Once an entertainment venue, then a library and now a judicial annex building; the Silas P. Smith Opera House has been a fixture of West Union’s history for more than a century.
Patti Harris is the president of the Doddridge Co. Historical Society. She and dozens turned out Wednesday to a special County Commission meeting, determined to find a way to save the old building from demolition.
“So many of the people my age remember coming in here as youth and as high school students,” Harris said. “We did our research. We couldn’t get it on the computer. We had our friends here, we had our boyfriends here. It just has a lot of beautiful history to it.”
However, concerns over the building’s long-term viability has forced Doddridge County Commission to bring in engineers to explore several options.
“One, utilizing the old library, and one, being the demolition of the old library,” commissioner Shawn Glaspell said. “To give us some costs that are involved in doing both and seeing how those compare with each other and what we can do to utilize the space, yet make it a sensible budget for our county.”
The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for grant funding; something Harris and others would like to see applied to the building’s renovation, alongside revenue coming in from the pipeline industry.
“You see all these beautiful Victorian homes that are in disrepair,” Harris said. “The town imploded because they didn’t plan long term. I’m just saying, let’s plan long term. Let’s make our history and heritage an asset.”
Commissioner Glaspell said he expects Thrasher Engineering to take between four and six weeks to come up with building plans that can be presented to the public.
“If we can save up, and do this project right, it’ll be good for 100 years,” Glaspell said. “We don’t want future commissions working on stuff that need not to be wasting their time with.”