Fire destroyed the third floor of the 135-year-old building that housed the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on July 1, 2018. The rebuilding was planned for 2019, but museum staff just broke ground on Feb. 22, and the surviving artifacts will soon get a well-deserved new home.
The Point Pleasant River Museum is important to the region because it is the only river museum in the state and one out of 22 in the nation. It is also one of six that incorporates a learning center to train people on inland waterway navigation and radar.
The fire in the previous building originated in the third-floor attic, but no one noticed until it broke through to the third floor because the circular roof vents pulled the smoke out. The third-floor attic contained Waterways Journals from 1923 to the mid-1980s and other items in storage, all of which were destroyed.
Jack Fowler was the executive director of the museum then and had been since 1999. The community hoped that he would be able to witness the groundbreaking ceremony, but he died in August 2020 after several weeks of declining health.
Although the old building offered a historical past to pair with the artifacts, the new building will make the experience even more enjoyable for visitors. The design of the building will be made to resemble a flatboat and the building will offer a better electrical situation for the simulators used for riverboat training. In addition, the building will house an aquarium.
“Once it is built and fully operational, you’re going to be able to experience a ‘wow,’” James McCormick, the current executive director of the museum, said. “You’re going to learn things about the history of the museum, the history of the river.”
The new building is scheduled to be completed in August and will reopen to the public in the fall.