Arches to mark entrances to historic district

Four decorative concrete-and-metal arches marking the entrances to the Julia-Ann Square district will be going up around the historic district in downtown Parkersburg through the end of January.

The first arch was completed Tuesday afternoon at 13th and Ann streets, in front of the Mid-Ohio Valley Ballet School in the former Nash School building.

Employees with the city of Parkersburg installed the metal framework onto previously poured concrete columns and then used a crane to assemble and install the large “Julia-Ann Historic District” arch over the street. The black-painted iron of the arch is accented by gold-painted vines and the gold-painted letters across the top.

“It’s a fabulous day for our Julia-Ann Historic District,” said district president Lillian McCrary as she watched the work being done Tuesday.

The archway was designed by McCrary and fabricated by Farra Brothers Welding Co., she said. Various businesses and individuals have helped with different aspects of the construction, from digging the holes to pouring the concrete and other tasks.

In addition to the arch installed Tuesday, McCrary said another is scheduled to be installed today at 13th and Juliana streets. By the end of the month, she hopes to see an arch installed at Ninth and Juliana streets and the fourth one at 10th and Ann streets.

Decorative bricks will be installed in the spring around the cement columns supporting each of the arches, she said.

The arch project is part of the continuing efforts by Julia-Ann Square residents to beautify and improve the appearance of the historic district.

Eight years ago, the district began raising money to change the streetlights in the district to ones look more fitting to the historical era of the neighborhood. The period lighting project was completed within the last couple of years. The district has purchased banners for each season to be displayed on the posts.

McCrary said the arch project has been in the planning and fundraising stages for a couple of years, and the district began working last spring on the design and fabrication phase of the effort. She estimated a project that would normally cost about $100,000 in materials has been done for around $30,000 from fundraisers, grants, donations and volunteer labor.

“It’s taken us longer to actually get them installed than it did for us to raise the money to get them in, and I think that’s almost phenomenal,” she said.

Support for the various efforts of the district has come from many sources, McCrary said, from city and county officials up to state and federal representatives who provided various types of assistance from funding to labor to materials. Local businesses, organizations and individuals have also provided all types of help and support for the district’s activities, she said.

The district’s residents have also been active in recent years organizing home tours, garden tours and other activities as fundraisers for the programs and to raise interest in the history of the district.

McCrary said interest in Julia-Ann Square as a tourism destination has been growing in recent years. She believes the arches and new signage in the area and other tourism-related efforts will only increase that interest in the future. She expects to learn in the near future if a state highway sign along Interstate 77 might also be installed.

The district maintains a Web site at www.juliannsquare.org.

McCrary said she knows of three tour groups that have booked specifically to visit the historic district during 2008, a first for the district.

“We really are a tourist destination,” she said.

Julia-Ann Square is a community of approximately 125 homes, primarily built mid-1800s through 1900-1915. The entire district has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977. It features various architecture styles, including late Victorian, Colonial Revival and many examples of Queen Anne architecture.

“We are West Virginia’s largest residential historic district,” she said.

Even after nearly a decade’s worth of improvement efforts, McCrary said the residents’ efforts to beautify and improve the district are far from over. With the lighting and arch projects completed, she said their attention will now turn to improving sidewalks in the area, some of which are badly in need of repair.

See more news coverage on the arches at the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Category : In The News Posted on January 9, 2008

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