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Demolition of historic jail stalled

March 02, 2001

Demolition of historic jail stalled



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The proposed demolition of the Jefferson County jail continues to hit stumbling blocks.

Following a court ruling on the demolition, the Jefferson County Commissioners were required to contact the state Division of Culture and History and allow them to review the proposed action.

The commissioners received a letter from the department in response, but it contained instructions as if the county wanted to save the jail, said Commission President James G. Knode.

"Our point is, we want the building to go," Knode said.

Thinking they may have not been clear in their first request to the Division of Culture and History, the commissioners have agreed to send another letter to the agency, Knode said Friday.

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A spokeswoman for the Division of Culture and History said the contents of her letter simply reflected state rules.

When the agency conducts a review process on a building that is slated to be torn down, it must determine if there is a detrimental effect to the building, "which a demolition would be," said Susan Pierce, director of the state Historic Preservation Office.

If there is a detrimental effect, alternative ways of saving the building must be explored, Pierce said. The commissioners may have done that already, but the Division of Culture and History is not familiar with any such efforts, Pierce said.

So far, the commissioners seem "focused on tearing the building down," Pierce said.

The jail at the corner of Liberty and George Streets in Charles Town is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In a hearing before Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Steptoe in January, an attorney representing two citizens who want to stop the demolition said the review process by Pierce's agency must be conducted if any state or federal money is being used for the demolition.

Steptoe temporarily halted the demolition until the Pierce's department could review the matter.

The commissioners want to demolish the building and put up offices. Those who want to save it say it is architecturally significant and historically significant because of a treason trial held there for a United Mine Workers union official in 1922.

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