Roundhouse fate uncertain

October 10, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A few years ago, bulldozers were ready to knock the railroad roundhouse buildings down. In a couple of more years, Mother Nature may do it if $20,000 in temporary repairs aren't made to the roof.

Thursday night Chatfield-Taylor Corp. Vice President Tom Rice told the Martinsburg City Council that the company will not renew its option to buy the property at the end of this year unless the city puts up the money to repair gaping holes in the roofs of the roundhouse, machine shop and switch building.

"Our sole purpose in getting the property was to protect its historic significance," Rice told the council. He said since obtaining the option to buy the land from CSX about seven years ago, the company had put about $50,000 into the property. About $15,000 was used to put up a fence and plywood over the windows to keep vagrants out.


Rice, who is also chairman of the Tuscarora Creek Civic Center Committee, said Chatfield-Taylor was willing to relinquish the option to the city, but was not willing to "spend any more money on the project."

The cast iron frames of the roundhouse and the other structures were manufactured in Baltimore in 1866 and assembled like "Tinkertoys" in Martinsburg, according to Stephen C. Dunn of the Hillier Group. The Washington, D.C., firm is doing an architectural and engineering study of the buildings for the civic center committee.

That and a marketing study being done by Hamilton, Rabinovitz and Alschuler of New York City are being paid for by a $50,000 state grant and a $10,000 match from the city. The studies are to determine if it is feasible to renovate the buildings as the city did to the train station across the tracks.

"If this goes on for another two years and the rain keeps getting in there, it will be a pile of bricks," Dunn told the council. He said holes in the roofs are big enough to climb through.

"We do not own it. I don't think we can legally spend money on it," said Mayor Earnest Sparks. Rice said CSX's asking price for the property is between $300,000 and $350,000.

Councilman Donald Anderson noted the cost of developing the property would be $16 million, along with another $200,000 a year to maintain the facilities.

City attorney J. Oakley Seibert said the council would have to decide "if you are willing to spend that money if you haven't decided to buy the property."

The council voted 6-to-1 in favor of having Seibert and City Manager Mark Baldwin meet with Chatfield-Taylor representatives to determine whether the city should put up the $20,000 for roof repairs and possibly assume the option to buy the property.

They are to report back to the council next month.

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