Keeping history alive through adaptive reuse

     Why is our past so important? The American Historical Association compares history to personal memory: "Without individual memory, a person literally loses his or her identity, and would not know how to act in encounters with others." 
     It is important that we as a region hold on to our collective memory, our ability to piece together the stories of our community. We are here, lucky enough to be sharing this time and space together, because of the decisions made, the chances risked, and the risks taken by the generations that came before us. There is so much to learn from their triumphs and equally, from their downfalls.
     In the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, we are preserving bits and pieces of our region's history and heritage. Read below to find out about a recent project, and contact us to get involved!
A Future for the Delmonte Hotel
By Dustin Smith
AFHA Heritage AmeriCorps Member
The historic Delmonte Hotel in Elkins, WV is now home to multiple vendors selling seasonal crafts, decorations, and jewelry.
     Famed architect Frank Gehry once said, "In the end, the character of a civilization is encased in its structures." As someone who aspires to work in the field of historic preservation, these words have special significance to me. There are many practical reasons to preserve the older buildings within a community. Since fewer materials are needed, labor is the largest cost in preservation projects, which is typically sourced locally and helps to stimulate local economy. Additionally, reusing historic buildings helps to reduce waste and is more environmentally efficient than new construction. Also, buildings included in the National Register of Historic Places typically have higher value than similar, non-designated buildings.
     However, aside from the practical reasons, there are the aesthetic reasons to keep unique and locally significant buildings viable. The Delmonte Hotel, a historic building in downtown Elkins, WV, is a perfect example. The building was constructed in 1899, and served as lodging for railroad crews and lower-income passengers. It originally included a ground floor restaurant and washhouse. Today, it is a building that holds great potential to for adaptive reuse because of its unique Italianate architecture and favorable location near the Elkins rail yard. Many members of the community have expressed to me that they remember going to it when it served as a restaurant, and that they hope to see it used again. This potential is what motivated me to serve with the Woodlands Development Group and strive to make the Delmonte a successful location again.
Renovation of the Delmonte Hotel has been going on for several years, and tremendous progress has been made recently. Just earlier this year, AmeriCorps members removed the old floor to make way for new concrete. 
     As a result, the Woodlands Development Group and I have been busy implementing a market area to provide space for 10 vendors to sell their products. It is our goal to help small businesses to grow, and to generate interest in the Delmonte. This project has been very exciting for me because I have been given the bulk of the responsibilities, and it has allowed me to develop many professional skills. In addition, it has given me the opportunity to meet many people in the community. I can not adequately express my gratitude to those who have given their time to answer my questions, provide suggestions, and to share information about the Delmonte Market.  
     Thanks to community enthusiasm, I have also grown eager to see this project come to fruition. The Delmonte Market will be in operation from November 13th – December 15th, Wednesday-Sunday, 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Products that will be sold include: floral arrangements, Christmas trees, jewelry, soy candles, Christmas decorations, the work of various local artists, and more. By operating during the holiday season, we feel that we will create a profitable environment for our vendors and will gain a more comprehensive perspective of how we will operate when we reopen in the spring.
Keeping History Near and Dear:
Attend West Virginia History Day!
AFHA was represented at West Virginia History Day in 2013, and will be again in 2014. We hope to see you there!
     The Eighteenth Annual West Virginia History Day is just around the corner, and the time to register is now! All applications for display space are due by January 22nd, 2014, and the event will take place shortly after on Thursday, February 13th at the West Virginia State Capitol Complex. West Virginia History Day is officially designated by the West Virginia Archives and History Commission as a special day to recognize the state’s rich history. 
     Also: don't forget to nominate your favorite local history supporter by December 31st for a History Hero Award. Recipients of this award are given statewide public recognition for their grassroots efforts and dedicated behind-the-scenes work.

Experience the heritage of your area! Sites of the Month spotlights events and locations within the region, based on AFHA's four themes: forestry, history, culture, and nature.
Rothkugel Plantation represents one of the first instances of modern forestry in West Virginia. In 1907 Austrian-born forester Max Rothkugel seeded an experimental plantation on cut-over land on the site. He planted Norway spruce, European larch, and black locust. Today, despite successive fires, many of Rothkugel's trees survive and are over 100 years old. The plantation is marked by an interpretive sign at the hiking trail entrance, just outside of Bartow along WV 28. Plans for an improved trail are in progress for the spring of 2014.
McCoy Fort in Greenbrier County was constructed by the William McCoy Family around 1770. The log frontier fort was one of multiple strongholds developed by settlers in the 18th century. Thought to be lost to history, the fort was rediscovered in 2003 inside of a later-constructed barn. Since then, the site has undergone deconstruction and an archaeological dig. Reconstruction of the fort will take several more years. Contact the Williamsburg District Historical Foundation to learn more or to get involved.
Buxton & Landstreet Gallery & Studios serves as a lighthouse and showcase for regional fine art and artisans from Appalachia. The gallery, located just outside of Thomas, WV, features furniture, glassware, jewelry, ceramics, textiles and much more. Studio space is available for working artists, as well as workshops and custom classes for those who would like to learn a new skill. The building is open Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Yankauer Nature Preserve is a small preserve in Berkeley County, WV, consisting of 104 acres owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society. Open to the public during daylight hours, visitors can enjoy about two miles of easy walking trails, including interpretive signs and a wheelchair accessible loop. The preserve features a section of wooded, high limestone bluffs that overlook the Potomac River. Home to at least 105 different species of plants and a great variety of birds, Yankauer also serves as a field laboratory for children's educational programs hosted by the Audubon Society.

Do you have a suggestion for Sites of the Month? Email us at: and let us know your favorite sites throughout AFHA!
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