BEECH BOTTOM - Visitors to a special exhibit at Beech Bottom Community Christian Church got a look at the village's past and its possible future.
Held on three days, the last being Memorial Day, the exhibit included drawings of things children at Beech Bottom Primary School would like to see come to the village.
The wishes were large and small, ranging from an amusement park or a public swimming pool to an ice skating rink or simply the wish that no one would litter in the community.
"It's very encouraging that these kids have hopes and dreams they're willing to share," said Beech Bottom Councilman Greg Sheperd, who spearheaded the project.
Sheperd said the exhibit, dubbed the Hope Project, is a collaboration involving the Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University, Beech Bottom Council, the village's neighborhood watch program and the church.
He expressed appreciation to staff at Beech Bottom Primary School who arranged for the children to complete the drawings on short notice and at a busy time in the school year.
Beech Bottom officials said while some of the children's wishes may be unattainable for the small village, others are not out of reach.
Beech Bottom Councilwoman Becky Uhlly said she's been interested in bringing a portable ice skating rink, similar to those found in Wellsburg, Follansbee and Steubenville, to the village.
She said if the project becomes reality, she will invite the artist who suggested it to the grand opening.
Sheperd noted council has been involved in recent years in family-oriented projects, such as replacing the equipment at the Third Street and Hill Street playgrounds.
He said such improvements will make the village more attractive to potential businesses and new residents.
The exhibit also included photos from the village's past, including the laying of the cornerstone for Beech Bottom Community Christian Church around 1926 and of one of the church's early congregations, photos of Mayor George Lewis when he was a boy and of his father Don, who became the village's first mayor in 1954.
Beech Bottom resident Jim Rush got a chuckle over a photo of himself atop the village's flagpole at age 11. He managed to shimmy up the pole and a news photographer who lived in town took the picture, he recalled.
News articles detailed good and bad news, including the village's annexation of 400 acres and 200 residents north and south of it in 1999, the destruction by fire of the Mid-Town Motel in 2000, the death in 2006 of Paul Phillips, who had served as mayor for six terms; and a $1.9 million water project in 2008 that included extension and replacement of water lines to many new and existing customers.
Beech Bottom began as a community owned almost entirely by Wheeling Steel. Just south of it once existed a similar community known as Power, for the Windsor Power Co.
Paul and Jane Cunningham, among a small number of residents who still live in that area, were pleased to find an old photo of the community that included the home where Paul was born in 1925.
He recalled the power company built homes for its workers, who paid rent to live in them. In addition to three rows of houses along state Route 2, Power included a general store, post office, bar and two schools, one for whites and the other for blacks.
"When the power company was torn down, all of the houses went with it," said his daughter, Susan.
While Paul's father was a foreman for the power company, he worked for Weirton Steel, so he was less affected by the company's closing.
Sheperd said many of the photos displayed during the exhibit were lent by Charlotte and Red Palmer, Ethel Haddon, Linda Viderman, Uhlly and Lewis.
He said he hopes the exhibit can become an annual event and would like to digitally record the photos, news clippings and drawings for future posterity.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)