Across the street from our office sits the former Davis Coal and Coke Company engineering building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its important role in the history of industry in the area. When the coal industry was booming, miners from Thomas, Douglas, and other surrounding towns would have gone to this building to collect their pay – at first in scrip and later in cash. The original bank vaults and teller windows were left in the building, along with many ledgers and other documents. Administrators, engineers, and other higher ranking employees would have worked on the upper floors, and the building was a hub of activity.
Friends of Blackwater has been interested in the engineering building for many years now, and with permission from the City of Thomas, we sent some of the ledgers and other documents to the West Virginia University archives for safe keeping. The City has made sure that the exterior walls and roof remained in good condition, but there was no funding to work on the structural problems inside the building. An assessment of the building found that a section of flooring had caved in on the first floor, and a support wall in the basement had collapsed.
Since that assessment, we have made two big steps forward. One is that we successfully applied for the building to be listed as an endangered property by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV). The endangered property designation will help attract attention to the engineering building’s deteriorating condition and allows us to get technical support from PAWV. The second is that we worked with the City of Thomas and the Vandalia Heritage Foundation to apply for funds from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to stabilize the building. We recently found out that grant was successful, and we will be able to at least make basic repairs over the next couple years.
Thank you to PAWV for listing the building and to the SHPO for approving our grant. Another big thank you goes to the City of Thomas, which owns the building and has been supportive of our efforts to preserve it.