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Berkeley County Historical Society halfway to its goal

January 29, 2001

Berkeley County Historical Society halfway to its goal



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Historical Society has raised about half the money it needs to build a genealogy center for the Eastern Panhandle.

Two recent contributions of $10,000 each have pushed the total raised since last year to about $38,000, said Don Wood, president of the society, which is quartered in the Belle Boyd House on Race Street.

Wood said estimates range from $70,000 to $100,000 to completely restore the house.

The society acquired the house adjacent to its headquarters a year ago and has been refurbishing it as money comes in to store the volumes of historical records such as land deeds that genealogists use to trace family histories.

Money raised last year was used to do brick and masonry work on the structure, both to make it look better and for structural safety, Wood said.

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The historical society has become crammed with records for the thousands of visitors who come to the Eastern Panhandle annually seeking their roots.

"We need the space badly," Wood said. Few grants are available to help build space for archives, he said.

The building needs a number of improvements to bring it up to code, among them new wiring and plumbing, restrooms, and a new roof, he said.

The society has not mounted a formal fund-raising campaign beyond asking people for donations, he said. It has 10 years to pay off the house, so that is not an immediate concern. But members would like to get the center up and running as soon as possible.

This week, the society will ask the Berkeley County Commission for $10,000. Both the county and city have financially supported the society in the past.

Fund-raising for the current headquarters went fairly quickly because of its Civil War ties. For a time, it served as home for confederate spy Belle Boyd.

The $10,000 gifts came from Eva Woolridge, a society board member, and an anonymous donation that came with the request to name a room in the house after J. Holland Sperow, a member of a prominent Berkeley County family, Wood said.

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