Posts Tagged With: Barbour County

The Joy of CreatingCommunity Art

When I graduated from college with a degree in art, I never thought that I would be a public art advocate or a muralist. Of course, I never thought I would be on TV or an AmeriCorps Service Member either. Today working on community art projects is one of the things that gives me the most joy.

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AmeriCorps Volunteer murals start to appear in the windows of the Golden Rule Building, Belington, WV

Art has always been a passion of mine but taking my skills to the size and scale of murals to be displayed in public spaces is new. I have always used art as a tool for my personal  expression, never thinking about doing art for the public. Now as a mature artist, I am sharing the feelings and passions of communities, programs, and groups of people. The change is fundamentally new to my understanding of what it means to create and to be a creator. I see my work now as a tool for positive change in a community. A gift that will have lasting effects in many of the small rural towns where I live and work.

 

Over the last month, two more quilt panels that I was the project manager for and head artist have been installed, 6 window murals have been installed that I helped to create with volunteers, and the beginnings of an office mural, that I am personally painting, is ready for paint application. I am also on the board of an Art organization called Mountain Arts District that is in the process of installing a collection of student art work  in a city park in June. It is over whelming when I stop and look at the amount of people and projects that have passed through my life in the last 3 years.  Yet, this is not my main job and I only do what I can for non-profits who rarely have the funds to pay for such projects. I am doing most of this work as a part of my AmeriCorps service but also as an educational experience to those around me. Public art is a niche skill just like any other field and the leaders of our communities rarely understand or feel comfortable talking with arts, I aim to change that.

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line drawing on the wall of my new office Barbour County Development Authority, Philippi, WV

 

I often paint with non-artist volunteers and spend much of my time helping and teaching interested community members skills that they can use to make community art themselves. It is a joy to share in the process of watching an idea come to life, then see people learning to make art, then watch the pride that comes to their faces when they walk through a downtown seeing art that they have helped to make. It is sometimes the only real change that they can point to and say “I did that” in their community.

Community art is best when people who live and love a place take part in the creation of their culture. That could mean painting murals,  taking part in community dances, attending festivals of live music or creation of community gardens. It is when people begin to see that they have the power to create positive change that things begin to thrive.

Even if I never planned to be doing this kind of work and I am surprised everyday that I get paid to create these images, I am thankful to AmeriCorps for allowing me to share my skills.I am fortunate to work at sites that have allowed me the time away from the “office” to work on these up lifting projects and I will have the best memories of my service time.  It is my final wish that as I leave AmeriCorps next spring that I can continue to make a difference in my community with art in some way. I know that it has changed me for the better and I hope it is always part of who I am.

instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017

installation of one of the 8 panels I helped to create for the Elkins Main Street project 2017

 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Art, Barbour County, Community Art, Elkins Main Street, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

History Lives at Adaland Mansion, Philippi,WV.

I was recently invited to have a lunch date with some friends and co-workers at   Adaland a Victorian mansion high on a hill in Barbour County, West Virginia. The historic register mansion is a pre-civil war home, built-in 1870, that has been restored and is now open to the public. The Adaland Mansion received its name when Federal Judge Ira E. Robinson bought the home in the 1920’s and renamed the property after his beloved wife Ada Sinsel. It is in her honor that the home has become one of the regions most loved locations for weddings and fine events.

front veiw of Adaland Manison

Front view of Adaland Mansion

Adaland Mansion Philippi WV backside

Rear entry area of Adaland Mansion

 

 

The 13 volunteer caretakers of the home and acreage offer seasonal home tours, high tea’s, theater performance and lunch buffet to tour guests and families who rent the home and pavilion for special events.  The home’s history is long and well documented. Even at one time-serving as a coal mine superintendent’s home and engineering office. Anker Energy company was the last owner of the property before donation to the City of Philippi in 1996. At that time, the house was ready to be razed, the barn had collapsed, the land was overgrown and the farm was generally forgotten.It took a dedicated group of volunteers to begin the restoration of the home and do the fund-raising necessary for the project.

volunteers at Adaland Mansion

Susie and Karen two of the many volunteers in dinning area of Adaland Mansion.

I was taken back by the quality of the restoration and the amazing luck that most of the historic detail of the home had remained.The black walnut trim and paneling in the house are original and were produced on the farm.The bricks from the house were also formed and fired at the farm property. The furnishings are mostly donated from the local community and the decor was researched and replaced to the correct time period and installation method.  The experience is time traveling back to a more elegant and formal way of life. The home originally housed servants (at least three at a time) and has servants quarters and an additional  kitchen in the basement. Adaland was also a way-station for travelers so the house plans included a bedroom just for them, with a separate entrance for people traveling the Staunton-Parkersburg turnpike near Philippi.  Here a rider could get out of the cold, get a hot meal and sleep in safety while in one of the mansion’s bedrooms. There is also a large and grand lawyers office next to the travelers room, both are on the main floor and I wondered how many times the Judges clients traveled from all over the state to see him and stayed in the little room next door to his office. The office holds many of the books and documents that Judge Robinson used while serving the people of West Virginia.

Servent stairs and travelers door way Adaland Mansion

second story porch with servants staircase and travelers room door on porch with on interior access to the family

Law office of Federal Judge Ira E Robinson

Judge Ira E. Robinson’s office Adaland Mansion

 

We eat a lovely meal that I wished I had photographed, but it was just plain rude to take photos at the table while we enjoyed the company of friends and co-workers. The meal included a garden salad,  BB-Q pulled pork, roasted chicken, home-made bread, corn, bake beans, mix vegetables, boiled potatoes and  desert of many kinds. I chose a serving of peach cobbler with whipped cream. It was wonderful, fresh and homemade in the kitchen of the house.

lunch at Adaland Manison

lunch served in dinning room of Adaland Mansion. All food is homemade in the kitchen in the rear of photo.

buffet in dinning room of Adaland Manison

flowers on buffet in front room of Adaland Mansion converted to seating for luncheon.

Our tour shared lots of information about the families who lived and died on the farm over the century. There is a small cemetery on the property,and barn that is open to visitors. The barn also hosts historical demonstrations of trades that took  place in the early 1900’s when events are held.Visitors are also encouraged to explore the 22 acres that the house still sits on today.

Barns of Adaland Mansion from house

barn and shed below Adaland Mansion

The outdoor pavilion is a new addition to the property and is the main location for weddings and family events during the summer months. Making Adaland a perfect location for large groups and a place where a bride and groom can stay away from the hectic pace of town and sleep in historic bedrooms before, during and after a wedding.

 

 

I hope to return to Adaland over the summer to see one of their Murder Mystery Dinners. Events sell out quickly and reservations are needed to have a meal at an event. Their website includes an event calender for the full year so visitors have pleanty of time to stop in. It was wonderful to stop my hecktec day and slow down to relax and enjoy this very unique home. I hope you enjoy a visit too.

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Building rehabilitation, Cemetaries, historic locations, history, Home, museums, Nonprofit, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Part # 1 The Rehabilitation of the Golden Rule Building, Belington W.V. Begin’s.

In the small town of Belington, West Virginia stands a 116 year old building that is reminiscent of West Virginia’s heyday of coal and the money it once brought to Barbour County. The Golden Rule building owned by the Shinn family was built to serve the local community as a grocery store and later a furniture store. 70 years later with the closer of several coal mines, decline of the population and the loss of jobs, the 3 story building fell on hard times just like the community where it stands. Left to decay and become an abandoned storage building the Golden Rule’s future was questionable.  In 2014 the historic building, having one of the only water powered elevators in North America, was listed as an endangered property by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. It took another 4 years for things to change for the future of the Golden Rule.

Golden Rule Belington Wv

1902 Golden Rule Building Belington West Virginia

Golden Rule elevator gears Preservation aliance of WV

Water powered elevator pulles in basment of the Golden Rule. photo use with permission of the PAWV.

As the building name implies, The golden rule,“Do on to others as you wish them to do unto you” the Woodlands Development Group of Elkins, West Virginia is taking on the challenge of bringing the structure back from abandoned and returning it to usefulness. In March of 2018 the building officially changed ownership and the slow work of rehabilitation began. With use of historic tax credits, forgivable loans and grant money, the plan includes converting the upper two floors of the building to 10, one and two bedroom apartments with at retail space on the first floor. The ground-floor space will have the Durbin& Greenbrier Vally Railroad ticket booth, a small museum space and an artist market and coffee bar. The additional building on the property is planned to house a community space with a working kitchen and outdoor seating. Woodlands Development Group is working in partnership with the Belington Revitalization Committee and The Barbour County Development Authority to meet the needs of their community with quality housing and new jobs within the building itself.

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messages and images similar to these will appear in the Golden Rules windows. These appeared in store front windows in White Sulphur Springs, W.V after their down town was flooded in 2016.

The first stages of change that community will see are the boards going into the window spaces in the upper levels of the building. The boards will be painted with brightly colored images and inspirational sayings to help residents visualize that positive change is happening. The other less obvious change is the clean-up of the interior of the building. Loads of trash and recyclable items have been left all though the building and must be removed before any serious construction can begin.

barral with mop at Golden Rule

mixed recyclable items with trash and barrel inside the Golden Rule.

With some of the items left behind the partners hope to have a fundraiser for the rehabilitation of the building. I have been asked to help create Golden Rule commemorative plate with an image of the building on some of the stoneware plates you see below. What was once trash will be sold in commemoration of the building and its return to usefulness.

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bottles and plates found in the basement of the Golden Rule. This plates will be decorated with a decal to commemorate the rehabilitation of the building 

As often is the case, the previous owners of the Golden Rule have just walked away, leaving some else to clean up the mess. It will take months of AmeriCorps service hours to clean, sort, recycle or reuse the buildings contents but in some way it is all a sign of positive change for everyone involved.

empty shoe boxes at Golden Rule

Empty boxes line the shelves of the sales floor of the Golden Rule Building. 

The project is expected to take around 3 to 4 years to complete with completion of the community building taking a little longer. Today I watched as AmeriCorps members removed the arched windows of the front of the building so that they could be repaired. It is just a small step towards the final goal of seeing this building being a vital part of the downtown of Belington, West Virginia once again.

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, antiques, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Building rehabilitation, Collector Plates, Golden Rule, historic locations, history, mythology, Time Capsule, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Victorian Era Mummies in West Virginia

This is a story of one West Virginia mans curious mind. How he managed to develop a formula for making mummies and how he refused to give his secret formula away for years.How his experiments resulted in two mummified females from the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (also known as the TALA in Weston, Lewis County, WV) and how they have survived for over 120 years.

Image being alive during the Victorian Period (1837 to 1901) in the United States. Interest in all the sciences was growing and new discoveries were happening in every field. The interest in Egyptian culture and mummies is fueled by the discovery of the Pharaoh  Ramses II  in 1881. People are collecting relics of everything human, bones, teeth, hair and death masks were all common.Ordinary people are struck with deep curiosity about our world and how it worked.P.T. Barnum was touring the country with a spectacular collection of wild animals, strange entertainment acts, and items collected from around the world. Sideshows traveled small towns with strange examples of natural oddities that everyone could see for a few cents.So for one farmer/undertaker is was a wonderful time to explore his own curiosity about Egypt and their mummies.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia built 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

Graham Hamrick of Philippi, WV was not only a farmer but also a local undertaker. In his life he was educated in common burial processes and use of embalming fluids. He found the process of mummification interesting and wanted to learn more. It is stated that he found his formula with in the pages of the Bible somewhere among the pages of The Book of Genesis. With a secret formula in hand, Hamrick gathered materials and began to experiment with the process. Hamrick is said to have mummified fruit, vegetables, small animals and snakes before the trying to mummify a human.

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Female Mummy #1 taller of the two

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Philippi Mummy #2 smaller of the two

To mummify a human Hamrick  would need human remains to prove his secret formula worked. Living with in a day ride to Weston, and the TALA, Hamrick  arranged for the purchase of two sets of unclaimed female remains at the insane asylum. This fact makes me sad for the two woman, who were forgotten by families, sold to a farmer and mummified instead of having proper burials. After transporting the remains to his farm Hamrick began the process of turning the remains into mummies.  crop of TALA front lawn on Easter

At the time the process is thought to have taken several weeks but no one was really sure how long. When Hamricks process finished and the results were visible, he had created what resembled Egyptian mummies.He began to share his successes with others in the local area and beyond.

Eventually, he was contacted by the Smithsonian Institute, who wanted to add the mummies to the museum’s collection and display them to the public with the formula he invented. The farmer refused to share the formula even though he had sent in the process into the U.S. Patent office.The mummies remained in Barbour county until they were recruited by P.T. Barnum’s for  his circus shows. The Mummies spent several years touring the United States during the end of the 1800’s.

Finally, they were returned to Barbour County and the Hamrick family. They stored the bodies in several different places over the years, in the barn on the farm, under the bed of a local history buff. Then in 1985 the two female mummies even survived the worst flood in North Central West Virginia.

 James Ramsey, an 82-year-old museum curator, explained in 1994: “After the flood dropped, they were covered with green fungus and all kind of corruption. [A man] secured some kind of a mixture that would get the green mold off them and also the hairs that were growing on them.”

The mummies would finally come to rest in the Philippi Historical Societies hands and be displayed at the Train Depot Museum,where they still remain to this day. They have the mummies displayed with the “Secret Formula” posted on the wall of the display room.

 

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Philippi, WV Train Depot Historical Society Museum

 

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Graham Hamrick information and formula

The Historical Society also was able to get a copy of a letter written by one of the ladies  before her death at the Tran Allegheny Insane Asylum. The transcription of the letter is sad. It is hard for me to believe this young woman (age around 17) would be left and forgotten by a husband and family. Yet,it gives us great insight into the world of the mentally ill in the 19th century.

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Transcription of a letter from mummified woman to family 1880’s

I found the whole experience to the Depot Museum  wonderful. The other objects in the collection are educational also. Most dating back to the civil war era and the stories of the battles that filled the hills of this town are worth their own trip to the museum. Philippi  being the location of the first land battle of the Civil War makes the entire town a treasure trove of stories for further visits.

If you are lucky enough to be traveling in the north central portion of West Virginia. Take Rt #250 through the historic covered bridge into Philippi to see the Mummies. The museum is on the right just across the river next to the train tracks. Pay the small donation fee and take a look at one the little Mummies that Philippi made.

I saw the Mummies in Philippi WV.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Country life, Farming, ghost stories, historic locations, mummies, museums, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

AFHA AmeriCorps, Who We Are, What We Do, Who We Serve.

My friends and I  in AmeriCorps serve my state in so many ways I thought I would let you explore some of the interesting things about, “Who We Are, What We Do, and Who We Serve in the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area in collaboration with AmeriCorps.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

The Appalachian Forest Heritage Area is a regional initiative to promote, conserve and educate the public about our Appalachian heritage sites and forests within West Virginia and western Maryland. We work on a variety of community projects relating to heritage development,conservation,historic preservation and economic revitalization. AFHA AmeriCorps is funded in part by Volunteer West Virginia and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Each year our regional AFHA AmeriCorps service members have a meeting with some of the community members we serve. AFHA,held its Annual Stakeholders Meeting in May in the small town of Philippi, in Barbour County, West Virginia. Philippi is a town of about 2900 people with a rich history that centers around the Civil War and its role as the location of the first land battle of the war.

panorama of Downtown Philippi West Virginia... Wikipedia

Panorama of downtown Philippi, West Virginia… Wikipedia

During these meetings we share information about the projects we are working on within the communities we serve. We give community leaders information about what we really achieve while spending our year with them as service members. It was stated at the annual meeting, by Alison Thornton, Assistant to the Director of AFHA, that “a total of 920 community volunteers who serve in 16 counties have put in 10,076 Appalachian Forest Heritage Area service hours so far this year, with 44,683 beneficiaries of our work. Thrity eight service members have improved or treated 643.60 acres of public land with in our counties and AmeriCorps has over all  39,775.75 hours of service this year.” The impact of those 10,076 hours have in West Virginia is huge. Making the time AHFA members serve worth more than $150,000.00 in  man-hours to our state economy for the first half of the fiscal year.

Many of the positions that AFHA AmeriCorps fill are tough physical jobs in very isolated locations making their positions hard to fill. My fellow members work with the Forest Service and other conservation agencies repairing trails, clearing invasive species and fighting forest fires. Some members spend time working with the Arts, in tourism, and at historic locations doing preservation and giving tours. Some serve in rural communities working on economic revitalization.Some spend only a few hours a month in their office, instead working at construction and demolition sites, where  buildings are being redeveloped and updated. Yet, we all serve with this motto in mind “Getting Things Done.”

So when you get us all together it is a wonderful educational opportunity not only for the public but for us as members also. We see and hear about other members projects and the impact they are making for the better. We hear from speakers, who like us, are trying to make a difference in their area of expertise.We are also encouraged to explore the communities where we serve to get a deeper understanding of the area’s history and needs.

AFHA AmeriCorps members listing to Barbour County Circuit Clerk explaining about community history and the courthouse.

AFHA AmeriCorps members listing to Barbour County Circuit Clerk explaining about community history and the courthouse.

This by far is the most important part of our meetings from a member standpoint. We talk with local leaders about the successes and failures of our program. We see first hand what our service is doing in these communities. It is a time to see that our efforts are real and tangible.So with cooperation from the city of Philippi we were able to tour the town, see historical locations and see some of the physical evidence of our work. It gives all of us a chance to understand the area where we serve better and leaves each of us with a feeling of pride as we share in each other’s positive impact.

AmeriCorps listen to Dustin from Woodlands Development Group about redevelopment work done on the Sunnyside building with the help of AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps listen to Dustin Smith from Woodlands Development Group about redevelopment work done on the Sunshine building with the help of AmeriCorps.

Alex Thomas discusses the challanges of historic Preservation and redevelopment of the Sunnyside building with another AmeriCorps member

Alex Thomas discusses the challenges of historic preservation and redevelopment of the Sunshine building with another AmeriCorps member.

Alex Thomas serves as a AFHA AmeriCorps project manager for Woodlands Development Group  ( a local non-profit housing developer) on this main street building in Philippi. The building was almost a total loss for redevelopment in a town of this size but with many community groups working together and funding coming from grants the future looks brighter for this building. When finished the building will have retail space and two modern upstairs apartments for people who work in the downtown area. It is this collaboration between local officials, AmeriCorps service members,non-profits, the State and Federal Government that we begin to see what is possible. Every AmeriCorps wants to be part of the solution for our communities problems.

Store Front of Sunshine building before repairs begin

Store Front of Sunshine building before repairs begin photo courtesy of Alex Thomas

Hands on crew members inside the Sunshine building doing restoration work to the punched tin ceiling

Hands on crew members inside the Sunshine building doing restoration work to the punched tin ceiling photo courtesy of Alex Thomas

In the end AFHA and AmeriCorps is all about the people and communities we serve. In Philippi we were lucky to have the opportunity to see one of the largest covered bridges still in use in the United States. Seeing the bridges long historic arches puts all of our efforts into perspective about what is important about this region and its history. We serve as AFHA AmeriCorps to remind the world that we have a proud and long history that deserves to be protected, preserved, developed and cherished. As AmeriCorps members we make a difference in little communities just like this one all over West Virginia, so that the future of this region will be brighter, our communities will be stronger and our history will never be lost.

Barbour County, West Virginia, Philippi Covered Bridge

Barbour County, West Virginia, Philippi Covered Bridge 2016

It is my pleasure to serve the people as an AFHA AmeriCorps in rural West Virginia!! For more information about AmeriCorps and where they serve follow this link, National Service AmeriCorps, or visit http://www.appalachianforest.us/americorps.htm, and think about joining us.

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Americorp logo

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Civil War, community service, Friendship, historic locations, Nonprofit, rural life, Travel, West Virginia, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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