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Keep it Or Trade it?

It's a building which once housed part of Sid's Furniture Store. It's also on the National Register of Historic Places. So is the nearby Blennerhassett Hotel, which might someday like to use the land the Smith Building sits on for expansion.

Until a plan to do that recently hit a snag, it looked like the hotel was near acquiring that property.

"I think it's a real plus for downtown," says Larry Moorehead, the Parkersburg developer who was the original force behind Towne Square back in the 1980's. Moorehead is now proposing swapping the former retail part of that complex for the Smith property, which is owned by the Wood County Commission.

Says Moorehead: "If they did not have the option of expanding at some future date, or even if, down the road, they wanted to sell that hotel, without the option of enlarging that hotel, it could possibly keep that from happening, and we didn't want to see that."

While supporters believe the plan could lead to increased downtown development, historical officials believe, if that doesn't happen, the Smith property could end up being another downtown parking lot.

Among them is the county historical society, who's afraid the Smith Building could be yet another long-lost piece of local history.

"In the last couple of years, we've had DeSales Heights Academy come down; we've had different buildings come down," says historian James Miracle. "This is our history; we think the people of Wood County should get behind saving some of these buildings.":

The one thing Moorehead and Miracle agree on, is that it would be costly to renovate the property. But Miracle believes it's a matter of principle.

"They'll be lost forever," Miracle says. "And the only place you'll see them any more is at Artcraft studio."

Developer Moorehead says that, if the exchange happens, it would give Wood County an additional 17,000 square feet for its use.


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