During World War II, there were only three facilities in the United States that were part of developing bombs used in that war.
Morgantown was home to one of them.
The facility was known as Morgantown Ordnance Works, and the building is still in the Morgantown Industrial Park in Westover.
Dominick Claudio, president and owner of Claudio Corp. — being a car enthusiast — said his passion for history followed. With the production of cars coming to a halt during the World War II era, a new production began — the making of bombs.
Claudio owns what was formerly known as Building 407, which was one of the buildings that took part in the construction of bombs in the Morgantown area.
His Claudio Corp., a small business development and integration firm, is now based in that building.
Built in 1942, the Ordnance building was one of the last facilities in the area to be built as part of the bomb-making. The Monongalia County facility was where heavy water was developed — containing the hydrogen isotope deuterium — also known as heavy hydrogen. Heavy water is necessary for the creation of nuclear reactors.
Not only was the building used for bombs-making, but it was also a part of a much bigger project — the Manhattan Project, or alternatively called the P-9 Project. From 1939-46, The Manhattan Project was a code-name for an American-led effort that was a part of producing an atomic weapon.
Few people know about the space or what it was even used for, and Claudio was reminded of that when he brought some of his family members — more familiar with the time period — into the building.
“A lot of this was a need-to-know basis, and that’s why very few people in this town know about this place … or at least know what they did here,” Claudio said.
Claudio’s ancestors, of Italian descent, settled in Pursglove and went into the coal industry and lived in the coal mining camps.
“During this time period, everybody came together to fight for a cause bigger than themselves and it didn’t matter where you came from,” Claudio said. “My grandparents were fighting for a country that wasn’t theirs, but they tried to make it theirs and they made it mine.”
Claudio said he thinks he is now responsible to pass along the history and legacy of his ancestors. Claudio remembered trying on his grandfather’s uniform as a young boy. His grandmother complimented him when he put it on. He now keeps it framed, hanging in his office.
“I remember putting it on and she’d say, ‘you’re so handsome.’ It’s a constant reminder of what he went through,” Claudio said.
Claudio’s goal with owning spaces like the former ordnance building is to make the community more aware of the history hidden in north-central West Virginia.
“It’s just a different side of West Virginia that most people don’t understand because most people see us as toothless rednecks,” Claudio said.
Claudio said he also does historical re-development in the Morgantown, Clarksburg and Fairmont region.
“I’m grateful for the time period because I wouldn’t be here without it,” Claudio said.
“If I wasn’t a product of this environment, if I wasn’t the son of an immigrant, I don’t know that I would assimilate as much with this history.”