First Ward Apartments|
Omni Associates Architects
1543 Fairmont Avenue, Fairmont, WV 26554
Elkins, West Virginia
Date Bid: June 2012 Construction Period: Aug 2012 to May
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.
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
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
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
Windows: Jeld Wen Curtain Wall: TGP
Interior: US Gypsum Elevators: Schindler
Lighting: H.E. Williams