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Man collects old Martinsburg photographs

April 08, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When he was a boy growing up in Martinsburg, Jeff Hollis' dad would take him around town showing him where old landmarks used to be.

Then Hollis got his hands on a box of old postcards of downtown Martinsburg scenes, and he was hooked on the area's history.

He began getting old photographs of the Berkeley County area anywhere he could, and then copying them to add to his growing collection.

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Today, Hollis has about 3,000 pictures of old Martinsburg and Berkeley County scenes. The shots depict everything from the busy days of the Interwoven Stocking Co. complex in town to horse and buggy-lined streets.

His photos have been used as a resource for re-creating downtown scenes. Lisa Dall'Olio, an architect who helped design the new Martinsburg train station on East Martin Street, said she used several of Hollis' photos of the old station to restore part of the building.

"He's got some wonderful scrap books. He's an incredibly knowledgeable person about this area," said Dall'Olio.

Hollis found many of the pictures through people he has met over the years, while others came from collections. One of those included a group of 8-by-10 glass negatives that once were owned by a photographer who lived in the area during the 1880s.

The negatives, which were found in an attic of a house in the area, yielded a number of black and white shots of downtown Martinsburg. Hollis' collection includes pictures of steam engines hauling gravel out of an old rock quarry on South Queen Street near the area where the current Sheriff's Department is located.

Another black and white picture shows downtown Martinsburg during Christmas in the 1930s. The surreal-looking photograph, taken at night, shows Christmas lights draped back and forth along Queen Street.

Hollis said his favorite pictures are the ones he has collected of the Interwoven Stocking Co., a large complex of clothing mills that operated in Martinsburg from the early 1920s to about 1960.

Over the years, the buildings have housed brass works, car companies and buggy manufacturers, Hollis said. Two of the massive, red-brick buildings were once moved, and Hollis' pictures shows heavy cables attached to horses so the buildings could be pulled on wooden rollers.

Hollis said there are few pictures of Martinsburg he hasn't seen. Hollis is still looking for a picture of a building shaped like a milk carton that once stood at the corner of Buxton Street and West Virginia Avenue. The building, part of the Old Superior Dairy, was a vending machine that dispensed milk.

The second picture Hollis has yet to see is one of Hill's Toy and Novelty store on Queen Street.

Despite all his interest in the past, Hollis said he would not want to return to those days. "To live in a specific era, hey, you can't beat this one," said Hollis.

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