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Clock Ticks on County Home’s Future

By Staff | Oct 21, 2015

Photo by Miles Layton Chris Hoke of Middlebourne, left, makes a plea to save the former County Home to the Tyler County Commissioners Eric Vincent, Charles Smith and John Stender.

The Tyler County Commission listened to a plea to preserve the county home for future generations.

Known to many as the “Poor Farm” there is discussion about demolishing the 100-year-old structure because commissioners contend that renovating the structure would be too expensive.

“I do not know what you plan to construct on that site, but whatever it is, I know it will not have the beauty and history of the Tyler County Home and Farm,” said Chris Hoke of Middlebourne while addressing commissioners during the Oct. 13 meeting. “Please let the renovation of the structure be the legacy of the three of you, and that you had the vision and foresight to preserve this part of Tyler County history.”

The commission has not made any concrete plans about what to do with the property. Commissioners approved a motion allowing preservationists more time to formulate a plan and locate funding resources.

“We’re in no rush to tear it down.” Commissioner Charles Smith said.

Smith said he has no problem with renovating the property, but the county can’t afford to make the necessary repairs. Smith, while seated at a wooden desk used by generations of commissioners, reminded folks of the needs of another historical building where the commission meetings and more take place; the Tyler County Courthouse.

Prior to the discussion about the county home, WYK Associates of Clarksburg introduced itself as a possible architect for any renovations the commission may be seeking for the courthouse. Based out of Clarksburg, the company has designed upgrades, renovations and more for historic buildings and courthouses in north central West Virginia.

The county home property includes the house and surrounding land. According to a release from the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, the home, also known as the “Poor Farm” or the “Poor House,” was built in 1915.

The property sits in the middle of the Tyler County Fair Grounds and was once a self-sufficient farm for indigent people, and operated as such until 1951. The 2009 Endangered Properties List, released annually by the Alliance, includes eight properties throughout the state considered at risk of being lost to decay and demolition.

Hoke presented the commission with a letter from Jennifer Negie of Tyler County that was written on behalf of concerned citizens who are interested in preserving the county home.

“Tearing down the structure destroys beautiful art,” the letter said. “Just in a few days, the majority of people that I have talked to about the building say ‘it’s is such a beautiful place. It is a shame it has gotten that bad.’ Not only is the building itself truly amazing, the history behind it should not be destroyed. Why, in a country full of people who can help people, would we want to erase a part of history that allowed those less fortunate to have a place to live, a place to work?”

Negie offered suggestions, such as making the building a museum that showcases various aspects of Tyler County, or possibly using the space as an art museum for school children. She mentioned utilizing the space as a bed and breakfast. or as a place where high school or college students could spend time.

“As a person who grew up here and has many good memories, please consider embracing something new for our citizens by saving something that has been right in front of us for years,”Negie wrote.

Commissioner John Stender said he is “tired of kicking the can” down the same road, and that it is important to do something about the property one way or the other. However, Stender noted, “We don’t have the money to fix it up.”

A point echoed by Smith.

“I’d like to see it renovated, but realistically we can’t do it – the money is not there,” he said.

“We’re in no rush to tear it down,” Commissioner Charles Smith said.