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  Elkins First Ward ApartmentsElkins First Ward Apartments


Omni Associates Architects
1543 Fairmont Avenue, Fairmont, WV 26554

General Description

Elkins, West Virginia
Date Bid: June 2012 Construction Period: Aug 2012 to May 2013
Total Square Feet: 27,000 Site: 1 acre.
Number of Buildings: One.
Building Sizes: First floor, 9,000; second floor, 9,000; each additional floor, 9,000; total, 27,000.
Building Height: First floor, 10’; second floor, 14’; each additional floor, 14; total, 36’.
Basic Construction Type: Adaptive Reuse.
Foundation: Reinforced concrete, slab-on-grade. Exterior Walls: Wood stud backup, brick. Roof: Recycled slate. Floors: Concrete, wood. Interior Walls: Wood stud drywall.

Project Team

Structural Engineer: Allegheny Design Services, LLC - 102 Leeway Street, Morgantown, WV 26505
General Contractor: AU Construction, LLC - 159 Old Georgetown Street, Lexington, KY 40508
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: Harper Engineering, PLLC - 52 B Street, Saint Albans, WV 25177
Landscape Architect: Terradon Corporation - 409 Jacobson Drive, Nitro, WV 25159

First Ward School was constructed between 1908 and 1909 as a facility to educate the children of Elkins rapidly expanding population at the turn of the 20th century. Its design is attributed to Fairmont, West Virginia Architect, Andrew C. Lyons, and was constructed by local artisans and craftsman utilizing locally available building materials, including hand-cut sandstone, brick, and native hardwoods.

The eight room schoolhouse stands two-stories tall and has a full basement. The floor plan, very modern for its day, uses a modified "H" and rows of large double-hung windows to flood the rooms in natural light. The floor plan also featured large open rooms, twin sets of staircases, and wide hallways. In 1910, First Ward School's modern design and architecture were highlighted in a publication by the WV Department of Free Schools on school architecture in West Virginia.

First Ward served as a school until 1976, when it was converted into a warehouse for the county school board. Fortunately, changes to the structure were limited to the razing of the front portico and the installation of a conveyor system that involved cutting out a section of the first floor hall near the original entrance. However, deterioration of the roof and drainage system resulted in water damage to the roof framing members and exterior masonry as well as to interior floors, ceiling, and walls.

The board transferred the vacant and deteriorated building to a local civic group (C-HOPE), which obtained a grant to repair the roof and stabilize the structure. It was listed on the National Register and selected for the 2009 Endangered Property list of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, where it caught the attention of developer AU Associates.

With the recent success of a similar project, Riverview at Clendenin School, Omni Associates - Architects was chosen by developer AU Associates to design the renovation of First Ward School into 16 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The exterior was completely restored to its early 1900s Georgian-Revival style. The slate roof was restored and the portico was reconstructed to match the original quarried stone.

Omni's design retained many of the key interior features reminiscent of the school days. Ornate furnace grates were incorporated into the building's signage system. The building logo and branding are inspired by the limestone plaque embedded above the main entrance. Apartments were sensitively integrated into the existing classroom spaces, re-purposing the cloak room areas and innovatively re-using portions of the original classroom slate black boards. Ground floor units were created by digging out the original concrete floor and lowering it to gain important headroom and ceiling height. The result is apartments filled with light from all directions, creating an exceptional living environment.

The building now is owned by a non-profit housing developer and managed by the county housing authority. It opened to tenants in July 2013 and specifically targets seniors through a wellness
collaboration program.

Product Information
Windows: Jeld Wen Curtain Wall: TGP
Interior: US Gypsum Elevators: Schindler
Lighting: H.E. Williams

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