POINT PLEASANT, W.Va (WOWK) – The Point Pleasant River Museum in Mason County is the record keeper of the city’s history, dating back to the city’s time as an 18th-century settlement to its days a River Industry Town during the 20th Century.
“We don’t want them (residents) to forget where the roots of Point Pleasant were. They came right out of the river industry. . .there was so much to learn about the men and women in that industry, on the river, on the boats and the shipyards,” said Jack Fowler, Point Pleasant River Museum executive director.
The museum even has documentation, pictures, and interviews with survivors and witnesses of the horrific Silver Bridge Collapse in 1967, but on July 1, 2018, an electrical fire in the roof damaged the museum. Fowler said 16 people were inside at the time and were able to get out safely, but some of the city’s history was lost.
“and when that fire broke through the roof I was standing across the street and that is when I had a sinking feeling. You knew it was gone then,” said Fowler.
Nine-year-old Point Pleasant resident Kyiah Jones said she liked to visit the museum’s aquarium to see all the different fish it had in it from the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. She said she was shocked when she found out about the fire.
“And my mom was like oh my gosh. . . and we went up and looked and I was still crying,” said Jones.
What is left of the museum’s history is now being kept in an office space on Main Street, nearly invisible to the public. Point Pleasant Main Street director Charles Humphreys said the museum was as important to the city as anything they have.
”It was definitely good for revenue for the city and the history of it. It let every visitor know what we are about here,” said Humphreys.
Fowler said Point Pleasant is a great rest area for travelers, and many to stop by the museum during their breaks. He also said other businesses in the area were able to feed off of it.
“If they are driving through to North Carolina to Indiana they come through here and stop. A lot of them learn this is a great place for a break,” said Fowler.
However, better days are in store after the New Year. The new Point Pleasant River Museum is going to be located just down the street from the old one and is expected to open in late summer 2020. Fowler said he expects it to be bigger and better than ever, so much so they are going to knock down two buildings to build it.
”It seems like you get rejuvenated because you are going to start building again,” said Fowler.
Fowler said the price tag for the land and demolition will cost the River Museum Foundation about $300,00, but the city will be responsible for building the new museum with the insurance money it received from the fire. Fowler said the new site will take up four lots and have about a 165-foot storefront. He doesn’t expect the building to take up all the space so he thinks the new museum will have a parking lot and an outdoor area for recreation and activities. However, Fowler said he is pushing for the new facility to have features that resemble a tugboat.
”And I can just picture that being there when someone comes to Point Pleasant. . . if we build that they(visitors) will come to have their picture taken with the tugboat right in the middle of Mains Street,” said Fowler with a smile on his face.
Fowler and Humphreys also said the site of the new museum is in a central location along Main Street and should help local businesses. It is also much-needed solution for the dilapidated structures that are occupying the space currently.
The executive directors said the museum gets about 8,000 to 10,000 visitors annually.