawer in the collection, volunteers learned about the early industrial history of the city of Morgantown, the construction of the Morgantown and Kingwood Railroad, the early life of the Morgantown Public Library itself, and an episode during the Cold War when a West Virginia mayor invited Soviet officials to his town to complete the construction of a local bridge. Volunteers were also able to locate several resources for which Aull Center staff had been searching for some time, including a map of archaeological and historic sites in Monongalia County. In all, the volunteers organized over two dozen file folders of documents in the drawer. With their help, Aull Center staff will now be able to better serve their patrons by providing access to more in-depth and extensive research materials than was before available. Without the help of the volunteers in the Civic Service Project, this would not have been possible. The staff and patrons of the Morgantown Public Library and Aull Center for Local History and Genealogy Research thus owe a considerable debt to AmeriCorps and the volunteers who assisted in the project.
Nathan served with the Clio Foundation as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member during the 2018-2019 term.
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