- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

HELEN, W.Va. (AP) - An effort to restore an apartment building in a former Raleigh County coal camp could serve as a model for other areas that want to preserve structures until funds are available to fully restore them, Raleigh County extension agent David Rotenizer said.

A coalition of preservation, development, community and government agencies is working to preserve the Helen Apartments in Helen. The property will be cleaned and secured through a process called “architectural mothballing,” Rotenizer told The Register-Herald (https://bit.ly/1DEglAZ ).

Agencies and volunteers will remove trash from the building this weekend. They also will secure windows and entrances to prevent people or animals from entering the building, and will place vents to allow air flow. The building will be restored when funding and time become available.

David Sibray, a member of Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s board, said the project is one of the first economic development programs of its kind in the Winding Gulf Coalfields.

“Travel industry growth in the gulf is being bolstered by this kind of development, by building on the best of what we have in place there - including the New Salem Baptist Church at Tams and the national historic district in Sophia,” Sibray told the newspaper.

The county had marked the building for demolition as a dilapidated and abandoned structure. The County Commission agreed in December 2014 to pay back taxes on the property and transfer ownership to a local community group, We Grow: Winding Gulf Restoration Organization.

“Helen is one of the best preserved coal camps in the Winding Gulf Coalfields and our goal is to preserve this building for its historic value to the community and the potential for the community to one day become a historic district,” Rotenizer said.

Tiiffany Rakotz, a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member, is coordinating the cleanup and mothballing and researching the building’s history. She said the building likely was built in the 1920s or 1930s.

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Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com

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