BUCKHANNON – Create Buckhannon recently received applause for its efforts to cultivate a sense of community pride in Buckhannon’s past.
At its ninth annual Historic Preservation Awards Banquet in Charleston Sept. 30, the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia honored the grassroots group with the Community Preservation Award “for their significant contribution to the preservation of the cultural heritage of West Virginia through their efforts in Buckhannon,” according to the award certificate.
The award was one of 10 doled out at the awards ceremony, which took place at the historic Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, Create Buckhannon president and Buckhannon city councilman CJ Rylands said Monday.
Rylands said he was caught by surprise when state Preservation Alliance officials called him to inform him that Create Buckhannon – which meets every Thursday at noon at C.J. Maggie’s Restaurant – had won the annual award.
“They called us up and said we had won, and at first, we didn’t know what it was all about,” Rylands said.
But Rylands wasn’t too surprised. After all, Create Buckhannon has concentrated its efforts on revitalizing Buckhannon’s downtown through taking the three steps he often outlines in public meetings – “be authentic, tell your story and represent value.”
“I think the historic plaques on the buildings, which spawned the city to do a lot of their own things – starting that historic plaque project – and I guess the downtown streetscape with the benches and signage that are historically plausible were things that contributed (to Create Buckhannon receiving the award),” Rylands said. “All these small steps have created the atmosphere in which people are willing to take big steps. Look at all the improvements to the buildings that had been languishing; it differentiates us from communities across the state by valuing our downtown.”
One recent example of municipal restoration efforts is the city’s Colonial Theatre project; the refurbished old theater-turned-bar will be the setting for a Buckhannon Community Theatre encore performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” Friday and Saturday.
Rylands says Create Buckhannon has focused on historic preservation because it’s attractive to residents and tourists alike.
“I think humans are wired to recognize authenticity,” he said. “It’s hard to describe, but we know it when we see it. A lot of today’s modern developments, with the lifestyle centers like SouthSide Works in Pittsburgh … they all recreate the historic downtown, but we are the real thing here. The challenge is getting everyone to work together to create genuine authenticity.”
“Cultural tourism is one of the biggest things on the rise,” Rylands added. “People want to go to places that are real, so bringing back buildings in appropriate ways shows that we value architecture and history.”
The ultimate goal, after all, is attracting people from outside to come into Buckhannon, park their car and spend money in the town’s restaurants, shops and other retail outlets.
“People go from plaque to plaque to plaque, and we just keep building on these things, and it becomes a richer environment,” Rylands said. “We’ve just taken small steps in a regular manner, and it gets us somewhere. It’s not how big the effort, it’s how long you keep at it.”
Other awards presented at the banquet included honors for downtown preservation, heritage tourism, best use of historic tax credits and more.
The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia is a statewide grassroots organization that focuses on promoting and supporting historic preservation throughout the Mountain State.
Its goal is to preserve the state’s past for future generations by “supporting and promoting historic preservation through education and outreach, advocacy, preservation tools and heritage tourism,” according to its website, www.pawv.org.