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Specific Threats



West Virginia’s Historic Resources

The Planning Process

West Virginia’s Partners in Preservation

Issues and Opportunities


West Virginia Historic Preservation Goals and Objectives for 2002 - 2006


Appendix 1:

Appendix 2:

Contact Information

The 1996 Statewide Historic Preserva-tion Plan identified and provided an exhaus-tive discussion of specific threats to West Virginia’s archaeological and historic resources. To a large extent, many of them remain valid threats to West Virginia’s resources today. They include reclamation or demolition of historic mine properties; active mining, logging and timber-based industries; development of large-scale housing tracts; urban renewal and redevel-opment; vandalism of historic sites and properties; and uncontrolled archaeological excavation, vandalism and theft.

Reclamation activities continue in West Virginia as part of the Division of Environmental Protection Abandoned Mine Lands’ mandate to clean up abandoned and hazardous mine sites. In some instances, such as the Elkins Coal and Coke Company Historic District in Bretz, Preston County, portions of a site might be preserved. In this example, the coke ovens and mine facades will be left intact but the rest of the structures and buildings will be demolished during reclamation activities. Documenta-tion currently underway to record those portions of the site that will not be preser-ved will be added as “field notes” to the Library of Congress. More often, however, entire industrial complexes are reclaimed. The 180-foot smoke stack, cut-stone power house, office, warehouse, cut-stone fan house and three mine shafts at Carswell, McDowell County, were demolished. In Raleigh County, the remains of six towns and mines within the Winding Gulf Valley are slated for reclamation. This area contains the community of Tams and its associated mine, and is the heart of the “smokeless coal country” that made West Virginia famous in the early 20th century. Many times, SHPO staff are able to record these kinds of properties. While these resources are documented and evaluated for National Register eligibility, rarely are they saved and preserved as records of our industrial heritage.

Extractive industries as a whole, in-cluding coal mining, quarrying and logging, also threaten historic resources in West Virginia. While coal mining may not be the economic and employment force that it once was in the state, strip mining and mountaintop removal activities continue to remove large quantities of land in search of coal. Those cultural resources that lie in the way are usually removed in anticipation of mining activities. In the past five years, SHPO staff have reviewed permit applica-tions for 434 active mines and quarries. Several of these have and will impact his-toric coal-related resources. For example, the remains of the Dorothy Number 1 Mine in Raleigh County, consisting of mine motors dating to 1914, an intact aerial tram-way and incline, intact portal facades, a standing bath house, two office buildings, a power substation and remnants of a con-veyor and tipple system, were removed by a coal company in preparation for a moun-taintop removal type of mine. The remains of Saxmon in Nicholas County are also in jeopardy. This lumbertown was once the home to loggers who worked in the saw mill and the coal miners who supplied the fuel to keep the mill running. The town provides a contrast to the typical company town found throughout southern West Virginia. Currently, the site is being removed in preparation for a deep mine. As with properties slated for reclamation, those threatened by active mining are gen-erally recorded but usually are not preserved.

Logging of state forests and privately owned land continues to be an unregulated industry in West Virginia. The destruction caused by bulldozers and other machinery creating new roads and clearing away the forest is most destructive to subsurface resources such as archaeological sites and cemeteries, but also can result in damage to abandoned but standing structures. Because the industry is unregulated on non-federal lands, SHPO staff and other cultural resource management professionals often do not learn of the destruction to historic and cultural resources until after it has occurred.

The development of large-scale housing tracts is a problem for those counties in West Virginia experiencing an increase in population. As mentioned previously, West Virginia leads the country in urban sprawl. This is especially true in Jefferson, Berkeley, Monongalia, Kanawha and Putnam Counties. Murphy Farm, outside of Harpers Ferry in Jefferson County, is a fairly typical example. The historic farm dates back the Civil War era. It was the scene of the surrender of 12,500 Union troops to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, and was the location that civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois chose for the second conference of the Niagara Movement that later became the NAACP. Today it is threatened by a 188-home su-burban development. Sprawl development as well as large-scale industrial and com-mercial growth in Putnam County, such as the proposed Fraziers Bottom Industrial Park, threatens a variety of archaeological resources located along the Kanawha River. In Mason County, the sale and division of 2,000-plus acre Old Town farm located just north of Point Pleasant makes uncertain the future of archaeological and historic resources that are a part of the farm, inclu-ding prehistoric mounds and an Italianate style house.

Urban renewal and redevelopment projects continue to result in the loss of historic properties. Urban renewal is often viewed positively because it results in the removal of a community’s “eyesores” when properties sit empty and neglected. How-ever, it also results in the loss of buildings and structures that are structurally sound but no longer meet a community’s needs. Several historic resources around the state are threatened by these types of activities. Portions of East Wheeling and Parkersburg, including buildings in their historic districts, were lost to urban renewal. In West Virginia’s capitol city, the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority designated the Washington Street and Charleston’s warehouse district as areas to undergo urban renewal.

Often, redevelopment projects threaten individual resources, especially when it pertains to issues of adaptive re-use. Jefferson County Jail, located in Charles Town, Jefferson County, is a excellent example. The jail was the incarceration site of pro-union miners involved in the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1918 and the treason trials that followed in 1922. Despite the determination that it is structurally sound and an excellent candidate for adaptive re-use, Jefferson County Commission mem-bers claim it is too costly to renovate. The jail is slated for demolition pending the outcome of an appeal made to the West Virginia Supreme Court. In Kanawha County, Clendenin Middle School will likely be demolished unless residents can find a new use for the building. Weston State Hospital, despite receiving funds from the Save America’s Treasures program and residents’ active participation to try to save the building, still sits empty.

Vandalism constitutes a serious threat statewide. Arsonists continue to burn historic buildings, notably in Wheeling, Ohio County, which recently lost several to fire. In the Cass Historic District, Pocahontas County, vandalism and arson have compounded the effects of neglect that threaten many of the town’s buildings and structures. More often of late, staff have received calls about cemeteries that have been subjected to abuse at the hands of vandals. Teays Hill Cemetery, the oldest in the Kanawha Valley, is a typical example. Approximately 90 headstones were knocked down and broken, including a cast iron grave marker that became heavily dented after someone hit it. Holiday Cemetery in Parkersburg, Wood County, has been used as a dump for several years. In the process, several of its headstones were torn out and thrown down the hillside.

Scene in Cass, WV Vandalism and arson are just two of the threats faced by the Cass Historic District in Pocahontas County and other historic sites in West Virginia. Photo by Michael Keller

Looting and uncontrolled excavation of archaeological sites plague West Virginia’s archaeological resources. The Rolfe Lee Site in Mason County, a Fort Ancient vil-lage site located on the Ohio River, was looted several times resulting in a substan-tial loss of information. In 1997, looters dug through a human burial in search of arti-facts. SHPO staff archaeologists recovered human remains from the river bank where they had been carelessly tossed. More recently, a rock shelter in Logan County was looted. Here, too, a burial was dis-turbed as looters looked for artifacts. Even well-intentioned avocational archaeologists often damage archaeological sites. At the Man Site in Logan County, a group of archaeology enthusiasts were excavating a portion of the site so the local high school, which had been built on top of the site, could plant new bushes. Excited by the prospect of finding something interesting, they carelessly dug much deeper than necessary and partially uncovered a burial.

Protecting archaeological sites can be a challenging task. Many artifact collectors are unwilling to share the locations where they have found projectile points and vari-ous artifacts in order to protect from others what they view as “their” site. Even those who are willing to share information usually wait to do so until after they have finished with the site. By the time arch-aeologists arrive most of the information has been removed and destroyed. While state law does not actually protect sites, it does provide for prosecution and penalties if a site is not excavated according to legal procedure. According to West Virginia State Code §29-1-8a et seq., knowingly disturbing an archaeological site is a misdemeanor, while desecrating human remains constitutes a felony. Still, West Virginia county sheriff departments have been unwilling to get involved and attorneys have been unwilling to prosecute.

Despite apparent obstacles, strategies exist that can afford archaeological sites protection from damage and destruction. These include the creation of easements, providing for site protection during land-use planning, zoning, development and permitting review, drafting stand-alone historic preservation ordinances, imple-menting stewardship programs, and a variety of site management options. Whether achieved through regulatory or non-regulatory means, protection of West Virginia’s archaeological sites must become a priority and planned for accordingly.

During the summer of 2001, the southern part of West Virginia suffered massive flooding and was declared a national disaster area by President Bush. As part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) initial recovery efforts, approximately 400 old and historic buildings were removed, many of which had been inventoried as part of the Coal Heritage Survey. The towns of Mullens and Welch suffered the greatest damage. Mullens, Wyoming County, lost eight of its downtown National Register properties, while Welch in McDowell County lost four. The Towns of Kimball and Keystone in McDowell County, and Glen Jean in Fayette County also suffered damage. While not all damage will result in immediate loss of properties, in many places buildings and structures are still being assessed and their future remains uncertain. Damage to properties within the boundaries of the New River National Historic River is also still being assessed. Initial reports indicate that a cemetery within park boundaries was damaged when a portion of it washed out as flood waters receded.