Preservation mindset

I feel compelled to respond to Mr. Hale’s recent letter in reference to the razing of the Mather Building. Certainly our historical society shares his concern to preserve the few historic structures that remain in downtown Parkersburg. And I agree that Marietta apparently has a totally opposite mind-set regarding the preservation of historic buildings. Perhaps a key part of Marietta’s success in having a real “visitor-drawing” historic downtown is due in part to the mind-set of those who own businesses and buildings in Marietta. Though it is not always easy or cheap, they pay the price to keep their downtown historic. Athens, Ohio, is another example. While visiting there this summer I saw only the facade of a building being saved. Certainly it was not an easy or inexpensive thing to do, but it was being done to preserve the integrity of their historic town.

Some years ago, encouraged by Dave McKain, I approached a Parkersburg committee about creating a list of structures in Parkersburg that would be considered “historically sacred,” ones that every attempt should be made to preserve; at that time there was little interest in the idea.

Complicating any thing of this nature is the fact that these buildings are privately owned. Even the fact that they are on the National Registry of Historic Places, does not keep the owner from tearing them down. And in the case of the Mather Building, I am not sure that the owner even had to go before the Design and Facade Committee for approval to raze the building.

As Mr. Hale may already suspect, the razing may not stop with the Mather Building. It appears that it may be at least somewhat structurally joined with its neighbor on the corner, the Citizens Bank Building. Built in 1898, the bank building is a beautiful, structurally sound building. Unfortunately, it has been available for sale for a number of years with apparently little or no interest. What is an owner to do?

I still believe that the city should inventory what significant buildings remain, do the history, select the very best that offer potential for preservation and renovation and working with the owners, designate them as properties that may be razed only after every effort has been made for their preservation.

Our historical society will be happy to work with the City on this very important issue.

Thank you.

Bob Enoch

President WCHPS