In March of 2018, Bryson VanNostrand of VanNostrand Architects approached me at a conference with a very intense “suggestion”. He told me to make sure I let the City Manager know that Hinton HAS to do something with the Hardwoods Building. He then later spoke on a panel at the conference. Everything he talked about on the panel spoke to me. He was my type of community leader! Being very new to Hinton and to the Economic Development Scene, I really didn’t know which building he was talking about. I had recently submerged myself in the land of Volunteerism, and this was just another conference I was adding to the list in hopes of understanding what I need to do here. What was my calling?
Shortly after, coincidentally, Hinton was offered some Technical Assistance Funds through the West Virginia Community Development program HUB CAP. Our team was huddled around a table coming up with ideas. I suggested getting the Hardwoods Building structurally analyzed. For some reason, this mission was burned in my brain. The team was supportive, the building was in need, and I knew just the person that had the heart in the project. I learned then, not everybody is into historic preservation. I didn’t even know it was important to me. I was just merely following through with a firm suggestion and happened to be in a position to get it done. I also knew if anybody was going to do it and do it right, it would be VanNostrand Architects.
About a year later, through all of my volunteer work, an AmeriCorps opportunity with the Hinton Historic Landmarks Commission opened up. This was such an important move for me. I was now able to focus on all the work I had been doing, and in a capacity to see more projects get done! To get compensated for doing dream work, is an absolute dream!
The Hardwoods Building never left my sight. I dug for hours to find any and all information on this structure. It was historically known as the New River Grocery and is located in Hinton’s heart of the Railway Development District. This structure has been identified as the 6th most important historic structure in the Hinton Historic District to be rehabilitated. It is a three-story brick and timber structure, and was originally built as a grocery House, hence the New River Grocery. What it’s most known as to the community, was a roller rink back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Lots of people remember going on their first dates here, birthday parties, and skating for hours and hours, Great memories were made on every inch of that property.
Most recently it housed a woodworking shop, specializing in garden needs, called New River Wood. When this tenant vacated, they left all their woodworking equipment. Most of the equipment was not useful to hobbyists, seeing as they were machines built for high power.
By now, the City of Hinton had acquired the property. The City also had no use for the equipment, and it was just sitting in the way of helping visualize what a great space this could be! Among the heavy duty machinery, there were what seemed like decades of saw dust, and just overall mess.
I have come to the conclusion, I may be the only person interested in preserving this building. The City didn’t have capacity to seek funding, and this poor building sat vacant. Deteriorating more every single day. Every rain drop that fell, compromised the structure just a little bit more. The roof was failing quickly and something needed to be done fast.
In efforts to make the building more appealing to anyone that was in the right position to listen, I happily offered up to clean the building up as my AmeriCorps Civic Service project. I figured it would be easier for people to understand the beauty of the building if it looked nicer. Plus, the effort was relatively free for the City. Win! Win!! After a successful clean up, I then took inventory of all the equipment. Being that it was City property, an auction would have to take place. I was crossing my fingers, hoping there would be enough money generated to help stabilize the building. I was sorely wrong. The money raised was just a drop in the bucket. However, there were lots of new owners of old equipment that got an extremely great deal on really expensive pieces.
By this time, I am feeling defeated. I did not know what to do. Fortunately, I attended a Summit about a month after the Auction and ran into our old community Coach with the HUBCAP program, Kaycie Stuschek. She suggested applying for the Development Grant with the State Historic Preservation Office. It was due in about a month, which wasn’t much time, but I knew I could get this done. Up to this point, I had loads of information, pictures, stabilization quotes, everything I could possibly need! Now it was time to write my first big girl grant!
The grant application was accepted. Covid happened. It took almost a year to receive the Bid package and get things moving in the direction we have been shooting for. During that year, the building crumbled more. I had thought the previous condition was bad until I walked in recently. It became worse, in the matter of a few months. Thankfully, I had my trusty ol' architect, Bryson, lend me an hour of his time to see what damage had been done. It wasn’t good. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am currently writing another grant application to hopefully secure 100 % of the funds to get the deterioration to come to a complete stop. Meanwhile, we will soon be accepting bids to fulfill the first round of grant money.
This has been a long process. Lots of faith, patience, and work has taken place. Maybe this is why historic preservation isn’t for everyone? I am bound and determined though to save this structure! The Hardwoods Building is extremely important to how Hinton became the booming town it once was. In my mind, this building could do it again for another century, but probably more like two. If you are interested in donating to this project, you can send a check to
City Hall c/o Hardwoods Stabilization
322 Summers St.
Hinton, WV 25951
Candice Helms is a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with the Hinton Historic Landmarks Commission.
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