- Associated Press - Saturday, August 26, 2017

WESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Citizens Bank in Weston is reviving its carefully sculpted plaster ceilings this month, brightening up the individual pieces to help restore the structure to its former glory.

Renovation to the space became necessary after water damage occurred in early May, Vice President John Kafer said.

“I got a call around 4 a.m., and it looked like a waterfall coming down from the ceiling,” Kafer said.

After getting an estimate on the damage done to the left side, they found other issues in the ceiling, such as small cracks from stress.

“Once you renovate one side, you kind of have to do both,” Kafer said. “So we decided to restore the other side. The finish on the paint is only 50 percent of the gloss it was originally, so (the reconstruction worker) is doing some cleaning and highlighting to bring it back up - he’s doing a tremendous job. It’s going to be pretty extensive, but it’s really going to be beautiful once it’s completed.”

Without the water damage included, the cost of the project is under $40,000. Buildings such as this require a restoration every 50 years; otherwise they’ll start to decay.

The bank was chartered in 1891 and moved into its current building in 1930. It closed for The Great Depression and reopened in 1934.

“Our depositors did not lose a penny,” Kafer said. “It’s been functioning openly since 1934.”

The original building was done with Indiana limestone and sawed walnut paneling. An addition was put on in the 1960s and again in 1980.

The archways between the addition and original structure were originally windows, which were then repurposed for the front of the building.

“We’ve tried to keep the decor art deco, and we have a lot of people that come here just to look at the woodwork and iron work,” Kafer said.

Sarel Venter, who is doing the reconstruction work, said that many times, business owners aren’t able to justify the cost of keeping such buildings up to date, and in the process, lose the beauty of these structures.

This is made especially difficult by the fact that the skill of doing such specific work such as this is a dying art, as it was a skill that was passed down through generations, according to Venter. As America loses its system of apprenticeship, it also loses these kinds of workers, Venter said.

“We’re losing our history; we’re losing our culture,” Vetner said. “This building is so exquisite and not just the plaster work. The woodwork in here is simply, in today’s terms, not repeatable. You would never be able to do all this again, and the level of maintenance in here is so exceptional.”

He said that one especially unique feature to the building is the centerpiece of the ceiling, which holds the state seal. It’s 24-karat gold leaf, and the two chandeliers surrounding it are original Tiffany.

He pointed out that often plaster has repetition that allows the same mold to be used multiple times. However, the main part of the ceiling has so many pieces that “it’s phenomenal.”

“The second thing that makes it so unusual is its metallic finish. I’ve not come across that level of metallic finish on a ceiling before with plaster. … to lose it would be such a shame,” Vetner said. “These places are like chicken teeth. They’re so few and far in between - they almost don’t exist anymore.”

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Information from: The Exponent Telegram, https://www.theet.com

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