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The Indy Issue from Friday March 12, 2021



Visions of the Development of Salem

By Kevin Zorn

An oil on canvas mural is displayed in the post office in Salem, West Virginia. It was painted by an artist named Berni Glasgow and its production was funded
through the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture. It is titled “Visions of the Development of Salem” and depicts a group of people
receiving mail, in the background is a village and cattle.


Berni Glasgow was one of more than 800 artists commissioned to paint 1371 murals, the majority of which are featured in post offices.
Often mistaken as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiative, these Treasury funded murals were created with the intent of fostering i
nspiration in the American people who were still feeling the devastating economic and social effects of the Great Depression.


It is a testament to the shift in the ideological landscape today that I cannot believe the US Government, in tandem with local governments,
was capable of doing what the WPA accomplished. Yet, here are just some of the facts: from 1935 to 1943 8.5 million unemployed men and
women were hired by the government to build over 10,000 bridges, 620,000 miles of streets and roads, 40,000 new and 85,000 renovated
buildings including thousands of schools, gymnasiums, auditoriums, playgrounds, parks, libraries, college dormitories, tennis courts, and skating rinks.


The WPA employed artists, writers, historians, and musicians whose work directly affected the lives of millions of Americans during some of the
country’s most painful years. Musicians hired under the Federal Music Project taught free lessons to 132,000 children and adults every week.
Those hired in the Federal Writers’ Project, in addition to their popular state tourism guidebooks, recorded over 2,300 slave narratives -
an invaluable collection for scholars and historians. Under the Federal Theatre Project 1,000 plays were performed across the country every month.
Incalculable is the number of children and adults inspired by this work.


Through the colossal endeavors of the WPA in both its pre-war effort and its public projects America achieved full employment by 1942,
the same year “Visions” was painted in Salem.


It is clear that the America many of us grew up in, the structures that supported our lives, the parks we enjoyed, the schools we attended,
the infrastructure we relied upon for travel, even the art classes that inspired the next generation of creators was largely built under the
auspices of the WPA and the New Deal.


This is a salient reminder that capital “H” History is not simply a collection of memorized facts and figures, dates and obscure names.
No, History is alive in the communities in which we live. It not only teaches us, it haunts us as well. It haunts us with what was
possible before and what is possible tomorrow.


Perhaps that is the greatest battle waged in the spectacle of media and politics today - the question of what is possible.
Our expectations are managed lower and lower. We learn that the climate crisis is inevitable, that homelesness is natural,
that workers are essential until they ask for a living wage. All to say that change is impossible. Visions of better futures recede from view.

But history haunts us with an alternative. By the time Berni Glasgow painted the mural in the Salem post office, the American
government had provided millions of meaningful jobs improving, with concrete and paintbrushes, nearly every community across the nation.


Nick Taylor, the author of “American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA”, writes this: 


“These ordinary men and women proved to be extraordinary beyond all expectation.
They were golden threads woven in the national fabric. In this, they shamed the political philosophy
that discounted their value and rewarded the one that placed its faith in them,
thus fulfilling the founding vision of a government by and for its people. All its people.” 


This weeks front page:



During Tuesdays commission meeting, the Doddridge County Library Board of Director requested their second Executive Session to discuss a new library facility.  It was announced after the session expired and regular session was called that Mr. Richard McMillan made the announcement that the county commission and the library board had negotiated a building rental that will be a lease to own contract in conjunction with Triple H Enterprises.  Triple H is owned by Mr. Stanley Webb who’s growing company needs to expand their office spaces.  The proposal begins with a new building site located diagonally across from the Shop n’ Save Express and the old Sunoco Station.  Several dilapidated houses in the area had been purchased by Triple H to build a new office complex for their business.  A connection was made with the DC Library and plans were underway to expand the project to a two story masonry structure that would house both Triple H and the new DC Library.


Speaking with Mr. Webb the morning after the meeting, he had indicated that the area was pretty well blighted and he wanted to help revitalize that area of West Union.  “We are in several negotiations with adjacent land owners to buy out their property and possibly provide more office or retail space.” he said.  “We feel that when this phase of construction is completed, other businesses will want to move into that area.”  

Triple H employs almost forty people from the area…from skilled laborers to engineers and others professionals.  Currently they have outgrown their Joy Cabin Run facility and want to move into town to have a more centralized operation.  Their clientele include Antero Resources, EQT, Dominion and many other gas and oil related companies.  The services they offer include Engineering, Surveying, Fencing, Oilfield Services and any related service to the industry.


According to their website “At Triple H, we strive for excellence! Our company name, Triple H stands for High standards, High quality, and High performance. Started in 2008, Triple H has performed numerous different contracting jobs including well pad engineering and surveying, county road upgrade projects, pipeline engineering and surveying, NACE certified painting, gravel hauling and spreading, fencing, and small excavating jobs for several different companies.”  “Our mission is to provide our employees and customers with the highest amount of professionalism and quality workmanship, while creating and maintaining a long-lasting, positive relationship.”


Details of the proposal

The details of this building proposal and lease have yet to be ironed out with the county commissions attorney and Triple H, but they proposal is close to what follows.  Triple H will build and maintain the facility for the term of the lease agreement.  The lease agreement will last (projected) twenty-five years.  The county commission will pay Triple H $9,500 a month for twenty-five years.  At the end of the twenty five year lease, the building will be handed over to the county commission upon completion of the terms set.  Mr. Robinson requested at the meeting the option of buying out early.  The total cost for the county will not exceed $2.85 million.  The total square footage of the entire building is 120,000 square feet.

The lower portion of the two story structure will house Triple H with several offices, a reception area, work area, and engineering and survey office, a print room, equipment storage for surveying, and a break room for employees.


The space assigned for the library includes, a conference area with seating and tables for 120, A kitchen and reception area, a story time room with supply closets and restrooms  While the upper floor, still accessible from street level will house the main library, a teen area, children’s area, a genealogy room, kitchen, offices as well as reading nooks and computer spaces throughout the floor.  The game of the lot will allow for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility to both floors.

While the cost may seem somewhat daunting, the overall price per square foot of the building will be in line with similar structures recently built.  With the 1899 Silas P. Smith Opera House being used for the current library, it will now be turned over to the county commission for what ever purpose it sees fit.  The valuation of the Opera House was estimated at $200,000 and has been maintained well for the past few decades.  Updating the technology in the building has become challenging to say the least as the structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and requires special care when remodeling or updating.

Several previous efforts were made by the Library Board to obtain a new or newer facility, but all had fallen through.  Mr. McMillan noted that they hoped this would come to fruition unlike the other failed attempts.

This is the first phase of the building process, approval of plans and contract negotiation.  As with any project, things will change, but the basics remain the same.


“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” 

Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx


I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it's better than college. People should educate themselves - you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I'd written a thousand stories.

Ray Bradbury