Historic Tyler County building could be seeing its last days

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MIDDLEBOURNE, W.Va. – The 102-year-old Tyler County Home, also known as the “Poor House” or “Poor Farm,” was built in 1915 and was in operation until 1951.  The iconic two-story building, which sits outside Middlebourne along Route 18, once helped the disadvantaged, but now it will be put up for bids of demolition on July 14. 
Due to neglect, insufficient funding, water damage and vandalism, the structure of the building has been deteriorating since the 1960s. In 2009, the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia assessed the house and declared it as “endangered” to help bring awareness for the building.
The 2009 PAWV needs assessment offered suggestions for the stabilization of the Tyler County Home:

  • All roofs on this structure are in need of both immediate attention for stabilization purposes and plans for replacement.
  • The biggest and arguably greatest contributor to the deterioration of the building’s wood fabric is the terribly poor condition of the box gutters and downspouts. 
  • Porch ceilings are damaged or in danger of failure, and on one ground-floor porch, the floor has rotted and collapsed in the corner to the extent that the posts have completely fallen in.

With the future of the house on the line, a passionate group called the Tyler County Restoration Committee was devoted to preserving this piece of history.  In 2016, the committee began raising money for renovations to the house. 
“We were only raising money to stop the deterioration of the building from elements and vandals,” said Tyler County Restoration Committee President Peggy George.  “We organized because of an article of our local paper stated that the commission didn’t have enough money to fix it or tear it down.”

Photo: David Sibray

The committee received an estimate from Kalkreuth Roofing in Wheeling for $150,000 for the roof and gutter repair.  It also received two estimates for replacement windows:  $31,000 and $35,000 for 180 windows. 
For 22 months, the committee, which consisted of 12 people, raised $29,775 for the window replacements.  Although the county commissioners dispute this, George said they were asked to stop raising money and to give the money back to the donors. 

“We were a little dissatisfied after 22 months and having less than $1,000 away from purchasing 180 windows, the county commissioners decided that our time was up,” said George. 

In 2018, the Tyler County Commissioners requested an engineering report from Allegheny Design Services to conduct a comprehensive structural assessment.  The report factors date of construction, building area, acquisition cost, importance and occupancy. 

The basic steps include:

  1. Available documents review
  2. Site inspection 
  3. Preliminary analysis
  4. Preliminary findings and recommendations

The engineering assessment reported relatively similar conditions to the PAWV assessment back in 2009.  The estimated construction cost of house from the engineering report was almost $6 million. 

Tyler County Commissioner Eric Vincent said it is necessary for them to prioritize other buildings that need renovations around the county, rather than the house. 

Despite the fact that there have been efforts to raise money for the renovations, and talk about potential buyers of the house, the fate of the Tyler County Home might not be a good one.

According to the West Virginia Explorer, the home could’ve been turned into a museum, trade school, veterans center or mental health counseling center to help bring in tourism or economic development.

“I think it’s a great loss for the future because different things could be put in this building,” said George. “It’s one of the few standing poor homes in West Virginia and in other states.”

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