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Tyler Revitalization rallies for the ‘endangered’ County Home

By Staff | Apr 15, 2009

NO LONGER IN DANGER — The Tyler County Home in Middlebourne is among eight properties deemed endangered by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. Thanks in part to lobbying by Tyler Revitalization, the property will be restored.

After being informed in February about being accepted, the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia has named The Tyler County Home as one of eight historic West Virginia properties they have placed on their 2009 Endangered Properties List.

Tyler Revitalization Chair Chris Hoke and husband Al Tuttle traveled to Charleston to formally accept the nomination. TR surveyed the public last summer and discovered that many Tyler County residents were concerned about the condition of the old poor farm,

Other properties named to the 2009 list include Hinton’s McCreery Hotel, Capitol Theatre of Wheeling, First Ward School of Elkins, Wyco Church near Mullens, Glenville Bridge and the Waldo Hotel of Clarksburg. All properties are listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and meet other criteria such as historic significance, geographic location, preservation emergency, and resources available to resolve the endangerment.

Endangered lists are collections of at-risk historic properties in a given region compiled primarily to bring attention to the plight of the properties and the organizations involved in their preservation. These lists have been used by preservation organizations for many years to help draw attention to diminishing historic resources.

PAWV’s recently revitalized Endangered Properties Program was initiated more than two decades ago. Periodically over the last 25 years, the organization has sponsored an Endangered Properties List for West Virginia. With new properties accepted annually to the re-energized program, the Endangered List will help focus attention on the most pressing issues or significant resources in West Virginia.

PAWV Executive Director Karen Carper said in a press release that the 2009 list is diverse both geographically and architecturally. “We have a church, a school, two historic hotels, a theater, a bridge, a private home and a historic homeless shelter,” she said. Locations span the state from the northern panhandle to the southern coalfields, the Ohio River Valley to the Potomac Highlands.

The history of a poor farm in Tyler County reaches back to 1860, when Tyler County purchased a farm and operated a poor farm about a mile west of Middlebourne. This piece of property exchanged hands several times between private citizens and the county until in 1915, when the County purchased a 194 acre tract of land about 4 miles south of Middlebourne on Middle Island Creek. A contract for construction of a new County Home was soon awarded to T.O. Johnson and C.D. Jemison on the new property. The building was designed by S.W. Ford.

The County Home/Poor Farm operated from that time until 1951. In 1969 the Tyler County Fair Board moved its operations to the County Home site where it bought adjacent acreage. In 1981, the Fair Association leased the site for three years from the County.

Since 1981, the building has been used off and on by the County Fair board and County Office of Emergency Management. At present, the building is primarily used only for storage of old surplus equipment of the Fair Board and Office of Emergency Management.

The building remains the property of Tyler County. Lack of funds has prevented proper maintenance of the building and it has fallen into disrepair. Stone window sills and brick walls are beginning to crumble in places, porches and porch roofs are falling away from the building, and some roof leaks have developed threatening the original horsehair plaster walls inside.

Tyler Revitalization’s goal is to restore the building using modern technology and environmentally building techniques. Tuttle hopes the projects will help train local contractors in the new technologies.

“We’re thinking about the renovation of it using green and energy-efficient technologies and processes and use local contractors and bring in the manufacturers to provide training to the contractors in case they’re not familiar with these newer procedures,” explained Tuttle.

“The focus is retrofitting old businesses using green technology and materials, because we do have a lot of old buildings around here. It’s generally more cost efficient to restore an old building rather than tear it down and try to build a new one. If we can begin to adopt these new practices, we can help reduce future operating costs.”

For more information on PAWV’s Endangered Properties, visit www.pawv.org/endanger.htm.