West Virginia preservationalists honored at annual awards ceremony

The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia announced this year’s West Virginia Historic Preservation Awards at its annual awards banquet held recently at the historic Senator’s Mansion in Mannington.

 Each year, the alliance presents awards that represent the most outstanding and exemplary historic preservation achievements around the Mountain State.

It is the statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to historic preservation in the state. It administers the West Virginia Saving Historic Places Grants and the Preserve WV AmeriCorps National Service Initiative. For more information, visit

Area recipients of 2024 West Virginia Historic Preservation awards. 

Excellent AmeriCorps Award: Lee Maddex, Morgantown

  Maddex is in his third service term with Preserve WV AmeriCorps. He served two years with the Morgantown History Museum, overhauling   archives and digitizing thousands of photographs and documents now accessible to the public. 

He worked with volunteers to maintain the museum, increase interpretation and engage visitors. This term, Maddex switched sites to the West Virginia & Regional History Center to help finish processing and archiving the Institute of Historical Technology and Industrial Archaeology Collection. He has dedicated his life to preserving and documenting several key historic resources in and around Monongalia County, including the Henry Clay Furnace at Coopers Rock State Forest. Last year, he brought 25 volunteers together to clean the trail to the furnace. 

Maddex has also worked on several nominations for the National Register of Historic Places, including the Virginia Furnace of Preston County articles for e-WV such as the Henry Clay Furnace, Shenandoah Bloomery and La Belle Ironworks.

Volunteer Award: Marcella Yaremchuk, Fairmont

 Yaremchuk is a  dedicated volunteer to the maintenance and historic preservation of the Maple Grove Cemetery, a 20-acre cemetery in Fairmont,  holding the graves of over 300 veterans dating back to as far of the Revolutionary War. 

Some of Yaremchuk’s most recent historic preservation initiatives for the cemetery include organizing the Wreaths Across America annual celebration, fundraising for signage at the entrance and clean up at the cemetery for landscaping and resetting fallen stones.

 She is being recognized for her vital role in safeguarding the stories, heritage and sacred resting places of past generations, ensuring that their memory remains honored and accessible to future ones.

Heritage Tourism Award: Loving West Virginia, Fairmont

 Loving West Virginia is a West Virginia-themed merchandising company dedicated to reminding West Virginians about their roots. 

Owned and operated by Evan and Evan-Nicole Chapman, the motto is “no matter how many miles away you are from the state you will always be a West Virginian.” 

They help bring people to the state to tour  heritage sites through their merchandise and promotion of all things West Virginia. They have actively engaged in historic preservation and heritage tourism. After years of selling on the internet and in other retailers, Loving WV purchased the 1904 West Virginia Times Building in downtown Fairmont to use as a storefront and headquarters. In March 2023, they completed, with the city and Main Street Fairmont as partners, the installation of a new mural in downtown Fairmont that showcases the best of the Mountain State.

Historic Preservation Media Award: Robert and Shannon Tinnell, Morgantown

  The Tinnells’ multifaceted contributions to cultural preservation spans literature, film, comic strips and culinary arts. They have played an instrumental role in safeguarding the rich tapestry of traditions that define the region. 

In 2005, Marion County native Robert “Bob” Tinnell published his graphic novel, “Feast of the Seven Fishes” based on his experiences growing up in an Italian-American family, specifically the Christmas Eve tradition of the same name that consists of a meatless meal with several seafood courses. The next year, Tinnell and his wife, Shannon Colaianni Tinnell, collaborated with Main Street Fairmont and the community to organize the first Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival in Fairmont, an event that has continued and attracts thousands each year. 

Additionally, Robert is the director of the award-winning film, “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” based on the same concept of the graphic novel, and Shannon is the author of “A Culinary History of West Virginia: From Ramps to Pepperoni Rolls” & “Morgantown (Then and Now).”

  Michael Gioulis Downtown Preservation Award: Main Street Fairmont

 Main Street Fairmont is an excellent example of community development and historic preservation. 

Through unwavering dedication to the principles of the National Main Street Center’s 4-Point Approach, Main Street Fairmont has transformed its downtown into a vibrant hub of activity. The commitment to promoting community events is illustrated by initiatives like the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which showcases the town’s cultural heritage while invigorating local businesses. 

The Facade Grant Program has breathed new life into historic storefronts, preserving architectural features that define the town. The establishment of the Hometown Market has provided residents with access to fresh, locally sourced goods and fostered a sense of community pride. Main Street Fairmont’s strategic investment in key downtown buildings demonstrates the long-term vision and dedication to sustainable growth. 

Bob Weir Craftsperson Award: Wallace Eugene “Geno” Johnson, Tunnelton 

 Johnson is an exemplary craftsman, now retired after a career working with Allegheny Restoration & Builders. His unwavering commitment to historic preservation has left 

an indelible mark on countless preservation projects across West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. 

Johnson was known for his unparalleled craftsmanship and work ethic, being the first to arrive on the jobsite every morning, the first back from lunch and the last to leave at day’s end. His meticulous attention to detail was instrumental in preserving many architectural treasures and ensuring their use for future generations. 

His work included the Hotel Morgan (Morgantown); Preston Academy (Kingwood); “The Mount” — Edith Wharton’s Home (Lenox, Mass.); Antietam National Battlefield (Sharpsburg, Md.); West Virginia State Capitol Complex (Charleston); Holly Grove (Charleston); Lost Creek B&O Railroad Depot (Lost Creek); Oakland B&O Station (Oakland, Md.);  Kings Covered Bridge (Somerset, Pa.); Simpson Creek Covered Bridge (Bridgeport); Fletcher Creek Covered Bridge (Clarksburg); and Hokes Mill Covered Bridge (Greenbrier County).