In 2021, Pocahontas County will celebrate its Bicentennial. In preparation for the year-long “birthday party,” local organizations and historians are working on plans for an unforgettable series of events.
Participating in the planning is the Pocahontas County Historic Landmarks Commission, which met last Thursday and took a step forward for its part.
The commission met with former county resident Gibbs Kinderman, who is working alongside the Bicentennial Committee. Kinderman has a plan for a large mural depicting the history of Pocahontas County, which is to be painted on the side of the Pocahontas County Opera House.
“The project I’m working on is in conjunction with the Bicentennial to have a mural done with the theme of the history of Pocahontas County,” Kinderman said. “I’ve been eyeing your wall ever since I went to Richwood and saw the murals there.”
Kinderman brought his proposal to the Landmarks Commission because it owns the Opera House building and is responsible for all changes made to the facility.
After receiving word that a mural on the side of the building will not detract from the Opera House’s status on the National Register of Historic Places, Kinderman moved forward to find an artist, Robert “Bob” Tuckwiller, of Greenbrier County.
“I found an artist I want to use and the way he works – the subject matter of the mural could be in large part determined by you,” Kinderman said. “He’s totally open to that.”
Kinderman was inspired by the front facade of the Opera House, with the five large windows and asked Tuckwiller to mimic the five panels in the mural. Kinderman shared sketches and small paintings of ideas Tuckwiller has worked on to give an idea of what the mural will look like.
The commission looked through the materials and agreed that they liked Tuckwiller’s work. To move forward, commission member Bob Sheets suggested getting word out to communities and organizations to get input on what should be included in the five panels of the mural.
“The content of the work should not be coming from us just as a small select group,” he said. “It should be definitely something we discuss with the Opera House board, Pocahontas County Historical Society, all sorts of different groups around the county that would have significant things that fit right in with the Bicentennial. We are trying to incorporate many different celebrations and festivals and areas of the county.”
The commission agreed to meet with the Opera House board and the Bicentennial Committee to continue the momentum toward creating a final design for the mural. In the meantime, Kinderman said he is working on fundraising for the project.
While on the subject of the Opera House the commission also discussed the recent West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office’s evaluation of the facility.
Doug Bernier gave the report and said there were several concerns that need to be addressed soon, including water damage to the exterior wall by the handicap ramp and other areas.
Reading the report, Bernier said, “The highest priority is to determine the full extent of the cement deterioration. A mason must be consulted to remediate the damaged areas to ensure safety at the back alley and parking lot. The mason will determine best methods of repairing the patches of the northern side of the building.”
The commission agreed that it is important to follow the priority list from SHPO and work on finding a mason who can fix the issues. The commission will meet with the Opera House Board concerning the issues as repair work moves forward.