Jeanne Goodman is the volunteer archivist of Arthurdale Heritage, Inc. In the following interview with Eliza Newland, she shares information about Arthurdale’s mission, history, and current activities.

This interview is the second in a series of interviews featuring members of Mountaineer Country Museums, an organization based in Morgantown with a mission to support, promote, and develop local historic sites and museums, and to increase community awareness of their value. Members meet every other month and talk about issues and events within the local arts and history communities. If you are interested in joining us, please email at e.s.newland@gmail.com.

Hi, Jeanne! Tell me a little bit about the Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.

Let me tell you first, Eliza, a little of Arthurdale’s background. In the early 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt’s administration built Arthurdale. It was the first of 99 communities that eventually were built to help the desperately poor during the Great Depression. It was founded here because Eleanor Roosevelt had anonymously visited coal camps along Scotts Run outside of Morgantown and had seen their terrible living conditions.

She was deeply involved in planning the community and visited often to dine, dance, and chat with the homesteaders. She handed out Arthurdale High School’s diplomas for 10 years and in 1938 invited her husband to give the HS graduation speech, the only president ever to do so.

During World War II the government sold off the communities since the economy had recovered and people no longer needed help. In 1984, local people were celebrating Arthurdale’s 50th anniversary but none of the central buildings were useable and its history was being forgotten. In order to save them and their homesteader stories, they formed nonprofit Arthurdale Heritage Inc. (AHI).

They slowly bought the buildings and for many years worked on the weekends rehabbing them by themselves. Because of their dedication, today AHI gives museum tours through 5 original buildings – Center Hall, Administration, Forge, Esso Station, and E-15 an original house plus tells the stories of the families of Arthurdale.

What about you?

I was born in Uniontown, PA and, after living several other places, moved to Morgantown to open Pinocchio’s Books & Toys in the downtown. After 15 years, I sold it and earned a master’s in Public Administration at WVU. I then managed grants in the School of Medicine. My last position was grant funded and when the grant was not renewed, I was job-hunting again. AHI had not had a full time director for years and they were looking for one. I was lucky enough to be chosen and I worked here for about 7 years, retired in October 2016, and now am their volunteer archivist.



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Why are you staying with the Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.?

Since there is only one paid position, the director is constantly busy with marketing, events management, tours, fundraising, and grants. However, AHI also needs to add to our archives, both with physical objects and with oral histories. When I was director, I had little time to do any of this.

As archivist, that is my focus. I am eager to get a volunteer team together to record more oral histories, especially of homestead “children” who are now in their 80s and 90s, plus transcribe them so their stories can be shared. Since the old tapes are now being digitized and the new ones are recorded digitally, people can do this work in their homes at their convenience.

What do you see as Arthurdale Heritage’s role in the community?

AHI has had multiple positive effects on the area. If it had not formed, the center of Arthurdale would have continued to deteriorate and its history – and the history of the homestead families – would have been lost. Because of AHI, Arthurdale is attractive and brings tourists from across the country and the world to its doorstep. Many of them eat and stay in the area which is an economic help to the county.

Students from nearby West Preston come each year to learn about their area’s history. University classes in Public History and Social Work tour yearly plus student groups often volunteer to help out. Since Preston County is rural, our arts & crafts classes offer a chance to meet new people and learn a new skill. We rent Center Hall inexpensively for parties and small weddings which both helps support AHI and brings new people to our site. We also let other nonprofit groups meet for free at our site.

When is the Arthurdale Heritage, Inc. open to the public?

The office is open all year from 9 to 5 on weekdays. We give tours between 11 and 3. From May through October, we have volunteer guides on Saturdays from 11 to 3 and on Sundays from 1 to 5. Groups need to contact us before coming so we can have several guides to help with the tour. We are closed on most holidays.

Does the Arthurdale Heritage, Inc have any special events or fundraisers?

Since we are self-supporting, we constantly have classes and events. Recently, we had Scott Burnworth offer a free class on apple tree grafting since he was helping us save original apple trees that were planted by the government in the 1930s.

We often offer arts and crafts classes in Center Hall. Lately, Reita Marks showed how to turn paper paper strips into flowers and Jack Bell taught fly-fishing. People can send their email to ahi@arthurdaleheritage.org to get on our announcements list – or check our Facebook page.

On June 17 we are having a Goat Gallop 5K walk/run through historic Arthurdale which includes a visit with our friendly goats. There is also a kids race for the under 10 crowd. Details and sign up is at goatgallop5k@gmail.com.

Our biggest event is our New Deal Festival that is always the second Saturday in July. Many homesteader descendants return for the day. The fun includes Patty Cooper as Eleanor Roosevelt, live music, grilled food, crafts market, horse drawn wagon rides, antique car & tractor show, kid’s corner, plus you can visit with homesteader children down at the house.

Is there anything else that you want people to know about the Arthurdale Heritage, Inc?

We are always looking for volunteer help and new members. Members get discount pricing on classes and rentals, plus our quarterly newsletter and other benefits. Individual memberships are $15 and family ones are $25.

Volunteers are needed in many areas. If you like to meet people, become a guide and tell homesteader stories to visitors to the area. If you have a skill, maybe you’d enjoy teaching it to others. Become a board member and help us grow or just help out at an event. Help organize the archives or record oral histories. Volunteer in the office to help with mailings and other needs. Join our maintenance committee and help with minor repairs. Whatever you enjoy doing, we can use you whether it’s once a month or once a year!

A snapshot of an adorable young goat, one of many that inhabit the Arthurdale property.