The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

September 14, 2013

Dance through the decades at Whipple Company Store

Last year, USA Dance-Beckley WV Chapter #6064 made history by returning dance to a unique ballroom which had not been used for over 100 years. On Saturday, Sept. 28, the group once again invites the public to join it at the Whipple Company Store for a second annual event which gives attendants a glimpse of West Virginia history, and allows participants to dance where from 1890 until 1907, only the most prestigious coal barons and their wives were allowed to step.

“Dancing Through The Decades” is the theme of the annual fund-raising event. A contribution of $25 per person toward the preservation of the historic building entitles guests to a guided tour of the museum, participation in a reenactment of waltz in the third-floor ballroom; open dancing on the main floor; and heavy hors d'ouevres with non-alcoholic beverages available throughout the evening. Casual attire is welcome, but dancers are encouraged to wear costumes reflecting the era of their choice (for example, you could sport the elegance of the late 1800s, the freedom of the roaring ‘20s, the vitality of the fabulous ‘50s, or attend decked out in your throwback clothes to the hippy ‘60s or the disco ‘70s).

The event begins with guided tours from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by dancing and reenactments from 7 to 10 p.m. Dance styles include American Smooth dances like waltz, and fox trot; Latin varieties such as tango and rumba; novelty dances like ballad, swing, and hustle; and of course freestyle dancers are always welcome.

To be adequately prepared for the event, museum owner Joy Lynn requests reservations to be made by mailing a check or money order to Whipple Company Store & Museum, P.O. Box 150, Scarbro, WV 25917  (payable to Whipple Company Store; please include guest’s names and correct amount of  $25 per guest).  Non-reservation guests may attend for an at-the-door contribution of $30 per person (includes tour, food, and dance); or $15 per person at-the-door (includes food and dance; excludes tour).  Paid reservations must be postmarked by Monday, Sept. 23.

The Whipple Company Store, located at 7485 Okey L. Patteson Rd, Hwy. 612, Scarbro, was established in 1890 to serve many functions for the New River Coal Company and provide necessities for families living in the coal camps. Included in the structure’s design is a unique ballroom on the third floor. Following the pattern of those in England, the dance floor is suspended from the rafters above, rather than supported from the ground below. This allows the floor to actually move beneath the feet of dancers, making it a perfect design for ballroom dancing. Inspectors have deemed the structure to be safe. However, because there is only one exit from the room, fire codes prohibit open access to the third floor. But as a part of the tour, attendants will be taken upstairs in small groups for an opportunity to waltz in the ballroom, while others are enjoying the open dance on the main level.

The Whipple Company Store is our nation’s only remaining structure of its kind. The building holds many built-in features specifically engineered to hide secrets and gather intelligence. Guided tours are available each year from May through October. For more information, phone 304-465-0331, or visit www.whipplecompanystore.com.

The Beckley chapter of USA Dance Inc. is also doing its part to preserve our cultural link to the past by offering beginner and intermediate lessons in a variety of ballroom dances. The group meets each Tuesday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the Center of Hope, located in Mount Hope, the gym of the former Mt. Hope High School. For more information on the non-profit ballroom dance organization, phone 304-469-6401, or visit www.usadance-beckleywv.com.

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