Preserving WV's Historic Buildings: Woodlawn Cemetery - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Preserving WV's Historic Buildings: Woodlawn Cemetery

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FAIRMONT - The historic Woodlawn Cemetery in Fairmont is the final resting place of thousands of people, including the 'Father of West Virginia', Francis Pierpont.

"We have his wife Julia Augusta Robertson Pierpont who is considered the founder of Memorial Day, at least regionally," said Gena Wagaman, Woodlawn Cemetery Superintendent. "We have Boaz Fleming who founded Fairmont. We have James Otis Watson who is our first coal barren."

The Woodlawn Cemetery Chapel and Supervisor's Residence is a substantial brick four-square house near the entrance of the cemetery.

It was built in 1928, and was quite the sight.

"The front two rooms were where you held the funerals and then we have the cemetery office in this back room, and the caretaker actually lived upstairs," said Wagaman.

But as the years went on, this beautiful building slowly transformed into this one.

A large hole in the roof damaged interior plaster, wooden floors, and framing.

The community reached out to the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and it was placed on the Endangered List in 2011.

"We help them seek funding, we help them seek tax credits, we help them with National Register nominations, I teach hazards materials handling. We do a whole different raft of things to try and help these people," said Lynn Stasick, the Statewide Field Services Representative.

Woodlawn Cemetery and the Preservation Alliance are working together to bring the building back to life.

"We need to stabilize the exterior and then next would come the windows and the doors. Then the interior rehab. There are some structural issues that need to be addressed," Stasick said.

It's not going to happen overnight, but there are plans for its future.

"What we would like to use it for here at the cemetery is a genealogical and historic research facility, possible classroom use with both Fairmont State and Pierpont, a possible climate controlled archival repository," Wagaman said.

The revitalization is going to take a lot of money, grants, and time.

So why not just tear it down and put something else in its place?

"There's a certain joy in seeing the building come back. To know we have preserved history for future generations, because that's what it's all about," said Stasick. "If there is nothing there for our children's children to see, what are they going to understand?"