By Tina Alvey
Civic leaders in Greenbrier County are wasting no time in seeking grant funding to help save two historic sites added this year to the West Virginia Endangered Properties List.
Among the sites named to the list which was announced during a Charleston press conference Feb. 20 were the Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion and the “Westly,” a Sears kit house that is currently owned by the county.
The properties are among five added to the list by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia because they were adjudged to be at risk by demolition, neglect or inappropriate development.
Located approximately 9 miles north of Alderson in a cattle pasture surrounded by mountains, the Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion, or springhouse, was constructed in 1845. The Greek Revival structure was the heart of a mid-19th century resort complex at the springs, where Dr. Alexis Martin was the resident physician.
According to the Preservation Alliance, Dr. Martin administered the first mud baths in the United States at the resort.
The pavilion and former resort also served as a bivouac and hospital for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War before the resort was burned by Union troops.
The deteriorating pavilion is the only structure remaining of the once-fashionable resort. The Greenbrier Historical Society is working with the current owner to obtain ownership of the pavilion and some surrounding acreage, with plans to develop the site for heritage tourism.
A first step toward restoring the pavilion has already been taken, as the state Division of Culture and History has awarded a planning grant for the project, according to Margaret Hambrick, who delivered a brief report to the Greenbrier County Commission Tuesday evening.
The youngest of the newly-listed endangered sites is the “Westly,” a Sears kit house located in the Lewisburg Historic District between the Greenbrier County Courthouse and the Governor Price House.
The Westly was one of the most popular kit homes sold through the Sears, Roebuck and Co. mail-order catalogs in the early 20th century and was made available to residents in Lewisburg with the expansion of the railroad from 1905-1907.
All Sears kit homes were delivered in more than 10,000 labeled pieces with assembly instructions. The original owner of the Westly that is located next to the courthouse purchased and assembled the home himself in 1924.
The Greenbrier County Commission purchased the house in 1941 and used it as the office for the West Virginia University Extension Service. In recent years, the building has been vacant and is now in need of repairs and a cosmetic lift.
The site was nominated for the endangered list by the Lewisburg Historic Landmarks Commission and the Lewisburg Preservation Alliance.
On Tuesday, the county’s arts and recreation director, Roy Grimes, requested and received a letter of support from the county commission for a grant application to pay for such items as a new roof and windows, along with paint for the house.
Grimes said he hopes the structure can eventually be used to house his department, but noted it would first have to be made accessible to people with disabilities.
According to County Commissioner Michael McClung, the house is structurally sound and even boasts a dry basement.
Other sites added to the Endangered Properties List this year were the Abruzzino Mansion in Shinnston (Harrison County), the Ananias Pitsenbarger Farm in Franklin (Pendleton County) and the Historic Second Presbyterian Church in Wheeling’s Center Market Square Historic District (Ohio County).
All five sites chosen for the 2013 list are either eligible to be or are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and have a preservation emergency with local support for a reuse project.
The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s field representative, Lynn Stasick, works directly with local residents who are involved in the effort to save and re-purpose the endangered sites. Stasick provides such assistance as structural needs assessments, preservation expertise, capacity building and advocacy.
To follow the fate of Endangered List properties, look for updates in the “Saving Sites” section on the PAWV website at www.pawv.org. More information about listed sites and nomination forms for next year’s Endangered Properties List are available at www.pawv.org/endanger.htm.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org