Upper Pocahontas Community Coalition Meets about Tannery Office Building in Frank

On Monday, February 12th, the Upper Pocahontas Community Coalition (UPCC) met at the Durbin Library to discuss the fate of the old Howes Tannery Office Building in Frank, WV. The meeting was held because the County Commissioners, at their February 6th meeting had given the UPCC and a group of former Howes Leather workers who had worked in the building and are still emotionally attached to it, until April to find a useful purpose for it, which will be financially self-sustaining.  Otherwise, the commissioners have been considering demolishing the building as part of their plan to clean-up the entire old tannery site and establish new industrial businesses there.

The Office Building also has water damage due to a leaking roof, which would need to be repaired before the building could be used again, which could be expensive.

As far back as the fall of 2020, the UPCC has been considering options to use the building, including creating a leather tanning museum on the first floor, but to date, nothing has come of those discussions. Now, with the Commission’s April deadline approaching, the February 12th UPCC meeting was held to restart the efforts to find a viable purpose for the building.

There were 9 people at the meeting, including County Commissioner John Rebinski.

Judy Fuller pointed out that she had collected information which indicated that utility bills for operating the building as a museum could run upwards of $600 to $800 a month.

Sam Knieri, an AmeriCorps member working on historical projects for the U.S. Forrest Service, pointed out that there could be a need for a tannery industry museum because Howes Leather was the largest maker of combat boot soles during World War 2, and there are no museums anywhere in the U.S. dedicated to the tannery industry. He also said there are grants and micro-loans available if the building could be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and AmeriCorps could possibly help out with labor for the project. He suggested that the UPCC should compile as much historical information about the building as possible in the next two weeks.

Joanne Gilardi said that the first step should be to come up with a business plan for the museum, but a good business plan requires that a start-up business have enough money in advance to pay for one-year’s utility bills and repairs.

Other questions identified during the meeting, which need to be answered before moving forward were:

  • Is it even feasible to start a museum or other business there?
  • Would it be possible to connect a museum to the tourism railroad in Durbin, perhaps by a shuttle bus?
  • What is the condition of the existing electrical system including the wiring in the building?
  • Can a museum be financially viable, perhaps by selling books and having an admission fee?

Most of the people at the meeting agreed the first priority should be coming up with a business plan and answering those questions. It was agreed that a smaller committee of 3 or 4 people should meet weekly to try and do that.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

Current Weather