CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than a century after H. Bernard Wehrle Sr. became the first Boy Scout in West Virginia, the Buckskin Council held a dedication ceremony for its new headquarters, named in his honor Thursday.
Located next to Daniel Boone Park, in Charleston, the $4.1 million, 14,000- square-foot facility is nearly three times the size of the previous center.
It was funded by several donors, including a $1.8 million contribution from the Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation and the H.B. Wehrle Foundation.
The remaining funds were raised through private donations and a community fund-raising campaign.
Among those in attendance was Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who praised the Wehrle family for its investment in the project.
“All I can think about when I look at this building [is] all the young people who are going to be walking through these doors, learning about their country and learning about their environment,” Capito said.
Buckskin Council Scout Executive Jeff Purdy said the new center will serve as a “gateway” to the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County, which will host the 2017 National Scout Jamboree and the 2019 World Jamboree.
“We now have a fitting service center for Scouts and leaders across the country to see Buckskin Council’s scouting at its very best,” Purdy said.
Hundreds of attendees on Thursday crowded the new grand lobby, which boasts stone pillars, a glass-enclosed A-frame entrance and a lifelike 12-foot-tall artificial tree in its center.
Garnering the most attention, though, was H. Bernard Wehrle Jr., who unveiled a life-size bronze statue of his late father that will sit on a park bench in the center’s lobby.
The center is equipped to host large meetings, conferences, volunteer training, program coordination and overnight camping.
Scouts will be able to camp along the Kanawha River behind the center, which has a campfire ring and seating.
The facility also has a Scout shop that includes sleeping bags and outdoor gear, in addition to uniforms, patches and badges.
One hallway boasts a museum display of Boy Scout National Jamboree memorabilia dating back to the 1950s.
The former center, Wyatt Scout Service, was refurbished and incorporated into the new building.
“The architect did an excellent job of incorporating the old building into the new facility,” Purdy said. “They basically took the old building and made it all administrative offices.”
The new center also will help facilitate other Scout programs available at the historic Craik-Patton House, located next door, as well as science and technology programs at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences of West Virginia.
“There’s three or four merit badges that really fit well with the historical aspect of the Craik-Patton House,” Purdy said. “We’ve also talked to folks at the Clay Center about doing STEM scouting. The nationwide Boy Scouts now has a STEM program [and] they’re going to be able to offer some programs, as well.”
The Buckskin Council’s service area, which used to be 16 counties, has grown considerably since the old center was built nearly 40 years ago.
The council now serves 7,000 youth in 32 counties in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Ohio.
H. Bernard Wehrle Sr. became a Boy Scout on May 10, 1911, in Charleston. He went on to co-found the McJunkin Corp., a major supplier of oil and gas drilling equipment.
His grandson, Steve Wehrle, said the two family foundations that exist today and contributed to the new center were started in the 1950s with company stock.
Reach Elaina Sauber at [email protected], 304-348-3051 or follow @ElainaSauber on Twitter.