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W.Va. city honored for promoting heritage tourism

March 10, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - In a ceremony Thursday morning in Washington, D.C., which was attended by first lady Laura Bush, Charles Town was recognized as one of 14 communities across the country that has made strides in promoting heritage tourism, a city official said.

Charles Town was named a Preserve America Community for its work in a number of areas, including its effort to preserve the Fishermen's Hall building on West Street, its support to save the former Jefferson County Jail in town, its attempt to purchase the historic Happy Retreat home and its efforts to redevelop old industrial areas in and around North Street, according to Charles Town City Council member Matt Ward.

The Preserve America program was established by an executive order signed by President Bush in 2003, said Ward, who attended Thursday morning's ceremony on Capitol Hill.

The program encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy priceless cultural and natural heritage. The goals of the initiative include a greater shared knowledge about the nation's past, strengthened regional identities and local pride, increased local participation in preserving the country's cultural and natural heritage assets, and support for the economic vitality of communities, according to a press release.

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Charles Town's new designation will allow the city to use the Preserve America logo on flags, banners and other promotional material for the town, Ward said.

The designation will also give the town preference for Preserve America grants to promote heritage tourism, Ward said.

During Thursday's program, $3.5 million in grants were distributed to towns that have been designated as Preserve America towns, Ward said.

Ward said the city applied for the designation and those working on the project included Mayor Peggy Smith, city clerk Joe Cosentini and Bob O'Connor, the city's director of tourism.

"It was a team effort," said Ward.

Ward and his 9-year-old daughter, Chloe, attended the event.

Smith said Laura Bush sent the city a letter about the designation and the city plans to have it framed.

"We're very proud," Smith said.

Smith said O'Connor took the initiative to get the city designated and pursued it.

The Fishermen's Hall building is at West and Academy streets. The Grand United Order of Gallilean Fishermen was started in 1885 as a self-help organization for blacks. It was formed to set up banking, insurance, real estate and endowment services for blacks.

The building fell into disrepair over the years, but a local group of people expressed an interest in restoring the building.

Happy Retreat, on Mordington Avenue, was the home of Charles Washington, the brother of George Washington and the founder of Charles Town.

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