But the public couldn't stand to see the building deteriorate, and the Associates for Community Development, which now owns the house, decided to save it.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the center this year, the Boarman Arts Center is inviting the artists whose works were featured in the original exhibit in 1987 to return for an anniversary show.
About 10 artists representing varying forms of artwork, from paintings, to photography, to graphic design are expected to return to the center for a show Aug. 3 through Sept. 12., according to organizers.
On Saturday, Aug. 16, the center's board of directors will hold a silent auction, dinner and dance at Aspen Hall on Boyd Avenue in Martinsburg to raise money for the center. Admission to the event, "How It All Began," is $75 per person.
The arts center, built in 1802, operated as a store, tavern, blacksmith's shop and shoemaker's shop, according to local history. During the early 1800s, a stagecoach made regular stops at the tavern, known as the Martinsburgh Inn.
Through the help of a West Virginia Department of Culture and History grant, coupled with donations from individuals, local industry and governments, the house was renovated in 1983.
The idea was to open an art gallery in the building which would showcase local artists. A committee spearheaded by Norma Lee Sutherland was organized to begin raising money for the gallery, according to center officials.
Today, the center is an active art gallery that offers regular exhibits plus outreach programs such as art-in-schools, which brings artisans into local schools to demonstrate their crafts and encourage students to experiment in the arts.
There are also children's art camps at the center, youth art exhibits, and a popular Christmas shop at the center that draws about 120 artists a year to the center to sell their pieces.
"We're so successful that we're growing out of the building," said Hixon.
The non-profit arts center depends mostly on volunteers, and relies on state, corporate and private donations for financial support.