Thursday, November 10, 2011

Revisiting the Most Endangered Sites in Virginia

Pocahontas Fuel Company Store

This is the first blog article in a series of articles that will provide updates on sites previously listed to Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered Sites list.

Each year, scores of historic resources are lost due to demolition, alteration, inappropriate development, insufficient funding or neglect. One way to bring attention to these resources is endangered sites programs. Many statewide historic preservation organizations, as well as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have endangered sites programs to raise awareness and help save historic resources.

Preservation Virginia has had a Most Endangered Sites in Virginia Program since 2005. Previously the Preservation Alliance of Virginia had an endangered sites program in 2000 and 2002. The program has helped bring attention to a variety of Virginia’s historic resources including antebellum mansions, battlefields, forts, mills, churches, schools, archaeological sites, rural places, cemeteries and entire towns. But what happens after a historic resource is listed?

Unfortunately, in some instances, after the dust settles, the bulldozers are called in; however, this is not always the case and many of our listed historic sites end up stabilized and protected. Some of our listings seem to take an in-between route, for example, the 1880s Pocahontas Fuel Company Store, which was listed in 2005 on Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered Sites List.

The Pocahontas Fuel Company Store was opened in 1883 by the Southwest Virginia Improvement Company to supply food, tools and necessities for the coal miners working in the Pocahontas Mine. The mine is now a National Historic Landmark and includes an exhibit and museum.

The town of Pocahontas, located in Tazewell County, is a vital part of Virginia’s Coal Heritage Trail, and is where the region's coal boom got its start, partially due to a spur line that launched the Norfolk and Western Railroad into national prominence during the 1880s. Also located in Pocahontas is the Pocahontas Cemetery, which contains a mass grave of coal miners who were killed in a mine explosion in 1884.

Over the years, the Pocahontas Fuel Company Store has sustained significant damage from storms and neglect. In 2007, the roof collapsed and left only an intact front façade.

Tom Childress, of Historic Pocahontas Inc., said that after the roof collapsed volunteers helped clean out debris and saved as much of the original and usable wood as possible.

Childress also stated that although it is not yet known, the Town of Pocahontas may be able to utilize a Community Development Block Grant to stabilize and repair the store’s façade, as well as stabilize four other downtown facades built of cast-iron. Plans also exist to possibly reuse the original façade of the Company Store for construction of a new restaurant.

Many people in Pocahontas, including Historic Pocahontas Incorporated, agree that the store’s front façade still has the potential to contribute to the streetscape of the town; however, the Store’s stabilization and rehabilitation is not without its opponents— some in the community think it is too far gone and the funds should go elsewhere.

The Store’s history is significant for many reasons, but perhaps most noteworthy is it was the center of Pocahontas’ community for many years. Hopefully, with stabilization, repair and a possible new use, it could be reborn as a prominent part of the historic streetscape and the center of the Pocahontas community once again.

Note: The image of the front of Pocahontas Company Store is by Jon Bolt, Bluefield Daily Telegraph

1 comment:

bed and breakfast luray said...

Thanks for sharing this post. This should be saved and kept away from any possible dangers.