ELKINS – The Augusta Heritage Center purchases the downtown Wilt Building with the aim of providing arts programming to the community, as well as providing train tours for tourists “a reason to stay another night at Elkins,” said an official.
Seth Young, executive director of the Augusta Heritage Center, gave the Elkins City Council a history of his organization Tuesday night.
The Augusta Heritage Center was established in 1973 by the Randolph County Creative Council. In 1981, control of the Center was transferred to Davis & Elkins College.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the “the arrangement has been restructured,” Young said, and the Augusta Heritage Center is now a separate 501c3 nonprofit organization, in partnership with D&E
“We have a planned transition, a college transition over the next year and a half,” said Young. “We have our own board of directors, consisting of Jack Tribble, Rob Nestor, Beth King, Gerry Milnes, Kyle West, June Myles and Joan Fenton.”
Young said the Center is currently working on a “physical project”.
“We have signed a purchase agreement on the Wilt Building in downtown Elkins, with the goal of renovating the Wilt Building and bringing it back to full life,” said Young. “We are community driven in this business.”
The Wilt Building, located on Third Street, has four stories.
“The ground floor would remain commercial”, Young said, part of the space serving as a restaurant.
“We would also have two spaces downstairs for commercial activities”, he noted. “One side would be retail. It would display part of the Augusta collection and part of the Darby collection. The space next to it would be an event space. And all of that would be joined together, so you could move from space to space.
“The second floor would be our administrative offices and our classrooms. We place a high priority on year-round programming for the community in which we serve.
“We see year-round the upstairs classroom space used for school-aged children’s programs, family programs, creative aging programs, and programs that attract tourists who visit our city for a short time to catch the train, and we’d like to give them a reason to stay another night at Elkins,” said Young. “Workshops that appeal to our railroad demographics are something we would run as well.”
Young pointed to the Wilt Building’s proximity to the Elkins Railyard, where the New Tygart Flyer and Polar Express holiday train have served thousands of tourists over the years.
He noted that the upper floors of the Wilt Building “will remain residential. Our first priority in this residential space is to try to fill it with community-minded people who are active in civic engagement. So that would mean our AmeriCorps members.
“AmeriCorps has a huge housing crisis for what these members can get out of the stipend they receive,” said Young. “With Dave Clark of Woodlands (Development & Lending), we were able to come up with a pro forma on the building, and we hit that sweet spot where AmeriCorps members could afford to live upstairs. Wither.”
Young also informed the board of a special program taking place at Elkins Elementary Schools in the upcoming school year.
“We are very pleased to announce that we recently received $50,000 from an organization called Chorus America… We will be bringing in culturally diverse master teachers from across the United States and around the world, to work with students from the third to the fifth year. in Randolph County schools next year. This will affect more than 600 children,” he said.
“We’re bringing in a Cuban artist, a Bulgarian artist, a gospel artist, and an Appalachian ballad singer. Students will study these singing traditions. They are going to have a dress rehearsal in college where we are going to feed them foods from the cultures they are studying.
“There is going to be a big community event at the end. This is the type of programming we want to seek out and deliver throughout the year,” he added.
Young said he was “Here to ask the council and the city for their support and advocacy in this endeavour.” He noted that some “donors” are on board the project, while others are contacted. He noted that approximately $250,000 in donations have been received by the Center at this point.