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Open house to be held at Jenkins Plantation Museum to encourage people to help with restoration project

As one of the first steps in developing a plan for restoring the historic Albert Gallatin Jenkins house in Green Bottom, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will host an open house at the site on Saturday, July 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The purpose of the event is to encourage people to bring photographs or documents relating to the Jenkins family, the original house and plantation, and the history of the surrounding community.

West Virginia State Archives staff members will be on hand at the open house with equipment to copy photos and documents while the owner waits. The originals will not be damaged and will be returned to the owner immediately.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2000 includes language authorizing the preservation and restoration of the Jenkins house in accordance with standards for sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to Stan Bumgardner, WVDCH assistant director of programming, this preliminary documentation phase is important because the information collected will be used as a basis for the restoration.

“We know there are people out there who have photographs and documents that would be invaluable as we try to re-create, as closely as possible, the original appearance of the Jenkins house,” he said. “We are encouraging people who live in the area to dig through their attics and closets to see if they have information that would be helpful as we try to preserve this part of the region’s history.”

Bumgardner added that all the information gathered during the documentation phase will become part of the collection of the State Archives so it can be used in future projects at the historic site.

“Once the restoration is finished in accordance with the federal legislation, the Division’s ultimate goal is to construct a visitors’ center that interprets frontier plantation life in the Ohio Valley. The photographs, diaries, newspaper clippings, etc., that people bring to the open house will be useful as we formulate those future plans, too,” he said.

According to Bumgardner, officials are particularly interested in documenting the Jenkins family and the African-American slaves who worked on the plantation, the physical appearance of the house, the location of outbuildings and the surrounding area of Green Bottom between the years 1830 and 1970.

“We want as much information as we can gather, not only about the plantation, but also about the history of the community,” he said. “Subjects could include farming, local businesses, river transportation, road and bridge construction and improvements, schools, churches, politics, athletics, everyday life, holidays, family reunions and community gatherings.”

Bumgardner said they will continue to collect information as the restoration process moves forward. People who have photos or documents to share but cannot attend the open house should contact the State Archives any time after July 21.

In addition to the documentation project, the open house will include tours of the Jenkins house, refreshments and a special “Frontier Day” program for children from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All activities are free.

WVDCH leases the Jenkins house and four surrounding acres from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) to use as a museum and interpretive site known as the Jenkins Plantation Museum. DNR, in turn, leases the entire Greenbottom wetlands area from the Corps of Engineers.

The Jenkins Plantation Museum is located on West Virginia Route 2 between Huntington and Point Pleasant. For more information about the restoration project or the July 21 open house, call Bumgardner at (304) 558-0220, ext. 121.

Operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, the Jenkins Plantation Museum gives people an opportunity to explore the lives of those who lived in Ohio Valley plantation households and their impact on the region in the 1800s. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Jenkins house was the home of Virginia merchant William Jenkins, who used the fortune he made trading grain in South America to create an impressive 4,400-acre plantation that produced tobacco, grain, corn and cattle for export via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Upon his death, Jenkins’ youngest son Albert Gallatin inherited the home and grounds. Albert served as an attorney and U.S. Congressman but resigned to take a commission in the Confederate Army, leading the 8th Virginia Cavalry. Born in 1831, General Jenkins died in 1864 from wounds suffered in the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain near Dublin, Va.

The 1835 house, built in the tradition of Tidewater, Va., features period furniture and exhibitions. The museum is open to the public for tours on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.