By Brandi Underwood
The stately stone structure currently sits vacant on the hillside above downtown Fayetteville, but the wheels are in motion on a plan to restore and repurpose the old Fayetteville High School.
If the vision of the Town of Fayetteville is realized, the currently dilapidated building will soon be transformed into the cultural hub of the town.
“In 2007, the West Virginia University Design Team came down to do a community design project,” Town Superintendent Bill Lanham explained. “One of the things that they pointed out were different assets that we have that were under utilized in the community.”
The WVU Design Team asserted that one of the primary assets being ignored was the historic 1923 stone building — built by prized Italian architect and stone mason C.G. Janutolo — that formerly served as the old Fayetteville High School.
“It was at that point that we realized that (the town council) had to get some dialogue going between us and the Fayetteville Board of Education to try to obtain the building,” Town Superintendent Bill Lanham said.
From 1999 to 2004, the building was purposed for storage of county school materials, but after issues with the roof arose, the building was emptied and left vacant, Lanham said.
The conversation between the Fayette County Board of Education and the Town of Fayetteville began in 2007 and continued until a negotiation was reached in 2011, relinquishing ownership to the Town for a nominal fee.
Since then, the town has been busy brainstorming and garnering support to revitalize the building and purpose it to better serve area youth and community organizations.
“The overall goal is to bring in different groups from the community and turn the building into a cultural, arts and education center,” Lanham said.
“What we are trying to do is take an asset that’s in our community, which boasts the historical stone architecture of C.G. Janutolo, and preserve and repurpose that architecture,” Lanham said. “That’s part of Fayetteville’s heritage.”
Janutolo also laid the stone walls flanking the entrance to Fayetteville and other structures across Fayette County and southern West Virginia, Lanham said.
This year, Lanham submitted an application to the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia requesting the building be placed on the PAWV’s Endangered Properties List.
“I think that is going to be very important to help us obtain other foundation grants and other funding opportunities,” Lanham said.
While the beginning phase of the project is currently being funded in part by a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Park Service, Lanham explained the town is going to have to secure more donations and funding in order to see the project to completion.
Lynn Stasick, a preservationist representative of PAWV, recently performed an assessment of the property and stated that he was very impressed with the workmanship, stabilization and overall quality of the building, Lanham said.
The results of that assessment are still being determined, but the first step of renovation is already underway.
Currently, the Town is accepting bids on a roof replacement, which will be reviewed at the end of November. The construction on the roof replacement will hopefully begin in December, Lanham explained.
“That way, the building will be stabilized from the top down for the winter and we can prevent the structure from falling into further disrepair,” Lanham said.
From there, the Town plans to begin work on the interior, gutting rooms and eradicating any mold or asbestos that may be present.
So far, several community-interest groups have expressed interest in occupying space in the building, including the New River Youth Symphony and Chorus, Fayetteville Arts Coalition, Fayetteville Woman’s Club and CODA Mountain Academy of Music, Lanham said.
It has also been discussed that a historic museum be erected in the building to display Fayetteville relics.
Furthermore, Lanham believes that the space will be ideal for housing weekly gatherings, including after-school programs, Scout groups, a senior center and more.
“All we’re asking is that the different groups help with the restoration efforts, and then they can use the space and will only be asked to contribute to utility expenses.
“The exciting this about restoring this building into a community center is that the number of possibilities is limitless,” Lanham said.
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