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West Virginia Division of Culture and History announces list of endangered sites

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has announced its list of West Virginia’s most endangered historic places for 2005. Modeled after a National Trust for Historic Preservation program, this year’s list features 27 sites across the state.

“This endangered properties list is an invaluable tool in directing public attention to the many cultural resources in our state that are under threat from neglect, development pressure, natural disasters or industrial changes. We hope to generate discussion about these and other endangered sites in West Virginia, with the ultimate goal of preserving some of them for future generations,” said Troy O. Body, Division commissioner.

The list includes the following sites:

Austin Wingate Curtis House, Institute, Kanawha County
This site was the home of Austin Wingate Curtis, a distinguished professor of agriculture at the Collegiate Institute, and a two-term president of the West Virginia Teachers Association. Curtis’s son, Austin W. Curtis Jr., followed the precedent set by his father, serving as Dr. George Washington Carter’s assistant. Austin Curtis Jr. later established A.W. Curtis Laboratories in Detroit and ran for U.S. Congress in 1958. The house is a wood-frame foursquare plan set among large shade trees on a large lot.

Battle of Blair Mountain Site, Spruce Fork Ridge, Logan County This ridge is the site of the 1921 week-long struggle between striking members of the United Mine Workers of America and citizen forces under Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin. The miners sought to pass through Logan County on their way to Mingo County, with the goal of freeing jailed union members and organizers, and ultimately hoping to unionize the southern coal fields. A series of union breakthrough attempts took place along the forested sides of this rugged, meandering ridge line that divides the Coal River and Guyandotte River watersheds. All attempts to break through Chafin’s defense line were defeated, and following the intervention of the U.S. Army, the miners abandoned their march and returned to their homes.

Battle of Shepherdstown, Shepherdstown, Jefferson County
On Sept. 19, 1862, a detachment of Porter’s V Corps pushed across the river at Boteler’s Ford, attacked the Confederate rearguard commanded by Brig. Gen. William Pendleton and captured four guns. Early the next day, Porter pushed elements of two divisions across the Potomac to establish a bridgehead. Hill’s division counterattacked while many of the Federals were crossing and nearly annihilated the 118th Pennsylvania (the “Corn Exchange” Regiment), inflicting 269 casualties. This rearguard action discouraged Federal pursuit. On November 7, President Lincoln relieved McClellan of command because of his failure to follow Lee’s retreating army.

Big Creek High School, War, McDowell County
Constructed in 1932, Big Creek High School was the sixth consolidated high school in McDowell County. The building exemplifies a 1930s interpretation of the Collegiate Gothic style of architecture with its simplified crenelated parapet and pointed arch over its main entrance. Recently, Big Creek High School gained fame in the 1999 film “October Sky” as the school attended by “rocket boy” Homer Hickam Jr., writer and former NASA engineer.

Boydville, Martinsburg, Berkeley County
Boydville was constructed in 1812 by Elisha Boyd, who had both a prominent military and political career. The interior center hallway features wood-pressed paper from England. The paper is laid in sections, giving the appearance of wood paneling. This large, stone Georgian-style house also features garden walls of handmade brick. The home was left to Boyd’s daughter, Mary, who was married to Charles J. Faulkner. Faulkner was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, minister to France during 1859-61 and assistant adjutant general under Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War. Their son Charles J. Faulkner II served as a judge and state senator. In 1923, as a corporate lawyer, he helped organize the American Law Institute. On the property is a law office, smokehouse, ice house and summer kitchen, as well as some other outbuildings.

Bridgeport Bridge, Wheeling, Ohio County
This bridge terminates Zane Street on Wheeling Island and crosses the west channel of the Ohio River between the island and Bridgeport, Ohio. Constructed in 1893, it is a prefabricated iron truss bridge with sandstone piers. Recorded by the Historic American Engineering Record, its Romanesque Revival details are evident in the lacy steel trusses and portals. The portals are finished with classically detailed capitals capped by finials.

Camp Allegheny, Bartow, Pocahontas County
This Civil War campground and battlefield is located at the top of Allegheny Mountain just off Route 250. More than 4,200 feet of trenches, gun emplacements and cabin sites are visible. The site straddles the Parkersburg and Staunton Turnpike and was the Confederate troop campground in the winter of 1861-62. On December 13, 1861, the camp was attacked by Union soldiers under the command of General Robert Milroy. The Confederate troops defeated the Union, but suffered 137 killed and wounded.

Cass Historic District, Cass, Pocahontas County
Established in 1902 by the West Virginia Pulp & Paper Company to process the spruce forests of the Allegheny Highlands, the town of Cass was a classic early 20th century one-industry town. The district encompasses a wide area that defines all aspects of its history, both residential and industrial. Among the 96 structures in the district are three classes of worker housing, a three-story company store, two churches, a school and the remains of the lumber mill that was central to the town. The structures are arranged neatly on a regular grid of streets and alleys. Operating as a lumber mill town from 1902 until 1960, the railroad portion of operations passed into state ownership in 1962, as the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Later, the state purchased most of the town site, restoring several of the houses to serve as tourist cabins.

Fishermen’s Hall, Charles Town, Jefferson County
The Grand United Order of Galilean Fishermen was organized in Baltimore in 1856. The Order maintained its own bank in Hampton, Va., operated a printing plant, and offered a life insurance and health benefit plan. The hall is sheathed in lap wooden siding and rests on a rubble stone foundation.

General Albert Gallatin Jenkins Plantation, Greenbottom Vicinity, Cabell County Although built by successful Virginia businessman Captain William Jenkins in 1835, the house is named for and most prominently associated with his son, Confederate General Albert Gallatin Jenkins. Albert Jenkins was an accomplished lawyer and politician, serving two terms in the U.S. Congress. He was elected to the Confederate Congress after Virginia succeeded from the Union in 1861. During the Civil War he proved himself an able military leader. The late Federal-style five-bay brick house is 2½ stories tall. It faces the Ohio River and is laid in Flemish bond. The roof is end-gabled and is broken by three dormers along the main elevation. The centered main entrance is flanked by two sidelights and capped by a fanlight. The house sits on a raised foundation of cut sandstone. The site is now a museum known as the Jenkins Plantation, which interprets the life of the Jenkins family and 19th century history.

Industrial School for Boys, Lakin, Mason County
This site was once part of West Virginia’s segregated system of social services set aside for African Americans. The imposing brick colonnaded main building is flanked by several agricultural support buildings.

Kanawha Valley Chemical Industry, South Charleston, Kanawha County South Charleston owes part of its place in history to the chemical industry of the Kanawha River Valley. The chemical industry had a profound impact on the area, starting with the Rollins Chemical Company in 1913 and continuing to the present. The water tower constructed in 1958 by Union Carbide is a highly visible landmark, as is the Union Carbide office building on MacCorkle Ave. Less visible, but nevertheless historically significant, are buildings that housed laboratories and offices such as the Technical Center. Last, but not least, are the houses, businesses, and religious and social organizations that sprang up to serve the many people employed in the industry.

La Belle Iron Works, Wheeling, Ohio County
La Belle Iron Works represents a period in history when manufacturers in the Wheeling area dominated the national cut nail industry. La Belle survived the “great nail strike” of 1886, when the wire nail began to overtake the market and manufacture of the cut nail declined. The three original 1852 brick Italianate structures are still an integral part of the plant. The iron truss building, constructed in the mid-1890s, highlights the change in construction techniques that allowed large open expanses for factory floors. Cut nails continue to be made at La Belle Iron Works today in much the same way as when the plant opened in 1852. It is the largest cut nail factory still in operation in the nation.

Maplewood Farm, Grape Hill and Smithland Farm, U.S. Rt. 35, Mason County

Grape Hill (General John McCausland House)
Built by the legendary Confederate General John McCausland, Grape Hill stands as a testament to McCausland’s lesser-known life as a farmer following the Civil War. When McCausland returned from his post-Appomattox adventures in Europe and Mexico, he settled down in Mason County and built a large house. McCausland’s background in mathematics and engineering led him to create a structure vaguely Italianate in form, with thick sandstone walls and a hip metal roof topped with an octagonal lantern. Advanced features of the house included a counterweight-operated elevator and an ash collection system that ran from each fireplace in the house to a bin in the basement. He also supervised the installation of an intricate drainage system that made it possible to till the swamp lands adjacent to the Kanawha River. The house and lands are still owned and farmed by the general’s descendants.

Maplewood Farm
The Maplewood Farm property consists of several small farms gathered together by General John McCausland in 1890 and passed to his son Samuel after 1900. Still farmed by the McCausland family, the Italianate farmhouse was constructed by the Sebrell family in 1850 and faces the Kanawha River. Outbuildings on the farm date to the late 1800s and early 1900s. On the property are two cemeteries related to the Cooper family and the Sebrell and Samuel McCausland descendants.

McCausland Memorial Farm (Smithland Farm)
The McCausland Memorial Farm was for many years part of a larger farm owned by Confederate General John McCausland. Formerly known as Smithland Farm, now it is partly a working farm operated by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, and also part of a working farm owned by Bright McCausland, a descendant of the general. The farm is located in Mason County on the south bank of the Kanawha River, approximately nine miles upstream from the river’s terminus at the town of Point Pleasant. The original farmhouse, a stately two-story frame structure constructed in 1869, is situated on the west side of U.S. Rt. 35 near a community known as Couch, and is surrounded by agricultural buildings and rolling pasture land.

Martha Truss Bridge, Martha, Cabell County
The Martha Truss Bridge was built in 1882 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio. Consisting of four pin-connected through trusses measuring a total of 470 feet, 7 inches, on cut stone abutments, the Martha Truss Bridge spans the Guyandotte River near the town of Martha. The bridge is unique in that it is an intact example of a through truss bridge with Victorian decorative detailing. The bridge was bypassed with a new structure in 2003 but remains standing.

New Deal Era Resources, Statewide
During the New Deal, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) began a building program that was responsible for the construction of nearly 200,000 buildings, bridges and airports throughout the United States in the 1930s and early 1940s. This program was particularly important in economically hard-hit West Virginia. The combined efforts of the WPA, the Public Works Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Farm Security Administration brought fair labor, good roads, potable water, sound houses and a sense of hope to the state’s people. Examples of this legacy may be found in the form of sidewalks, swimming pools, retaining walls, roads, state parks and even entire residential communities.

New River Gorge, Fayetteville, Fayette County, to Hinton, Summers County The New River Gorge has been used by people for thousands of years. First, the native inhabitants of the area lived in and around the gorge, utilizing its abundance of wildlife and vegetation to sustain their existence. In 1873, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad opened the area for modern industrial uses, primarily logging and coal mining. Recognizing the beauty and potential of New River Gorge, the National Park Service established the New River Gorge National River in 1978. Today, the gorge is a popular tourist destination for its unique fauna, wildlife, whitewater rafting, history and scenic vistas.

Old Sweet Springs, Sweet Springs, Monroe County
Considered to be one of America’s oldest mineral water resorts, Old Sweet Springs reflects the vacationing aspects of the country’s fashionable society in the late 18th and 19th century. Originating circa 1783 when William Lewis first built a series of log cabins to promote the area, the resort eventually grew to include the Grand Hotel Building (1838) constructed in a Jeffersonian style. Several guest cottages, a ballroom, a large brick bathhouse and slave cottages still stand on the property. The resort was purchased by the state in 1941 and served as the Andrew Rowan Memorial Home for the elderly until the 1990s.

Pocahontas Fuel Company Store and Office Building, Jenkinjones, McDowell County Alex B. Mahood, one of southern West Virginia’s most prominent architects, designed these two buildings using classical details. The company store supplied mine workers and their families with groceries, clothing, furniture, appliances, and the tools and supplies needed for work. Typically operated by coal mine operators, the store accepted certificates or company scrip for payment. By World War II, increased competition from privately run stores and mail order catalogs, as well as better transportation to other towns, made the company store often unprofitable.

Prehistoric Mounds, Earth and Stone Works, Statewide
Many hundreds and thousands of years ago, various cultures of American Indians inhabited what is now West Virginia. At one time, evidence of their lives could be found all over the landscape in the form of mounds, earthworks and other stone works. Conical mounds, such as those scattered along the state’s major river valleys, represent prehistoric cemeteries. Archaeologists suspect earth and stone works and enclosures, such as the stone wall near Montgomery or the enclosures along the Kanawha River near Charleston, were used as gathering places where people could exchange goods, conduct ceremonies, play games or participate in other social activities.

St. John’s Baptist Church, Stotesbury, Raleigh County
This two-and-a-half story church was constructed by the E.E. White Coal Company in 1918 to serve the African-American population in and around Stotesbury in Raleigh County. The construction of the church was reportedly funded by local coal companies as well as local residents. The church was reported to be in use until the early 1980s, when its congregation moved to Beckley. At present, the church is abandoned.

Stone and Thomas Building, Charleston, Kanawha County
The Stone and Thomas department store building in Charleston was designed by architects Meanor, Griefe and Daley circa 1948. The popular retail establishment was founded by Elijah James Stone and his brother-in-law Jacob C. Thomas in Wheeling. The building’s distinctive rounded corners, ribbon windows, and tall sign marquee are hallmarks of this Charleston Art Moderne-style landmark.

Stony River Reservoir Dam, Mount Storm Vicinity, Grant County The Stony River Reservoir Dam is constructed of reinforced concrete and is of the type known as an Ambursen or deck-type buttress dam. It was originally built to help control the flow of the Potomac River for the Westvaco papermaking plant in Luke, Md. Designed by the Amburson Hydraulic Construction Company, the dam was constructed by the Webber Construction Company and completed in July of 1913. At the time, the use of reinforced concrete in dam construction was still being developed. The dam failed during a winter storm on January 15, 1914. Fortunately, damage to downstream properties was small and no lives were lost. A report on the dam failure was written by F.W. Scheidenheim, who also published an article about the dam in “Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers” in 1917. Thus, the Stony River Reservoir Dam helped advance the engineering of this type of structure.

Weston State Hospital, Weston, Lewis County
Since its completion in 1880-81, Weston State Hospital has been one of the largest hand-cut stone masonry buildings in the nation. Begun in 1858 following the design of Richard Snowden Andrews, a Baltimore architect whose commissions included the custom house in Baltimore, the governor’s mansion in Annapolis, and the south wing of the U.S. Treasury building in Washington, D.C., the construction went on for the next two decades. This facility, once quite isolated, was also self sufficient with a farm on the rear hillside. The hospital closed in 1996 when a new facility was built nearby.

Wheeling Island Historic District, Wheeling, Ohio County
One of the largest inhabited river islands in the country, Wheeling Island is situated in the channel of the Ohio River. The district includes a diverse collection of high-style mid-to-late 19th century residences. The community represents the influx of suburbanization after the Wheeling Suspension Bridge was completed in 1849. Despite heavy flooding at times, the island continues to be a popular residential neighborhood.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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Ginny Painter
Deputy Commissioner/Communications Manager
West Virginia Division of Culture and History
The Cultural Center
1900 Kanawha Blvd., East
Charleston, WV  25305
Phone (304) 558-0220, ext. 120
Fax (304) 558-2779
Email ginny.painter@wvculture.org