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Uses for tobacco warehouse considered

By Staff | Apr 21, 2011

Lynn Stasick, field representative for the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, believes that the Mecklenburg Tobacco Warehouse in Shepherdstown is a good building for adaptive reuse.

“The old warehouse could be turned into many things, such as classrooms where the history of the Potomac River could be taught. There could also be workshops for arts and crafts,” he said.

On Monday, April 18, a group met to tour the old tobacco warehouse. The group consisted of Curt Mason, the PAWV Eastern Panhandle representative; Paul Pritchard conservationist and founder National Park Trust; Amanda Whitmore, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer; Historic Shepherdstown President John Griffith; Keith Alexander and Dale Walter of Friends of the Shepherdstown Riverfront; Mayor Jim Auxer and Frank Welch, director of Public Works.

Stasick, on a trip through the Eastern Panhandle, also stopped to see the old warehouse.

Mayor Auxer welcomed the group.

“I’m happy to see you here today. This is a wonderful old structure that has played a big part in Shepherdstown’s history. I’m looking forward to hearing what recommendations you might have about the tobacco warehouse and its uses.”

Alexander led the tour of the tobacco warehouse and talked about its historical value as well as the uses of the building through out the years.

In a telephone interview afterwards Alexander said, “I was happy to see the mayor there. I’m glad the town is taking an interest in the future of the warehouse. The building is in good shape and can be very useful in our future.”

In the Historic Structures Report from March 20, 2010, it stated that the Mecklenburg Tobacco Warehouse, later known as the Shepherdstown Tobacco Warehouse, was built in 1797 and is thought to be the oldest stone tobacco building in the state of West Virginia. The warehouse is the only standing commercial building on the riverfront and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing structure.

The group met to learn more about the warehouse as well as the history of the waterfront and discussed the opportunities and different ways to support and publicize several of its historic places in and around Shepherdstown.

Mason also serves on the boards of the Jefferson County Historical Society and the Historic Shepherdstown Commission, and said the county has a lot of history.

“It is important that we preserve and keep the older buildings that are connected to the growth and history of Jefferson County,” he said.

After the tour Stasick said that he thought that the building had a lot to offer.

“I believe that the tobacco warehouse is not only savable, but could be a wonderful learning ground for people during the rehabilitation process,” he said.

The upstairs could be used as a gathering hall for social events, community programs and the like. It could serve as a living history classroom for the benefit of both the local community and the Shepherd University. The possibilities are open to imagination, He said.

More information about the Friends of the Shepherdstown Riverfront and the Historic Structures Report can be found at www.shepherdstownriverfront.org or contact President Dale Walter at dwalter@citlink.net. For further information about the PAWV, visit pawv.org, call 304-345-6005 or send an email to info@pawv.org.