GREEN BOTTOM, W.Va. — When plans were announced in 2008 to restore the 1835-vintage Albert Gallatin Jenkins plantation house, located on a gentle rise overlooking the Ohio River near the Cabell-Mason County line, then-Rep. Nick Rahall told a crowd gathered for a ceremony on the grounds of the two-story brick structure that preserving the site to tell its stories about plantation life, slavery and the Civil War “is all about who we are as West Virginians. A society that loses touch with its history is akin to a rudderless ship on the ocean.”
In 2012, after four years and nearly $3 million worth of planning and painstaking restoration work, the building was finished, but its role in interpreting the state’s history remains adrift. Since then, “No Trespassing: U.S. Government Property” signs have been posted on the building and on the barrier blocking the driveway leading to it. The plantation house’s doors and English-made, period-appropriate blown glass windows are covered with sheets of weatherbeaten plywood.
“From our perspective, we hate to see it boarded up and just sitting there empty,” said Aaron Smith, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntington District, which owns the plantation house and the grounds surrounding it. While the Corps of Engineers has the authority to preserve historic buildings on the lands it manages, “we have no mission or authority to operate historic sites,” he said. “We negotiate leases at various levels at properties across the country, and we’ve been proactive in advertising this property.”
But so far, Smith said, there have been no takers…