POINT PLEASANT — Mason County’s Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) met Wednesday to discuss the fate of the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center, as before any further action can be done on the proposed demolition and rebuilding plans of the river museum, the HLC must first review and act on a request of approval from the Point Pleasant City Council.
The HLC members in attendance were Chairman Jack Coles, Jack Lee, Jerrie Howard, Elizabeth Jones, Kevin Fooce, and Beverly Mainville.
Coles stated the reason for the meeting was to discuss a request from the City of Point Pleasant to demolish the structure at 28 Main Street, described as a structure that was heavily damaged by a fire and inspected by two structural engineers who both reported the building should be demolished. The Point Pleasant City Council has agreed to the removal and reconstruction of the building. The HLC is required to act upon this application within 45 days at the request of the property owner or the application is automatically approved.
Coles then opened the floor for comment from HLC members.
Fooce explained most applications that come before the HLC are approved. One application that was denied was the demolition of the Double D Lounge.
“We are not here to get grants for the community, we are here to try and make sure the historic district stay in tact and looks like a historic district,” said Fooce. “We try to work with the community and give to the community, we would like to see downtown looking nice…we got a set of rules and regulations we have to go by, they’re in city code.”
Lee commented he had recently visited the website Trip Advisor and searched the river museum which ended up having 67 reviews from 2014 to last year. A large number of the reviewers gave the river museum a rating of 5 out of 5 stars and complimented all of the river museum employees on being very informative. The visitors enjoyed their visit and said they would like to return at some point. The visitors focused on what they liked inside the building, not the building itself.
“I think it’s a great asset, I think we have to keep the river museum in some way,” said Lee. “I’m just hoping that a decision can be made that this can happen.”
Howard commented, “I don’t think anybody here wants to lose the river museum, the museum itself. I know I’ve been speaking to preserve the building, but that doesn’t mean that I want to lose the museum. I think we can do both, I think there are several ways we can do both, but as a historic landmark commission…our focus is to deal with the building.”
She then referred to a section of the city ordinance regarding the HLC.
“There is hereby created the Point Pleasant Historic Landmark Commission whose purpose is to identify, study, preserve and protect for the benefits of the rest of the residents of the city, state, and nation such historic buildings, structures, and sights which will aid in the development and education in the city,” said Howard.
Howard then referred to emails from the structural engineers who examined the river museum. In one chain of the emails, there is discussion regarding recommendations for repair of the building. Though the engineers give these recommendations for repairs, they also state it may not be economically feasible. The final decision from the engineers, which was stated by Mike Davis, engineer from Burgess and Niple, in an email was, “after looking at the condition of the remaining brick and noting vertical curvature in the brick wall our conclusion was that the building is unsuitable for reuse.”
Howard then read an open letter aloud from Lisa Hartley Capehart concerning her feelings on the river museum.
Mainville then made a motion recommending the Point Pleasant City Council have a historical structural engineer inspect the river museum and make a written report on their findings and also have in the report what it would take to reconstruct the building if it can be reconstructed. Howard seconded the motion and there were all yes votes from Lee, Howard, Jones, Fooce, and Mainville.
Prior to adjournment of the meeting, Jack Fowler, executive director of the river museum, shared a letter he received from Amherst Madison, Inc. that relayed the company is in complete support of the reestablishment of the river museum, but the rebuild needs to happen as soon as possible.
A portion of the letter read as follows, “It’s very important that we move quickly on reestablishment of the museum because we cannot afford to lose the public support which we have built so well in relatively a few years.”
The matter will come before the Point Pleasant City Council at its upcoming meeting scheduled for Monday, May 13, 6:30 p.m. at the city building.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.