Preservation programs will support leasing in Thurmond ghost town

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Preservation programs will support leasing in Thurmond ghost town
Historic structures in the Thurmond National Historic District may now be leased. (Photo courtesy David Sibray)

THURMOND, W.Va. — Programming through a preservation organization in West Virginia will support leasing in this historic town where the National Park Service had considered demolishing several nationally historic buildings it had formerly promised to save.

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Following a groundswell of public aversion to a proposal to demolish more than 20 historic structures in the town, officials have agreed to consider leasing the properties to private individuals rather than demolishing them.

Local business people have successfully maintained historic buildings in Thurmond as lodging facilities.

Now, the has added the entire national historic district in Thurmond, West Virginia, to its "Endangered Properties List" to assist entrepreneurs in restoring the community.

Developers and park supporters are hailing the proposal to lease structures otherwise slated for demolition in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, which has become a focus for travel magazines and has recently been the subject of three articles in National Geographic Explorer.

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According to Danielle Parker, the organization's executive director, "the Endangered Properties List is a public statement that these places matter to the communities where they are located and to us all because of our shared heritage."

Slated for demolition, many park-owned properties are suited for economic development.

The alliance, comprised of experts in historic preservation, publishes a list of endangered historic properties annually. This year, it also added the and .

Properties added to the list are eligible for targeted advocacy, national publicity, and technical assistance through the alliance. They may apply for alliance grants and collaborate with the alliance for fundraising assistance. Endangered sites also receive a preference for hands-on alliance workshops.

Over the last 50 years, park officials have purchased many of the buildings from property owners, promising to restore and sustain them. However, federal budget cuts led to their neglect, though the service had previously invested millions of dollars in maintaining them.

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David Sibray, a member of the alliance board and a real estate agent specializing in historic properties, is enthused about the town and park's economic potential.

The historic Prince Brothers Store was slated for demolition by the National Park Service. (Photo: David Sibray)

"I was pleased to hear the superintendent discussing leases rather than demolitions, as were many other people who attended the park meeting regarding the proposal," Sibray said.

"Organizations with integrity are already approaching the park service about their willingness to lease and restore properties, and the potential is exciting, especially given the new park's global visibility. Other parks lease properties. It's not rocket science."

Sibray said plans for Thurmond originally called for leasing to business interests, but the park service never moved forward on that economic development aspect.

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"In the 1980s, businesses such as The Banker's Club restaurants were doing quite well in the district, and many of us expected the economic potential to be sustained rather than extinguished."

More information about the "West Virginia Endangered Properties List" may be found on the alliance's website at . Persons interested in assisting with preservation projects may contact the organization at info@pawv.org or 304-345-6005.


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