TAYLOR COUNTY—After five years of work, a step toward progress is now visible in downtown Grafton.
Recently, the Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society welcomed to Grafton the new witch’s hat that will sit atop the tower of the former Merchants and Mechanics (M&M) Bank Building.
“We have been working on this project since 2016 and are so thrilled to finally have the hat here,” said Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society Member Olive Ricketts. “We hope that it will be a symbol of hope and encouragement for the community.”
She revealed that the society felt that it was an important project that might help to give the town hope that progress was really being made, not just by the society but by organizations and individuals who want to see a rebirth of the downtown area.
“We hope that it might help ignite a spark of improvements to other downtown area buildings,” Ricketts voiced. “There are a lot of old, historical buildings here, and it is a shame to watch them fall apart. We wanted to maybe be a catalyst to change that.”
The new witch’s hat, or the conical roof that sits atop a turret or tower, was delivered last week, and was finally placed in its rightful place atop the historic M&M Bank Building on Friday.
Created by Amish Craftsman Mark Burkholder, out of Barbour County, the hat has been constructed with sturdiness in mind.
“He explained that the wind blows harder up there than it does on street level, and that it would be impossible to wrap the structure with materials,” Ricketts explained. “So, instead, he came up with the idea of pulling the metal downward and bolting it to the structure so it would stay secure.”
And while the hat may look copper, it is in fact a new kind of material that looks like copper but will not tarnish to the commonly seen minty green color.
“We wanted a look that would be historically accurate,” Ricketts divulged. “We believe the original hat was covered with slate, but that didn’t stand up against the test of time and eroded away. It was then replaced with metal. We aren’t positive, but we believe it was more than likely copper.”
It had been approximately 65 years since the building was adorned with the witch’s hat, and Ricketts shared that the society has been working diligently for many years, more so in the last five years, to see their building brought back to historical accuracy.
“We have been fundraising for years and were able to come up with $15,000 for the project,” she explained. “We asked both the city and county for $10,000 each to help with the project, but that still left us $13,000 short.”
In 2016, the society penned a grant seeking assistance with the remaining balance.
“The original grant was lost or misplaced, but Amy Summers began working with us and found it,” Ricketts disclosed. “To date, we have collected $10,000 from the City of Grafton, and that money was used to do brick work where the structure will sit. We still have not received the $10,000 promised by the county and are still waiting on the grant funding, which should be here within the next week.”
The historical society is also working to make needed repairs inside the facility. First, the downstairs rooms will be outfitted with new wiring, drywall and flooring before members make their way to the upstairs of the building.
And as the society works to make improvements and repairs to in the interior of the historic M&M Bank Building, many of those works aren’t yet visible to the public, like the work that has been completed across the street at the Taylor County Arts Council’s Gallery 62 West.
“We wanted people to know that we are here, and we are trying to make improvements to this historical building,” Ricketts said. “Again, there are a lot of older structures downtown, and many of them are in poor shape. There are great people like Howard Freeze, the arts council and our society who are working diligently to ensure these buildings will be here for years to come.”
“Howard never stops working on his buildings, and has done an amazing job on them,” she added. “And almost, if not all, of his storefronts have businesses in them. Efforts like that shouldn’t go unnoticed”
The M&M Bank Building opened its doors for business on June 20, 1891, also housing legal offices and a shorthand, stenography and typing school. After the closure of the bank, the building served as the site of Loar’s Jewelers from 1947 until 1984.
The Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society is a community organization who strives to support historical and genealogical issues, projects and events throughout Taylor County.
They work to preserve past, helping to ensure a bright future. For those interested in helping with their mission, the Historical Society is always welcoming new members, who can join in their efforts of preserving the area’s rich history.
Memberships can be purchased, and Annual Membership fees are as follows: individual memberships are $20.00, $30.00 for couples residing at the same mailing address and $15.00 for children under 18 years old. All membership fees are due January 1 of each year.
“Membership dues and donations can be mailed to the society at 107 West Main Street, Grafton, WV 26354,” Ricketts noted. “We are working hard to preserve the past and look to the future, but funding has become a major issue. We would appreciate all the help we could get.”