Written by Lynn Stasick
Hello again from the high hills and mountains of West Virginia! As a state-wide field representative for the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV), I have been engaging students from within the West Virginia University school system to help save PAWV-listed endangered properties. Through those efforts, I had the opportunity to co-teach a class in heritage tourism last spring with friend and professor Dr. Susan Williams at Concord University in southern West Virginia.
Dr. Williams and I took 34 undergraduate students in the field to bring their talents to bear in the town of Ansted, located in Fayette County. The goal was to conduct an analysis of the Old Ansted High Schoolas part of an effort to save the building as a multi-use public facility. Presently, the city has no handicapped accessible public buildings and has to rent space. The plan is to turn the old high school into public office space, police headquarters, a twenty-first century hi-tech learning center, and - since there is already a gym – a public recreation center.
The morning the class arrived at the school site, each student was given a disposable camera with which to establish a photographic record. Back in the classroom, they split into two groups and began to assemble a plan. One group developed a prioritized narrative needs assessment targeted toward structural rehabilitation, while the other worked on a plan for adaptive re-use.
When the project was complete, the class traveled back to Ansted one evening for a meeting with the mayor, town council, members of the police force, and concerned citizens to present their assessments and engage in an open discussion. The evening was a great success, and it was so exciting to see young people from urban, suburban, and rural America, as well as students from as far away as China engaging so well with the residents of this small, rural, West Virginia town. It was very refreshing indeed, and it was apparent that the members of the community were thankful for everyone’s efforts.
Lynn Stasick is Partners in the Field Representative with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia.