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Research center opens

February 15, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Martinsburg, W.Va. - It was an event that would have made Belle Boyd proud - the dedication Saturday of the Berkeley County Archives and Research Center in a double house adjoining the celebrated Confederate spy's home on East Race Street.

"We had literally run out of space for archives at the Belle Boyd House at 126 E. Race St.," said Don Wood, president of the Berkeley County Historical Society, which makes its home at the Boyd House. "And where they were stored wasn't very accessible to the public."

So the decision was made to purchase the double-house next door at 136 E. Race St., Wood said. A brief ceremony Saturday morning brought history buffs, Berkeley County Commissioner Howard Strauss, Miss Berkeley County Julia Linton and a number of interested residents to view the new center location.

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Strauss, who offered a few words at the opening, said he was pleased with the new center and its mission.

Still a work in progress, the center is open and accessible and contains unique records of family history, industry and events throughout the history of the three Eastern Panhandle counties.

"Now we have a place for people to come and look at what we have," Wood said.

Wills, deeds, records of marriages and other original records - some pre-Civil War - also are available in the center, Wood said.

"Because of lack of space in the Berkeley County Courthouse, we store a lot of official records here," Wood said.

The circa-1856 house was built by merchant, Jacob Fuss, three years after the Boyd family home next door. Over the years, the house was occupied by many people who worked for the railroad just east of both buildings.

A Bethesda, Md., bookstore owner later used the building for storage and it fell into disrepair, Wood said.

"There was a lot of damage after years of no heat and no water inside the building," Wood said.

So far, $130,000 has been spent remodeling the building. Those funds came by way of a $50,000 bank loan, contributions from donors and a $16,500 grant from the West Virginia Department of Culture and History, Wood said.

"We are looking for more financial help so we can repay the loan, which was used to pay off the mortgage and complete the renovations," Wood said.

With all volunteer staffing, the center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on Wednesdays, Sundays and major holidays, including Christmas week. There are microfilm readers available and copies may be made for a fee.

There is no charge for research.

For more information on the society and the center, call 304-267-4713.

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