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NC cultural department renovates historic building as Asheville office



6/13/2011 - NC cultural department renovates historic building as Asheville office
by Jessica Kennedy

Renovating an existing building is one of the most basic foundations of the "Green" movement - keeping waste out of a landfill by using an already-there structure is the way it all began!  Its still popular - especially in a place like Western North Carolina!


       ASHEVILLE -- A part of the city's history has received a facelift for the sake of preserving culture.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources renovated one of the old Department of Veterans Affairs buildings in East Asheville to create a new home for the state agency's western office.

The building was constructed by the Veterans Administration in 1932 and originally served as a dormitory for African-American nurses. More than 70 years later, the Georgian revival building now serves the Asheville community as a home for all kinds of cultural history of the western part of the state.

"Being able to renovate a historic building proves that the department does what it says," said Jeff Futch, regional supervisor for the department.

The department received the building in 1996 at no cost except a pledge to rehabilitate it. Jeffrey Crow, deputy secretary of archives and history at the department, said stretched budgets and natural disasters are responsible for the 15-year delay in accomplishing the renovation.

The cost came to about $3.4 million, all of which was funded by the state.

"It also reminds us of the history and craftsmanship that distinguish Western North Carolina and the role that historic preservation plays in defining the character of its community," Crow said.

The western office was established in 1978 in Asheville to extend cultural and historical services from Raleigh to the western part of the state. The space that previously housed the office was small and restricted the programs it could support.

The new building has space for workshops and meetings as well as temperature- and climate-controlled spaces to better preserve historic and cultural materials.

The western office houses staff from the state historical preservation office, the office of state archaeology and the state archives.

"It gives us a much bigger base of operations and ability to provide more comprehensive services," Futch said.

Many parts of the community benefit from the presence of the Department of Cultural Resources in Asheville, Futch said. The western office teaches elected officials how to properly manage records and teaches local museums how to take good care of their historical collections.

"Until we had this building, we didn't have the space in Asheville or Western North Carolina to do real detailed outreach like that," Futch said.

Jerry Cashion, chairman of the N.C. Historical Commission, spoke at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony and emphasized the department's role in promoting the "rich historic and cultural heritage in this very unique part of our state."

"This wonderful facility that we have will give us the ability to provide additional services," Cashion said. "Quite frankly, you ain't seen nothing yet."

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