Friday, July 6, 2012

Restoring a Bit of Appalachia

Continuing our walk down Appalachia, Virginia's main street, we were struck by the architectural details of some of the century-old storefronts.

And as we noted in yesterday's concluding remarks, there were a couple of interesting buildings--or, as in the case below, a portion of a building.

With no one available to answer questions about this shell's history or, more importantly, its future, we were left to our own imaginations. First of all, we were happy that this much of the details of the
facade had been preserved. Hopefully, it was saved because of some long-range plans.

Even though we hoped that the facade would become part of a new business and an overall program of revitalization of the town once known as “Mayberry in a Norman Rockwell Painting” and the “Magic City,” the hub of all activity in Southwest Virginia, it seemed doubtful (

But sprucing up the facade features does not take place in a vacuum. The raw materials of the town's history still exist, but it takes people of vision and a willingness to invest a lot of energy and time into re-creating an activity or operation around these materials that will draw locals and tourists to downtown.

One encouraging example of the restoration of one of the buildings is the Appalachia Towers.

"The project consisted of the renovation and conversion of a historically significant seven-story hotel that had been abandoned and experienced significant fire and water damage (as shown in the photos below).

"Although the former hotel is not considered a historic landmark, approval had to be obtained for the restoration of the terrace gardens, trellis work, and replacement of all exterior windows.

"The character and the historic nature of the building were maintained both on the exterior and in the lobby and vestibule. The registration desk and

this window (at which a hotel staff member may have handled the storage of items in the safe) appear in their original form.

"Services included research on period architectural details, plans, specifications, and construction administration for the conversion of the structure to elderly housing for 36 units" (thelane

I introduced myself to four gentlemen sitting on benches in front of the apartment building and asked about the history of the building.

One of the residents offerred to give me a tour of the lobby, and as we walked around the area shown here, his references to the architectural details showed the pride he felt with the restoration work.

After seeing the "Before" photos, we were impressed with the quality of the restoration work.

The attention to detail in the process of bringing this old hotel back to life was good to see. Hopefully, this will be just the first of several other similar projects.

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