The Buchanan Community House, more aptly titled “Wilson Warehouse” has been on Lowe Street in Buchanan for 173 years. Built in 1839, the building is on the Virginia Historic Landmark register. At one time the warehouse was an instrumental part of the Buchanan 19th century business climate. These days it is used as a community house and has two apartments in the upstairs to help fund the upkeep of the massive building.
Recently though “The exterior paint had just exploded,” said Pat Jasper of the Buchanan Town Improvement Society. The small group of 23 is actually smaller with active members. They spent a great deal of time in the past year trying to fund raise the expected $11,000 dollars to paint the building which had to meet standards of the historic preservation status. “Our low bid turned out to be Mike Sheets of Vinton a licensed painter from Vinton at $10, 500, “ said Jasper.
TIPS sold multiple meals, coconut cakes, had a fundraiser at Blue Ridge Vineyard, rented faithfully to Buchanan Rotary for dinners and even have the retired teachers coming in September. But the money was large on the horizon as the upkeep on the building also had many needed but expensive repairs.
Before former Mayor Tom Middlecamp left and a new Town Council stepped in, Jasper who is president of the Town Improvement group, went to them to ask for help.
The Community House is a focal point of many activities and can be rented for gatherings and receptions for $150 and that includes a full kitchen access, two parlor rooms, a huge dining area and decent parking available. (The outdoor gardens rent separately.) So TIPS felt like it would be well received at council because of its importance to the community.
She gave us a copy of the presentation about the history of the building. “I come to you tonight as the President of the Buchanan Town Improvement Society, a non-profit, fund-raising organization that owns the Wilson Warehouse or Community House down on Lowe Street. The house was built in 1839 as a combination store and residence taking in goods shipped down the Kanawah Canal to sell to area residents for many years. In its later years, it served as private residence until 1938 when the owner deeded it to the Town Improvement Society for a place for them to meet. They had been meeting in members’ homes and had outgrown their living rooms.”
She asked for the full amount and councilman C.D. Barger made the motion to give the money for the painting expenses. It passed. The building took six weeks to paint. “All of the money we have left from our fundraisers will be used for interior and exterior needed up keep as well as taxes and utilities,” said Jasper. A three story building with a basement has much to do at any given time. A beam in the basement needs to be replaced, that they know for sure, and afterward the main parlor room fireplace must be shored up. With winter coming the furnaces have to be looked into as well as refurbishing with new paint and sprucing one of the apartments that will soon be re-rented to what Jasper hopes will be “a quiet tenant.”
Today the building that has survived almost two centuries including numerous floods, will be standing proudly with a shiny coat of paint and trim on the massive brick building. In Buchanan, citizens can continue to gather as they have for decades in a beautiful historic building preserved by the efforts of the TIPS and local representatives who value its history and significance to not only Buchanan but Botetourt County.