MORGANTOWN — Joe Whipkey was demonstrating his talents in the Monongalia Arts Center gallery on Friday.
He’s an old hand in a rapidly dwindling discipline — plaster repair.
“It is a dying art,” he said. “With these gentlemen, we’re trying to bring that back and get back into it. It’s fascinating work.”
And in doing so, Whipkey and crew were bringing something else back: The 109-year-old former post office building at 107 High St.
The plaster work is being accomplished thanks to a long list of benefactors, including the city of Morgantown ($20,000), Rotary Club of Cheat Lake ($3,000), Rotary Club of Morgantown ($2,500) and Morgantown North Rotary ($500).
Members of the nonprofit Historic Post Office Building Inc. formed to save the old building were on hand Friday to recognize the contributions made by the local Rotarians.
The gathering occurred exactly one year after HPO celebrated the completion of a $250,000 project to put a new roof on the building.
“The HPO was formed in 2019 and we’ve been making progress. We’ve made significant progress,” HPO member Billy Atkins said.
Atkins said completing the plaster work in the building’s entrance, gallery and stairwell will allow those areas and others to come online for programming and future fundraising.
“More importantly, the support of the three rotary clubs – Cheat Lake Rotary, Morgantown Rotary and Morgantown North Rotary – demonstrates that the community supports this project. That’s as important as the money,” he said.
The main portion of the old building was completed in 1914. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Rotary Club of Morgantown President Dylan Sheldon said his club was established in 1918 by entrepreneurs invested in downtown Morgantown.
“For over 100 years, the members of our club have supported the development of the community and specifically the development of downtown Morgantown. We have former members whose names are on the buildings down here,” he said.
“So, to be able to be a part of something, at least initially in a small way but in whatever way we can help, we’re 100% in on it because it’s a part of our mission to see downtown Morgantown thrive.”
The building is home to three nonprofit organizations: the Monongalia Arts Center, Your Community Foundation and the Morgantown History Museum. YCF is currently operating out of an office at 201 High St. due to the building’s condition.
The overall HPO project is envisioned to be a $10 million multi-year overhaul. It received a significant boost in January with the announcement of a $1 million federal earmark through Sen. Joe Manchin’s and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s offices.
More information about the project is available at hpomorgantown.com