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Future uses of Roundhouse laid out

November 02, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A use plan for the Martinsburg Roundhouse Center was unanimously approved Tuesday evening by the Roundhouse Authority - officially declaring that the center will be used for concerts, trade shows, conventions, exhibits and other public events. A portion of the facility also will be leased, the plan states.

Bill Hayes, executive director of the Roundhouse Authority, said he compiled the plan from numerous external and internal studies already done about the complex, which consists primarily of three large buildings.

The complex sits on 13.65 acres.

The upper floor of the Bridge and Machine Shop will be leased for office or light industrial use, with 8,000 to 9,000 square feet expected to be available by late next year.

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The ground floor of that building will be used for administrative offices and a visitors center, as well as for commercial uses such as shops and a restaurant.

Next door, the Roundhouse itself will be used for concerts, plays, trade shows, conventions and other public events, with portable tiered seating to be available.

The rear portion of the Frog and Switch Shop would be used as museum space, housing a large restored steam hammer, forges and other artifacts, while the front portion of the building will be used for the same types of events as the Roundhouse.

A smaller building, the Fruit Exchange, will house a store and a model train display depicting the B&O rail shops and surrounding areas. Small artifacts also will be on display there, according to the plan.

Currently the complex is being used, with a Book Fair featuring author Stephen Coonts planned for Nov. 11 and 12. It hosts Rail Days each summer and other events throughout the year, including a recent wedding.

Still, more than $1 million is needed to finish restoration of the complex, which is one of a few National Historic Landmarks in the state, Roundhouse Authority Chairman Clarence E. "CEM" Martin said.

Since the Berkeley County Commission bought the abandoned complex in 1999, more than $8 million has been used to restore it.

However, once construction of a pedestrian bridge - which will physically link the Roundhouse complex to downtown Martinsburg - is finished, the Roundhouse Authority will essentially be out of money, Hayes said.

A state grant is being used to build the bridge.

Martin called it a Catch-22 that more money is needed to finish restoring the Bridge and Machine Shop, which will produce revenue once office space in it is available.

Dating from 1866, the complex was shut down by B&O Railroad in 1988. Twelve years later, in May 2000, one of the two Roundhouses on the site was destroyed by arsonists, while neglect and weather caused the other buildings to deteriorate.

Restoration began in 2000.

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