Why am I such a historic preservation advocate? Sure, my dad liked old houses...is that kind of thing passed down? Is it because I grew up in the Commonwealth of Virginia, surrounded by the homes of our founding fathers? That could be it. Or, maybe I am an uber-nerd who thinks it’s cool to save old buildings, not just ones associated with larger-than-life historic figures, but the shotguns, shanty towns, and mill villages of working class Americans, too. Yep, that’s it.
When I received an email from the WVU Public History list-serve about AFHA, I had to learn more; enter calm, cool, and collected Phyllis Baxter, program director. After getting the low-down on AFHA from Phyllis, I knew it was for me. It would allow me to continue public service while bringing me back to grass-roots preservation work. I can only speak for myself, but voluminous reports piled high on one’s desk don’t quite evoke a warm n' fuzzy feeling like a well-oiled community-led restoration effort that brings life to a neglected resource (yep, I know, nerd).
Although initially a bit overwhelming, my assignments are providing great opportunities to learn about West Virginia’s history and to work with other AFHA–ers. I’m most excited about a potential rehabilitation of the ca.1841 Beverly Jail. I have surveyed the building, photo-documented it, and completed a site assessment and preservation proposal. So now, the burning question that’s on every preservationist's mind: how are we going to pay for this? Stay tuned!