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Crew explores roundhouse for TV program

September 22, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A video production crew from Morgantown, W.Va., got a lesson in railroad and local history Monday morning during a tour of the historical B&O roundhouse complex in Martinsburg.

The two-man crew was in town with West Virginia Pubic Radio correspondent Cecelia Mason to shoot a segment about the roundhouse for a new weekly magazine-format show on West Virginia Public Television, said Mason, who is based in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

The show, called "West Virginia Journal," airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Morgantown-based WNPB, said segment producer Ross Watne, who doubled as cameraman during Monday's taping.

In addition to roundhouse footage, the segment will feature snippets of an interview with local railroad historian and author Jeffrey R. Hollis.

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Martinsburg architect Lisa M. Dall'Olio, who acted as tour guide, said she's hoping the segment will boost the effort to save the roundhouse and two related buildings, where railroad employees worked from shortly after the Civil War until 1988.

"There are a lot of intelligent people around the state who don't know that it exists or what it means to local, state and national history," said Dall'Olio, a longtime proponent of plans to restore the buildings with an eye toward modern uses.

There's an effort to get the beehive-style roundhouse - one of only two like it left and the only one with its type of wrought- and cast-iron construction - on the elite list of national landmarks because of its historical significance, she said.

Dall'Olio said she fears a hard winter could wreak irreparable structural damage on the complex, which leaks badly in heavy rain.

An effort to get the City of Martinsburg to buy the property and temporarily repair it failed this summer, when the Martinsburg City Council voted 5-2 against purchasing an option to buy the CSX-owned property from developer Moncure Chatfield-Taylor.

The Berkeley County Commission has since set up a committee to look at possible county involvement in a roundhouse-saving project.

Mason, who will be doing segments for "West Virginia Journal" focusing on local subjects, said she suggested the roundhouse because it's significant to the state and because the effort to save it seems to have captured the interest of people in other parts of West Virginia.

"And it's just a beautiful building," said Mason, pointing out features like raised brickwork and dainty iron cut-outs around the windows.

Watne, who was having a difficult time finding ample light between the overcast skies and board-covered windows, said he was impressed by the complex.

"Every time we've come to the Eastern Panhandle, we've found something interesting," Watne said.

Between its rich history and the effort to save it, the roundhouse could have easily been the subject of its own half-hour documentary, said segment associate producer-director Brian Gessner.

"It's fascinating. I am a huge proponent of architectural restoration. I'd hate to see it torn down," Gessner said.

Watne and Gessner were with Mason in Shepherdstown on Sunday to shoot a segment for the show on the Bavarian Inn's annual Oktoberfest event.

The roundhouse segment won't run until November, and might even run in December, said "West Virginia Journal" producer/host Beth Vorhees, of WPBY in Nitro, W.Va.

The segment on Oktoberfest is tentatively set to run Oct. 15, Vorhees said.

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