MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Multiple north-central West Virginia organizations were awarded achievement awards from the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia on Monday.
The Preservation Alliance is a statewide nonprofit dedicated to historic preservation. It is a grassroots organization that began in 1982. It also administers the Preserve West Virginia Americorp Program, which has roughly 25 Americorp members around the state that do different projects for community development and community revitalization, as well as helping build the capacity of nonprofits. Their goal is to try to work to save historic buildings for new purposes, consistent purposes, and make them relevant to what’s going on today.
The Preservation Alliance has awarded the Rodney Collins Preservation Achievement Award to the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center based at West Virginia University and Marshall University.
The agency is being recognized for its continued efforts to restore and preserve historic buildings throughout the state. Patrick Kirby, the director of the Brownfield Center, said he was happy to receive the award and to have all the work that they do acknowledged.
“To get the Rodney Collins Achievement Award was a huge morale booster as we work on projects across the state and to get that recognition that working on old buildings and reusing them and that they would be valuable to somebody else,” Kirby said. “I mean we were just trying to help out those communities and then it’s just nice sometimes when most of the time we’re in the background working on some kind of hazardous materials or some of the old things that need to be addressed at the site. For the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia to say thank you is pretty cool.”
Danielle Parker, the executive director of the Preservation Alliance, said the Brownfields Center is “an amazing agency” that does a lot of work and that is why they deserved to be awarded. She too acknowledged that much of the work the agency does is behind the scenes, but reiterated how valuable it is nonetheless.
Many of the projects the agency works on may not be thought of as brownfields, but they are all underutilized, Kirby said. Many have asbestos, led based paint, or maybe they have sat vacant for too long and mold has accumulated in them.
“People don’t realize that they are involved in so many things and that brownfields and historical buildings go hand in hand because in old buildings they used materials that we now identify as being really hazardous to our health,” Campbell said. “It just shows how important their agency is and how forward-thinking they are and just that they’re excellent partners to have, so we wanted to recognize their work and encourage them to continue doing so.”
The agency is currently involved with the restoration project of the Historic Post Office in downtown Morgantown, Kirby said. The building currently houses the Morgantown Museum, the Monongalia County Arts Center and the Your Community Foundation in the annex.
The Brownfields Center is working with these organizations to bring the building into the 21st century, where people can enjoy arts, culture and so much more, Kirby said. Again, that is just one project, in one part of the state his agency is working on, he added.
“Even locally, we worked on the historic Woodburn School that’s now a community center,” Kirby said. “We’re involved in the collaboration to figure out the reuse, to turn that into a nonprofit center; as well as the former first Zion Baptist Church, a historic black Baptist church in Harpers Ferry; as well as the YMCA building in Fairmont that we’ve saved from being torn down and it’s going to be reused hopefully into a cooperative workspace, as well as a number of cool things; as well as the — there are a lot of YMCA buildings and former Odd Fellows buildings.”
One of the other projects of note, Kirby said, is helping to transform an old masonic temple and lodge into a boutique hotel in downtown Fairmont.
All of these projects and future endeavors the agency will undertake are the reason why they are being awarded this year, Parker said.
“The Brownfield Center is just an amazing partner and collaborative partner that really cares about what’s going on in the state and making it a great place to live,” Parker said.
The Prickett’s Fort Memorial Foundation also received the 2020 Heritage Tourism Award for being a model heritage tourism site in the mountain state, as a part of the 2020 West Virginia Historic Preservation Awards.
This year was the first year that Prickett’s Fort State Park has been honored with this award. Executive Director of the Marion County CVB Liesha Elliot, nominated the foundation without any hesitation.
“I am so glad that they won this award. They do so well with the programs here, and highlighting the history at the state park. I’m just so happy for them for getting this, and it is well deserved.”Liesha Elliot, Executive Director Marion County CVB
The Memorial Foundation at the state park is explicitly recognized for its free history programming and historic arts workshops. Executive Director Greg Bray said they try to make as many programs open to the public and child friendly as possible. The most important thing is teaching people, from all over the country, about the rich history of the state of West Virginia.
“It’s always good to be honored for things that we’ve done here at the park. When I became director in 2012, that was one of my main focuses to change the programming here, and my first year in we added about 57% more programming here at the park,” said Bray. “This year things have been moving slow, but we have all our events already on the calendar for next year, and we’re going to see if we can get as much done as possible.”
COVID-19 has effected many of the foundation’s programs at Prickett’s Fort State Park in 2020 but are giving out tours daily, and they will have things coming up in December, including their Christmas tours. For more information, visit their website.