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Video looks at benefits of ‘mothballing’ historic W.Va. buildings

ELKINS, W.Va. — The benefits of “mothballing” old buildings to sustain them for use at a later date is outlined in the most recent  video released by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia to help communities manage their resources.

Filmed in the coal-mining community of Helen, in southern West Virginia, the video — part of a series on the rescue of historic buildings —  demonstrates the usefulness of “mothballing” such building, according to Danielle LaPresta, the executive director of the alliance.

Mothballing, which can secure buildings against vandals and weather, may provide the sole option for economic potential in depressed areas where only the buildings themselves remain.

“In some regions, particularly in the southern coalfields, remaining old buildings may afford the only sustainable option for growth,” LaPresta said.

“Aside from their value as landmarks, these structures are often built of brick and of stone and will stand for hundreds of years. From an economic standpoint, they’re not the kind of buildings you’d want to get rid of.”

“Even if there’s no obvious reuse now, there could be a quarter century from now. I’m sure every West Virginian knows of a building that they wish someone had bothered to mothball.”

LaPresta said the video series, published at the alliance’s Youtube channel, may help communities tackle mothballing projects through grassroots efforts.

“The mothballing project at Helen may have been a particularly good subject to launch with because it was a community initiative,” she
said.

“Though other state and local organizations joined the effort, it was launched by neighbors who wanted to save an important landmark in what had been a thriving town.”

LaPresta said the project was initiated by Tiffany Rakotz, a member of Preserve W.Va. AmeriCorps, to assist the Winding Gulf Restoration Organization, which has instituted several development projects in the coalfield along Winding Gulf Creek.

The initiative was supervised by David E. Rotenizer, of the W.Va. State University Extension Service and the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. Rakotz and Rotenizer enjoined more than 30 public and private organizations in the effort.

Like many structures the alliance has helped preserve in recent years, the building was rescued from the wrecking ball in the nick of time, LaPresta said.

Individuals who would like the alliance to consider evaluating a historic property are encouraged to contact the organization at PAWV.org or at 304-345-6005.

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