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Mason County home of noted state historian razed

Point Pleasant Register photo by Mindy Kearns The former Virgil A. Lewis House, located on Brown Street in Mason, is being razed to make way for a park to be dedicated in his memory. Lewis, the first West Virginia state historian, a state superintendent of schools, and noted history book author, lived in the house from 1905-1912. Owned by the county, the house was once a museum but had become a safety hazard, according to John Gerlach, administrator of the Mason County Commission.
Point Pleasant Register photo by Mindy Kearns
The former Virgil A. Lewis House, located on Brown Street in Mason, is being razed to make way for a park to be dedicated in his memory. Lewis, the first West Virginia state historian, a state superintendent of schools, and noted history book author, lived in the house from 1905-1912. Owned by the county, the house was once a museum but had become a safety hazard, according to John Gerlach, administrator of the Mason County Commission.

MASON, W.Va. — The decaying home of a noted West Virginia historian is coming down in Mason, but will be replaced with a park in his memory.

The Virgil A. Lewis House, located on Brown Street, was home to Lewis from 1905-1912. The first West Virginia state historian, Lewis was also a state superintendent of schools and a famous author of history books.

The house served as a museum for a time, mostly in the 1960s through 1980s, and was the meeting place of the now-defunct Mason City Historical Society. Students from the now-closed Mason Elementary School were frequent visitors of the museum for field trips during that time due to it being within walking distance.

In the past few decades, the house has deteriorated. Owned by the county, John Gerlach, administrator for the Mason County Commission, said the house was ready to be condemned.

Gerlach said support beams and windowsills had rotted, and there was a lot of structural deterioration. Asbestos from the building was removed recently with money provided by a grant. County officials tried to get additional grant funds to repair the house, but they were denied.

“If we had unlimited funds, we would have rebuilt the house,” Gerlach said. He added once it was evident the house would have to come down for safety reasons, there was a plan to reconstruct two of the rooms at the West Virginia State Farm Museum near Point Pleasant. And while Gerlach said that plan is still not out of the question, there is no money right now to have it done.

Photo submitted to The Point Pleasant Register An older photo of the Virgil A. Lewis House shows the ornate trim work on the house, but also shows the deterioration as well. The porch support beam on the right of the house was completely rotted in two and the porch floor contained holes that caused safety issues. John Gerlach, administrator for the Mason County Commission, owners of the building, said there was much structural deterioration and the house was ready to be condemned.
Photo submitted to The Point Pleasant Register
An older photo of the Virgil A. Lewis House shows the ornate trim work on the house, but also shows the deterioration as well. The porch support beam on the right of the house was completely rotted in two and the porch floor contained holes that caused safety issues. John Gerlach, administrator for the Mason County Commission, owners of the building, said there was much structural deterioration and the house was ready to be condemned.

Meanwhile, Lowell Wilks, project coordinator for Rivers to Ridges Heritage Trail, has been assisting with the razing of the building. An Americorps team began gutting the upstairs interior in March, Wilks said, and will return in October to finish the demolition.

Since March, others have been working on the house as well, including participants in the Mason County Day Report Center program. Workers have removed the two-tier Eastlake Movement style porch and its roof, and last week started on the upstairs. Wilks said the roof will soon come off of the house, and by the time the Americorps team comes back in early October, only the first story should be remaining.

Wilks also spoke about the park that will be built once the house is gone…

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