Alleghany Highlands Industrial Heritage and Technology Discovery Center

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The development of an Industrial Heritage and Technology Discovery Center has been an important aspect of efforts to capitalize on the rich industrial heritage of the Alleghany Highlands and the unique opportunities it presents for cultural, educational and economic development. One of the initiatives of the Alleghany Highlands Vision 2025 focuses on museums and trails to showcase the heritage and natural beauty of the region. The Discovery Center will reflect on the past, engage in the present and prepare for the future. Not only will the Center provide historical displays and artifacts documenting the industrial heritage of the Alleghany Highlands, but will also provide experiential opportunities for visitors to participate in an active discovery of the manufacturing and industrial processes in its communities.

Following about two years of hard work by members of this working group facilitated by the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation and the Alleghany Historical Society, on March 18, 2016, the Society was notified that The Alleghany Foundation had awarded $1,205,000 over five years to help launch the discovery center.  The grant provides approximately 79% of the total projected project budget of $1,535,000.

The first step is to focus on the rehabilitation of the historic buildings identified to house the center.  Those buildings are located in the 200 block of N. Maple Avenue.  Including a generous donation from the Rooklin family, two buildings with each containing two separate store fronts have been acquired. They were built during three separate projects in 1899, 1909 and 1918.

The committee charged with the evaluation of several buildings for the center determined that the Rooklin property was the best choice.  In addition to the historic value of the buildings, the structures are constructed on grade with concrete slabs which will support heavy loads and the interiors can be easily opened to permit free movement throughout the entire ground floor.  The second floor provides ample space for storage, offices, classrooms, a computer lab, a research library and an open meeting hall.The location on Maple Avenue will serve as an anchor attraction in the Covington Downtown Historic District and promote attendance by visitors at other local attractions including the Historic Covington C&O Depots and Museum of the Alleghany Historical Society.

A significant addition to the economic revitalization of the Alleghany Highlands is expected from the development and opening of the Alleghany Highlands Industrial Heritage and Technology Discovery Center.  It will enhance the area’s tourism efforts by providing another destination of interest to complement the Historic Stonewall Theater, the C&O Railway Heritage Center, the Alleghany Highlands Arts & Craft Center, the Clifton Forge School of the Arts, the Covington C&O Depot Complex and Museum, the Covington Main Street Park and the historic C&O Locomotive 701, the Jackson River Sports Complex, the Jackson River Scenic Trail, the Falling Spring Falls, Humpback Bridge, Lake Moomaw and Douthat State Park.

Opportunities for participation and contributions toward the development and realization of the center are numerous.  Local companies can ensure their name is affixed to the list of supporters of the project by contributing resources and funds.  Monetary contributions to the Alleghany Historical Society can also be designated for use in the development of the Center.

Contact Bonnie Keyser, Paul Linkenhoker, Gordon Specht, Sam Hale or Amy Ray at the Alleghany Historical Society for more information.  Address correspondence to P.O. Box 384, Covington, VA 24426.  The Society is open on MTTF from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the Covington C&O Depot at 149 S. Maple Avenue and the phone number is 540-965-0149.