WEIRTON - A year has passed since the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center moved into its new building at 3149 Main St., and the number of historic artifacts it houses continues to grow.
Dennis Jones, president and executive director of the museum board, said the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center Committee formed in 1984 in an effort to keep memorabilia from the Weirton Steel Corp. The museum moved into its first building at 3393 Main St. in July 2006. Prior to that, he said, it kind of "floated."
The crew filming the movie "Super 8" in the city rented the current building, formerly owned by Home Furniture, for storage and a workshop during filming. When the movie crew moved out, the museum committee discovered the purchase price for the facility had come down to $30,000. So, in December 2010, the museum committee bought the building.
Photo by Art Limann
Dennis Jones, president and executive director of the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, stands beside a Sinclair Dino gasoline pump from the 1950s inside the facility.
Following fundraising and obtaining grants, renovation work started in August 2011. Jones said the entire building was torn up. A new main floor was put in, as well as a new handicap-accessible restroom. Walls and ceilings were plastered and new air conditioning and electrical systems installed, which allowed the building to open in November.
"Everything kind of fell in place," Jones said. "Since we opened here, it just took off. We have had more than 100 people for every event we have had. We've had very successful events. This area is very community-minded."
According to Jones, the organization continues to raise money and apply for grants. Renovation of the building's exterior will be the next project. As funding becomes available, the roof and second and third floors will be renovated to allow for additional displays.
He said donations of artifacts and historic items continue to come in and will be displayed on the first floor on a rotating basis until the other floors are available. In the future he hopes to have displays featuring local churches and schools.
"Plans now are that we will continue to build displays as we go," Jones added. "Right now, things are temporary. We have had showcases donated by groups and individuals. We hope that catches on. It's a three-floor building. We have lots of space."
The museum features historic photographs, enlarged from negatives, obtained from Weirton Steel Employee Bulletins. Jones said the museum literally owns "hundreds of thousands of them."
"It's a documented history of the city," he said. "More than 100 have already been printed from the collection. It's amazing what you can see in these photographs when they are enlarged. They are very detailed."
Other historic items include memorabilia from local high schools and pieces related to the military, including 8-inch howitzer shells made at Weirton Steel.
"For right now, we want to get the outside finished up. The front of the building is the next major thing," Jones said. "Then we will start upstairs. We need to save money to do that, and we're hoping to get grants. We need to put in an elevator and more handicap accessibility. It's a lot more expense.
"For now we will rotate things on the first floor, make the front more presentable and have more events," he said. "We will soon be putting in a train display for Christmas."