Martinsburg Roundhouse on track for federal funds

November 23, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY


Heat and bathrooms.

That's what $680,000 in federal funding secured by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd will be used for at the Martinsburg Roundhouse.

"We need to work toward getting that habitable," Bill Hayes, executive director of the Martinsburg Roundhouse Center, said Tuesday.

"There are several things that will make this habitable. Our intent is to put radiant heat in this floor, so most of this floor will have to be redone," Hayes said as he stood inside the cold, empty Roundhouse.

Also, restrooms will be installed inside, between the Roundhouse and the adjacent Frog and Switch Shop.

Byrd, D-W.Va., added the funding to the 2006 Transportation Treasury Appropriations conference report, which has been sent to the White House to be signed by President Bush, according to a press release from the senator's office.


Barring a veto by the president, Hayes said the funding likely will arrive sometime next year. Roundhouse officials found out about a week ago that Byrd had added the funding to the report.

"It couldn't have happened at a better time because I've spent all that I had," Hayes said.

Altogether, around $8 million has been spent in the last five years restoring the three-building complex. Hayes estimated final completion is another $12 million and four years away.

State-backed loans or tax credits could be future funding sources.

"We're getting to the point where we have to be a little more creative (with funding)," Hayes said.

All three of the center's main buildings have been stabilized structurally, but none can be used on more than a limited basis.

During the first Apple Valley Book Festival earlier this month, authors and other vendors were given the option of moving their displays from the Roundhouse to downtown businesses because it was cold in the Roundhouse. Along with the lack of heat, some authors also complained about a lack of bathrooms.

Eventual plans call for holding events like the book festival, as well as concerts, trade shows, exhibits and conventions in the Roundhouse and the front portion of the Frog and Switch Shop.

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.

Space on the upper floors of the Bridge and Machine Shop will be leased for office or light industrial use, with the ground floor to be dedicated to administrative offices and a visitors center. The first floor also could house shops and a restaurant.

Other projects are still under way at the center.

Construction on a pedestrian bridge that will link the center to downtown Martinsburg has been halted for the winter. Work should resume in March and be finished quickly afterward, Hayes said.

The Miller Tower, a switching tower, recently was pieced back together on the edge of the Roundhouse Center's 13 acres. Slated to be demolished, the 93- or 94-year-old tower needs to be restored, Hayes said.

Dating from 1866, the Roundhouse 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.

Although the press release from Byrd's office indicated that the east Roundhouse, the one destroyed by fire, could be restored using a portion of the $680,000 in funding, Hayes said restoring that building is at the bottom of the Roundhouse Authority's list of priorities.

Once completely restored, Hayes expects the Roundhouse to bring an influx of people, and money, to Martinsburg.

He gave as an example a New Mexico resident heading to Philadelphia who took a "detour" to see the buildings after stumbling upon a Web site dedicated to the Roundhouse.

"One of the things (a restored Roundhouse center) will do is revitalize downtown. They need tourist foot traffic downtown," Hayes said. "This will begin to draw that sort of thing."

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