Members of PRO and volunteers were busy this morning cleaning out the building directly adjacent to the Tucker County Bank Building on First Street. While there is a lot of work to be done, the initial process of getting the building ready to be rented is underway! Check out these pictures that show what is quickly being cleaned out. We will continue to share the progress of this project as it happens. Say hi as you pass the site right on First Street!
A few weeks have passed since our last blog post. The weather has begun to get a bit more like spring, and Parsons ON TRAC is in the process of undergoing a bit of a change. After consulting with the state ON TRAC office and several members of both organizations, Parsons ON TRAC is going to merge with the Parsons Revitalization Organization (PRO) so that the people and resources of each group can work together towards the goal of revitalizing the city of Parsons.
What does this merge mean to you? Well, absolutely nothing has changed regarding either groups’ mission. The goal of both remains bringing people and businesses into Parsons, maintaining and improving the appearance of buildings and storefronts in downtown, and working with local groups on community development projects. By working as one, PRO and ON TRAC has access to the experience of PRO (established and active since 2001) and the state resources of ON TRAC (including membership in the West Virginia Non-Profit Association, GrantStation, and participation in statewide training). Combining these resources will allow PRO/ON TRAC to do more and reach more people.
There are two big changes about PRO/ON TRAC. One is the name. PRO/ON TRAC is a bit unwieldy. To simplify things, we are going to work on phasing out the use of “ON TRAC” in the main title of the organization. There are several reasons for this. ON TRAC is an acronym created by the state that stands for Organization, Training, Revitalization, and Capacity. This acronym does not have anything to do with the city of Parsons and is hard to explain to new members – ON stands for Organization? In this case, yes. As you can see – it is not that clear. Also, the label ON TRAC does not have a local connection with the town like PRO does. This is our organization – not the state’s. While the state gives assistance, we want to promote the fact that it is the people of Parsons, people living right here (not in Charleston), that will be doing the work to improve Parsons’s downtown. Many ON TRAC communities throughout the state have dropped the ON TRAC from their names in order to emphasize the local community’s ownership of their organization. For example, Wheeling’s ON TRAC program is called Downtown Wheeling, Inc. Parkersburg’s ON TRAC organization is called Downtown PKB. This change will take some getting used to, but we believe it is the right thing for the organization in order to help it move forward and take initiative on local projects.
In order to explain it better, we are working with a few phrases that describe how PRO and ON TRAC are connected, as follows:
Parsons Revitalization Organization (PRO) represents the community development and downtown revitalization efforts Parsons, a West Virginia ON TRAC community.
PRO is a member a West Virginia ON TRAC.
The second big change is the implementation of the Main Street Four Point Approach. Past blog posts have described the four ON TRAC volunteer committees: Organization, Economic Restructuring, Design, and Promotions. This division of PRO into committees will make it easier for members to work on projects that they feel deeply about. For example, one of the projects that the Organization committee is working on is the maintenance of the Tucker County Bank Building. This committee has commissioned a new front step (to replace the old one) and will oversee its installation. The Promotions committee is working on several projects with ArtSpring (the annual county-wide High Mountain Arts festival), including organizing and overseeing an exhibit in Heritage House during the Memorial Day arts festival. By dividing into committees, members of PRO and volunteers can decide what they want to work on and focus on it. Meetings will be shortened and made more efficient. Instead of one meeting that must tackle issues ranging from building insurance to event planning to administrative tasks to marketing to business strategies, each committee will meet on its own time and work out issues as they individually apply. If you have any questions about the committees, would like to figure out which one is right for you, or anything else about this new change, please email email@example.com or give us a call at 304.478.6009. We would love to answer any questions that you may have.
Another change with PRO is the implementation of a $5/year suggested member donation. As discussed in our most recent meeting, this suggested donation will allow for the creation of an updated list of active members, making it much easier to keep members who are invested in projects informed. We plan to provide a annual party or some kind of token for the public from these funds.
We recognize that these are some big changes. But, they will help this organization function more efficiently, increase its scope of work to the entire city of Parsons, and give members more freedom to work on projects they are truly passionate about. Work plans for each committee outlining specific projects will be available in the beginning of April. Change does not happen overnight. Our Facebook page and or email address are still labeled Parsons ON TRAC, and it may take a while to incorporate all these changes across the many channels of communication we utilize. We hope that you will accept the changes we are implementing and will be patient as the many aspects of this organization transform into what is best for the people of Parsons.
If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 304.478.6009. Thank you for your understanding and continued support of revitalizing Parsons’s downtown! Look for posts describing some of our new projects in the next few weeks.
I hope that everyone has been staying warm! Only 18 more days ’til spring folks – we can make it. In the meantime, plan on coming out to our next meeting. PRO/ON TRAC will be gathering next Tuesday (March 11) at 6:30 PM in the Five Rivers Library to discuss plans for the spring. We will see you there!
After a few more weeks of snow (what was it that groundhog said last week – winter will never end?) I have made it back into the office. The Bank Building is still here and as historic as ever. Here are some pictures of the interior (taken by me, so I apologize for a lack of sophisticated framing or lighting effects). Can you see these spaces as they once were (a dentist’s office, law office, bank waiting rooms)? The corner office directly about the entrance on the second floor has a commanding view of First Street and the courthouse. The photos below of the courthouse, McDonald’s, and First Street were all taken through the windows of the main office on the second floor.
All these pictures, minus the plaque which is located on the exterior of the building by the main door, show parts of the second floor of the Bank Building. The window stating “A deposit required on all sitting” (a pretty strict policy if you ask me) is original glass with the original decal. The windows stacked against the wall above the staircase are also originals. As you can see, there is a bit of work that needs to be put in to making these spaces usable again. But, since the rooms are structurally sound, a day or two of cleaning and clearing out should be enough to make these spaces almost like new. This building has sustained a remarkably small amount of wear and tear over the years, especially considering how long it has been in use and the floods it has survived.
The third floor of the Bank Building, besides boasting bright blue carpet, also has an incredibly well preserved pressed tin ceiling. The dimensions of the room – its large space, tall ceilings – and the majesty of the windows make it the perfect space for gatherings and social events. PRO and ON TRAC would like to utulize this space more. It needs some cleaning up like the second floor (particularly after a few dead pigeons were found in it earlier this fall), but there is so much potential.
Do you have any ideas for using any of these spaces? Want to help us clear out the rooms and see if there are any hidden treasures hidden in crevices and behind boxes? Help us out! ON TRAC will be sponsoring a Clean Up the Bank Building Day later this year. All volunteers are welcome. We will let you know when and where as we work out the details 🙂
Hello everyone! Our next ON TRAC meeting will be TOMORROW, February 11 at 6:30 PM in the Five Rivers Library in Parsons. We will discuss plans for cleaning up parts of the Bank Building, a possibly partnership with ArtSpring, and more! Hope to see you there!
The last of our four volunteer committees is the Economic Restructuring Committee. This group deals with the business aspect of downtown. Members study the economic situation of Main Street and work to improve economic activity and building utilization. It is the job of this committee to offer incentives to encourage businesses to move into the downtown area. They also brainstorm ways to help improve use of buildings and public space that are vacant or struggling. The Economic Restructuring Committee monitors activity in downtown and informs ON TRAC of what is working well and what could be improved. By helping struggling businesses, considering alternative uses for vacant buildings, and working with the other ON TRAC committees to make a plan for downtown, the Economic Restructuring Committee works to improve the economic aspects of downtown.
Members of the Economic Restructuring Committee see what Main Street could be. They see alternate uses for old buildings and spaces. They have a good sense for business and care deeply for ON TRAC’s overall mission.
I have not yet decided how many parts to this history of the Bank Building there will be, but don’t let that worry you! We left off discussing the outside of this historic building. Now let’s talk about the inside. Again, thank you to the Mills Group and the dedicated individuals who researched and recorded the history of this building.
The first occupant of 303 First Street was its namesake, the Tucker County Bank. The bank, which formally moved into the building in 1905, served the rapidly expanding population of Parsons right at the beginning of the 20th century. The other occupants of the building at its start were the Freemasons (whose lodge was located in the third floor), and the pharmacy run by JW Kogelshatz. Kogelshatz was one in a long line of druggists in the Walnut Street storefront. In fact, except for a brief run by the Parsons Clothing Company around 1909 (where one could buy everything from bath robes to smoking jackets), the Walnut Street storefront remained a drugstore: from Kogelshatz to FS Johnston to Rodney A Barb. Not only a popular hang-out because of the soda fountain (purchased in 1917 and a steady fixture in the building for many decades), the drug stores throughout the years sold bus tickets and was a center of advertising for various town businesses and organizations.
The other offices in the Bank Building have a more varied history. The first half of the 20th century saw two dentists, Dr. OA Miller and his father in law Dr. BM West, occupy the second floor as well as an insurance agent and the Duncan Telephone company. The second floor was also home to Judge Valentine (a former attorney whose name still adorns one of the upper windows) and the Tucker County Board of Education, which probably moved into its office in the late 1930s.
The third story of the Bank Building was designed with one purpose: a place for the Freemasons to gather and meet. The open floor plan of the top story made it the ideal meeting place and temple for the Masons over the years. In fact, it was as recently as 2002 that this floor was used for its original purpose.
All of these different people, companies, and dates. This building was obviously a centerpiece to the city of Parsons. People visited the building to save money, get a soda, get their teeth cleaned, by a sweater, hire a lawyer, and more! One simply cannot think of Parsons without the image of the Tucker County Bank Building coming to mind.
That’s enough for part 2. Part three will have pictures, I promise. Stay warm in this frigid weather!