Planning underway for Homestead Community Center

Dr. Ryan Claycomb, West Virginia University professor of English and director of the WVU Humanities Center, and Dr. Travis Stimeling, WVU associate professor of musicology and director of the WVU Bluegrass and Old-Time Bands, met with the Tygart Valley Homestead Association board of directors and members recently.

Dr. Ryan Claycomb, West Virginia University professor of English and director of the WVU Humanities Center, and Dr. Travis Stimeling, WVU associate professor of musicology and director of the WVU Bluegrass and Old-Time Bands, met with the Tygart Valley Homestead Association board of directors and members recently and participated in a discussion session on ways the university could offer formal guidance, support and input in the development of the Homestead Community Center, formerly Homestead School.

The community center is in Randolph County located on a 17-acre campus with a playground, recreational track, ample parking and easy access directly off U.S. Route 250/219 in Dailey.

Some possibilities discussed by the group and WVU professors were to utilize the building as a hub — a mixed-use public place where community members could gather for group or social activities, youth events, educational opportunities, entertainment and cultural activities. Other purposes discussed were the inclusion of a geneaology and historical center, pop-up shops, wellness center and an easy-access location where people traveling through the area could get information.

The group discussed the unique history of the Tygart Valley Homestead communities of Dailey, East Dailey and Valley Bend. During the Great Depression, the Roosevelt Administration, with strong encouragement from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, developed the Federal Subsistence Homestead Division. One hundred ninety-eight homes were built in the Tygart Valley area. The community was self-sustaining with a lumber mill and rock quarry providing steady work. The Dailey Trade Center held a restaurant, beauty shop, dentist office, dance hall, post office and cooperative store. The residents put their skills to work at the nearby weaving shop, wood working shop and community toolshed to trade their goods at the Trade Center. Numerous descendants of the original Homesteaders still live in the Tygart Valley Homesteads today.

Homestead School, constructed in 1939, was the last school closure out of the 100 that were built across the nation. Originally it housed first through ninth grades, replacing the one-room school in the valley. It was closed in 2017, following a devastating storm that damaged the building’s roof.

One attendee fought back tears as she recalled the impact of this closure on her grandson, a fourth-grader at the time of the storm. Students have been bused to George Ward and Beverly schools, where they have experienced social difficulties. And, upon visiting the school a year later, he found his homework assignment from the day of the storm still on the board, bringing a greater feeling of sadness. A solemn gasp filled the room and others in attendance shared similar experiences and frustrations upon returning to the building.

Since the transfer of ownership of the school building by Randolph County Schools and the USDA to the Tygart Valley Homestead Association this year, a grant was awarded from the West Virginia Preservation Alliance to repair the cafeteria roof. The school had been added to the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s Endangered Properties List in 2016. Funds raised by the association from many fundraisers helped to match the grant, and repairs to the roof have been completed. The association is in the process of applying for additional grants for other required upgrades to the building before it can be opened to the public as a community center, and other fundraising events are in the planning stages.

The Tygart Valley Homestead Association, organized in 2001, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the integrity of the Tygart Valley historic

district.

The association meets at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month in Dailey at the Homestead Community Center, formerly Homestead School. The public is invited to attend and offer constructive ideas for the development of the community center that would best improve the quality of living and meet the needs of members of the valley. For more information, visit tygartvalleyhomesteadassociation.com or call president Tom Rennix at 304-940-1855.

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