PARKERSBURG - Thieves in two break-ins pilfered copper pipe from the Sumnerite Museum on Avery Street, taking more than $17,000 in pipe and fittings, the Parkersburg Police Department said on Friday.
The first break-in occcured after Thanksgiving. Someone returned overnight Thursday when they took the remainder of the pipe for the repairs and $1,660 in tools from Shane Burke, who was fixing the damage done from the first break in at the historic Civil War era structure. Sumner School was the first free school for blacks south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
"They came back and got everything and then took their tools," said Toni Oliver, president of the Sumnerite Association.
The Parkersburg Police Department Crime Scene unit is parked at Sumnerite Museum Friday afternoon as officers gather information and evidence. More than $17,000 worth of copper was removed from the building by thieves. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
The second break-in was discovered about 9:45 a.m. Friday, according to Sgt. Greg Collins, spokesman for the Parkersburg police. The department has no suspects, he said.
Much of the damage was in the bathrooms, but also to the kitchen, Oliver said. The urinals were removed from the walls to get to the pipes, she said.
"It's an absolute mess in the bathrooms," Oliver said.
Also taken were the copper coils and tubing for the air conditioning units, Burke said.
Among the tools that were taken were pipe wrenches, an acetylene torch system, two impact drivers and four batteries and chargers for rechargeable drills, Burke said.
The perpetrators also went through the rooms looking for anything of any value. It appears the thieves knew where to go, including where to turn off the water, and ladders were moved around to aid in removing the copper, Burke said.
"They knew what they where doing," Burke said.
The museum did not have insurance, Oliver said. She made the decision between paying the heating bill and the insurance premium and this was the first time the insurance was allowed to lapse, she said.
"We've been there forever," she said. "This is the first time we even let the insurance go."
The museum is closed pending repairs, Oliver said.
Agents with the detective bureau were collecting evidence at the museum into Friday afternoon. Anyone with information can contact the Parkersburg Police Department at 304-424-8444, Collins said.
"We hope somebody might have seen something," Oliver said.
Sumner was established in 1862 and named after Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, a leading abolitionist in the United States. The school was closed in 1954 when segregation was ruled unconstitutional.
The main part of the school was razed. Remaining is the gym, which was renovated and became the Sunshine School for handicapped children, then the Sumnerite Museum and Learning Center in the late 1980s.
The museum was created by Oliver's mother, Rae Browne.