Owner wants to demolish historic Martinsburg school

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston says it has 'no intended future use or need for the building'

September 01, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • The owner of historic John Street School in Martinsburg, W.Va., which once housed Berkeley County Magistrate Court, is being eyed for demolition by its owner, the archdiocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
By Matthew Umstead, Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston wants to demolish the historic John Street School in Martinsburg.

A public hearing on the diocese's application for a "certificate of appropriateness" will be held by the Martinsburg Historic Preservation Review Commission on Sept. 12 in City Hall at 232 N. Queen St.

The HPRC's meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Built around 1911, the school at 120 W. John St. most recently housed Berkeley County's Magistrate Court.

The church paid Berkeley County $305,099 for the property after it was sold at auction in 2007, according to county records.  

The county declared the property surplus after relocating the state court offices to the county's new Judicial Center at 380 W. South St.

In an Aug. 16 letter to the city, John L. Reardon, the diocese's director of buildings and properties, said the church has "no future plans for the property other than planting grass" per the city's demolition specifications.

"The reason for demolishing the structure is we have no intended future use or need for the building itself," Reardon said in the letter.

"The building is in very poor condition overall and will require significant maintenance on masonry, roofing and interior finishes."

Reardon also noted that the utilities in the building had been turned off for nearly two years in preparation for demolition and that lightning had recently struck the building's chimneys.

When contacted Thursday, Berkeley County Historical Society President Todd Funkhouser said he was unaware of the church's application with the HPRC.

Without seeing the building's current condition firsthand, Funkhouser said sometimes a historic structure is beyond repair and cannot be saved. He said he is also particularly mindful of the strain on budgets in the current economy.

"Losing the building doesn't mean we're going to lose the story (about it)," Funkhouser said.

Funkhouser said he hopes the demolition application wasn't simply filed to tear down a historic building that may still be reused.


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