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Researchers hope to learn from historical Arthurdale homes

MORGANTOWN — Two Virginia Tech professors are researching how the original Arthurdale homes have survived advancements in technology and consumer expectations.

Lisa Tucker and Gregory Galford, both of whom have doctorates in architectural studies, are doing a study to see what has changed about the houses over time. Tucker is an interior design architect interested in issues of sustainability with new construction and Galford specializes in residential design.

Galford said Arthurdale is uniquely preserved with a strong organization for preservation in the form of Arthurdale Heritage, Inc., and a lot of people who care about it. That, he said, makes it a wonderful place to study the time period of the Great Depression and what was going on.

Arthurdale is a historical example of sustainable housing and the study wants to discover how successful those systems of sustainability were over time, Galford said. The systems of sustainability include things such as root cellars, space for large gardens and space for livestock for each home.

Arthurdale was started in 1934 as a homestead community, according to Arthurdale Heritage, Inc. Land was bought, resident were selected through a test, and homes were built until a total of 165 homes and several community buildings, such as a school, were built on the 1,200 acres in Preston County.

However, since 1934 the standards of living have changed. What was a perfectly adequately sized room and home back then would seem very small compared to a modern home, Galford said.

So, the study wants to find out what has changed in those homes over time and what’s still being used, with a goal of learning from those design successes and failures, Galford said. Are the yards still used for gardens? Do people still can? Are the root cellars still used? Where do people work? 

Housing is increasingly becoming more expensive and houses have gotten bigger with more technology which increases the cost, Galford said. There are implications for future housing by looking at historical community design. For example, what sounds nice but isn’t cost effective?

Galford said the first round of surveys has been sent out to people who live or used to live in Arthurdale homes. However, if anyone wants to participate but hasn’t gotten a survey, they can request one by emailing Arthurdale Heritage at or calling 304-864-3959.

After the surveys are returned, they will be assessed and voluntary focus groups will be formed, Galford said. Tucker and Galford visited the area in August and will do so again as part of the study. The data will be gathered and turned into a paper, public presentation, and hopefully a book.

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