The district was dedicated chiefly as a result of the integrity of its early 20th-century architecture, though many buildings have since been altered or destroyed, leading state officials to warn that federal status is threatened.
Development in the district is managed by the Beckley Historical Landmarks Commission, an architectural review board and certified local government that must provide a certificate of appropriateness, determined by guidelines, to property owners before they are permitted to alter the exterior of properties.
The district was added to the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s list of Most Endangered Historic Properties in 2015. The former Beckley Ice & Feed Store, also an independent national landmark, lay outside the district and was demolished in 2013.
Historic District Controversy
The district has long been troubled by errant development. State officials in 2007 reprimanded the city for demolishing buildings within the district and for a lack of code enforcement that had allowed property owners to inappropriately renovate buildings.
In 2013 state officials warned the city that the proposed demolition of three more buildings on Neville Street could lead to the district’s removal from the national register, yet then-mayor Bill O’Brien moved illegally to demolish the buildings on the last day of his office.
The dissolution may end state and federal assistance programs, including grants, tax credits, and low-interest loan programs currently available to property owners.
Consultants have informed city officials and property owners that the destruction of the district through demolition and inappropriate development will negatively affect values and commercial viability.
In 2018 the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia reported that members of the city’s architectural review board were at fault for neglecting to enforce architectural standards and exercise its authority over the errant executive branch of the city government.
- National Register Nomination (1994)
- Demolitions worry state historians (2007)
- Demolitions could affect district (2014)
- Beckley HLC Guidelines (Download PDF)