POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center will be moving further “uptown” but it will remain on Main Street.
Jack Fowler, executive director of the museum, announced on Friday that four lots have been purchased in the 300-block of downtown Point Pleasant, W.Va. to house a newly constructed facility and parking area. The four lots are located in the area of the former Double D Lounge and the TNT Cafe. As Fowler explained it, the museum will fit into the area between the former Harris’ Steakhouse and Blaine Surveying.
Fowler said the Point Pleasant River Museum Foundation purchased the property for $150,000, an amount paid for strictly through donations, not the museum’s general operating funds. The sale was finalized this week.
“We’ve been blessed,” Fowler said about the generosity of supporters.
As for what happens next, the museum representatives will need to make a presentation of plans to the Historic Landmark Commission as well as work with City of Point Pleasant officials on the project. Fowler said the remaining buildings which rest on the lots will need to come down. Once the demolition work is done, Fowler said the plan is to deed the property to the city which received the insurance money to rebuild the structure which suffered a devastating fire in July 2018. At the time of the fire, the city owned the property which formerly housed the museum and carried the insurance on the building. The museum has its own insurance money to assist with furnishing the interior of the new facility.
When it comes to a timeline for this activity, Fowler hopes the demolition can happen before the end of the year, with the bidding process on the new museum building occurring in the first part of 2020. In all, Fowler supposes he’s looking at a 16-month period from the time the property was purchased until the doors open on the new facility.
Three total spots were considered for the museum’s new home.
“I’m very pleased (with the chosen location),” Fowler said. “I don’t think we could’ve found a better spot to be.”
By moving just a few blocks north, it’s anticipated the museum, once built, will receive more foot traffic and be given a visibility which was lacking in its previous location given the growth Main Street has experienced in recent years.
“We’re right next door to the Mothman Museum,” Fowler said, explaining he felt both attractions could benefit one another in such close proximity even more than in previous years.
“We’re very appreciative of the people who have stayed with us and encouraged us to do this and who let us know how much the museum was appreciated in the area and community, and we’ll try to justify their faith,” Fowler said. “This won’t be just another red brick building on Main Street. People are going to want to have their picture taken with our museum…they won’t just want to take a picture with Mothman.”
Fowler said the preliminary vision for the new museum, at this point (which is subject to change), is to create a building 70’ x 130’ possibly housed in two stories, with the familiar pilothouse area and an option of a rooftop observation space. There’s also talk of adding a third floor as well in which banquets and meetings could be hosted for additional revenue. Inside, it’s hoped the building can achieve a larger version of its previous layout but aesthetically the vision is to create the experience of entering a boat. A parking area will be included and the museum will continue its mission of providing continuing maritime education and training classes.
“We’re dreaming big,” Fowler stated, clarifying there’s still much collaborative work to be done with many people and organizations, though securing the site was a big step in the right direction.
As last year came to a close, Fowler spoke with Ohio Valley Publishing, reflecting on the loss of the museum’s home for almost 20 years. When asked nearly 11 months ago if he thought there was a purpose for everything, particularly the year the museum had experienced up to that point, he said, “There’s a purpose. I don’t know what it is yet, but it’ll show.”
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.