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Preserving West Virginia: First Ward School

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 First Ward School served the Elkins community for nearly 70 years. Now its serving the community once again.

"It was a fairly advanced design, it was a fantastic building, all brick and stone and metal. Back in the day when energy costs weren't so elaborate," said Logan Smith, board member of Preservation Alliance of West Virginia.

It was a part of the county school system until 1976 when it closed and was left to be a storage area. Citizens for Historical Opportunity Preservation and Education took it over in 2010 with the hopes of finding someone to rehabilitate the building.

The goals of creating affordable housing and saving a historic community asset brought partners together to collaborate on a $3.7 million project now known as First Ward School Apartments.

"They took this project, first ward, from a structure that was really a $3 million liability, it would have cost hundreds of thousands to tear the building down. So we took it from a liability to an asset for the community. That's a very good example what these types of partnerships can accomplish," Smith said.

"We aren't the only ones there doing the work. But we provide a lot of support and volunteers for these projects," said Danielle Lapresta, executive director of Preservation Alliance of West Virginia.

The First Ward School Apartments consist of 16 affordable housing units for seniors. Seniors ages 55 and over can choose from one or two bedroom apartments with the basic amenities. Apartments are also available for people with disabilities.

"Some of the units are just gorgeous, and people will never have lived in a place like this before with this kind of character. So it's great to save a part of our history," Johan Graham, project manager.

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