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Work continues on Boarman Arts Center

November 18, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG - Workers in Martinsburg continue to transform a 107-year-old building, formerly used as a post office and courthouse, into The Arts Centre, with some programs set to begin next spring or summer.

The Boarman Arts Center, currently housed in a building on the corner of Queen and King streets, will relocate two blocks away to a brick and stone building at the corner of King Street and Maple Avenue. A name change - from the Boarman to The Arts Centre - also is planned.

Pattie Perez, director of the Boarman, has remained enamored with the 28,000-square-foot building since acquiring it from the government more than two years ago. Constructed using the Richardson-Romanesque style of architecture, it was finished in 1895.

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Perez said the building may seem quiet when viewed from the outside. Minus a few surveyors, for the most part the building's doors are locked and people are rare.

But work is under way.

"We haven't stopped," Perez said. "We've just continued to march on. Right now there are engineers crawling all over that building."

After the government declared the structure surplus property, Boarman officials acquired it essentially for free from the U.S. Department of Education in May 2000. A stipulation was made that educational programs be offered, starting next year.

All Perez had to do before the Boarman officially owned the structure was pay a $14 deed fee.

To comply with the education requirement, Perez said some programs will be offered next year, but which ones depends on how work on the building progresses.

Because the building has been declared one of America's treasures, all alterations must be approved by the state Historic Preservation Office.

Much of the needed work centers on bringing the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act or is safety-related. For example, a second stairway is needed and sprinklers must be installed throughout the building.

Officials also need to figure out which activities will be done where. Once complete, The Arts Centre will offer programs including photography, ceramics, painting, drawing, music and woodworking. Exhibits will be on display and space for lectures will be available.

Those whose curiosity about the building cannot be sated without a peek inside will soon have their chance. On the three days before Thanksgiving - Nov. 25-27 - the building will be open to the public from noon to 4 p.m.

A final opening date depends on funding.

Boarman officials did not receive a $4 million request submitted to the state Economic Development Grant Committee. Perez said a fund-raising feasibility study is under way to determine which areas of the community most support the center and how to proceed along those avenues.

A recent auction of decorated Christmas trees netted $17,000 for the Centre. Those trees will be on display during next week's open house.

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