Right up Buckhannon’s alley: Vision of Trader’s Alley Arts District steadily taking shape

BUCKHANNON – Way back in 2015 and even prior to that, when architect Bryson VanNostrand would sit in his office with his windows open in the summer, he would hear people buying an ice cream treat and then walking down the alley.

They would always be making their way from Main Street Buckhannon to Jawbone Park.

That simple observation prompted the idea of Trader’s Alley becoming more than just an alley, and today, progress on the project is moving quickly.

“I could just hear this kind of banter being above the street with my windows open,” VanNostrand said. “The idea that we would turn Trader’s Alley into a pedestrian-friendly back alley that would connect Main Street Buckhannon with Jawbone Park was the seed of that idea.”

Trader’s Alley has long been what VanNostrand terms an “unrefined place.”

“It got its name historically,” he said. “A blacksmith had his shop there more than 100 years ago and people would come in to town to have their horses shod or repair a wagon wheel. The blacksmith shop was kind of the historic version of the mechanic’s shop today. It was also where guys would bring in a bushel of potatoes if they were looking for a bushel of apples.”

VanNostrand said he interviewed a gentleman in his late 90s who recalled his memories of Trader’s Alley back in the 1920s. Back then, Jawbone Park was mostly swamp, but the name Trader’s Alley definitely came from the informal farmer’s market that used to take place on the property.

With that history in mind, in 2015, VanNostrand, the city’s architect, prepared a plan to present to the City of Buckhannon. In the plan, he suggested Trader’s Alley be designated as an arts district.

“I designed what I thought would be the entry point, and the general idea was to get pedestrian-friendly – let’s pave, let’s get sidewalks,” he recounted.

A photo of the “Monkey Mural” in Trader’s Alley.

VanNostrand said in 2015, the City of Buckhannon agreed to make the streetscape improvements with the hope it would spur development in the buildings located in the alley.

“Making a connection between Main Street, straight down to Jawbone Park is really a good strategy,” he said. “As we are bringing this vision together of an arts district – a funky kind of destination space – some things are happening.”

Trader’s Alley had a retaining wall that was failing and was deemed unsafe. It was reconstructed in a safe way and artwork will be installed there.

“Buckhannon Public Works Director Jerry Arnold and his crew have just constructed the retaining wall in the last few weeks and are filling in the soil to put the road back,” VanNostrand said. “On top of that will be a 12-foot high steel construction with colored fabrics stretched across. It’s a 60-foot-long art installation and will be a key element to the Trader’s Alley District.”

Other art installed in Trader’s Alley to date include a mural completed in 2014. VanNostrand said the piece is referred to as the “Monkey Mural.” He said a hands-on art installation during the Trader’s Alley Block Party two years ago brought a mural on the side of another building.

VanNostrand said the gateway to Trader’s Alley is one of the current projects undergoing construction.

“We are working on a vintage 1960s car with a ‘Men in Black’ vibe,” he said. “Over the summer, we purchased a car knowing that we would be developing a Trader’s Alley gateway on the Jawbone Park end, we developed the idea that the car will appear to be launching up out of the alley on an angle. This is another project where we will partner with the City of Buckhannon to complete.

A rendering of the old car city officials want to install at the Jawbone Park end entrance of Trader’s Alley.

“So, this project is in the works and slowly moving forward,” VanNostrand added. “It will get a lot of attention, and if we are lucky, it will encourage cruise-ins on weekends in the summer.”

Buckhannon Mayor David McCauley and VanNostrand said Trader’s Alley is resurfacing as a colorful place for fun.

“For the last two years, we have hosted the Trader’s Alley Block Party,” VanNostrand said. “We want to ramp it up with art, music and food.”

Last year, VanNostrand said they proposed a “pavement painting” to city officials. He said they would use white and yellow paints to create tentacles reaching out into different parts of the city.

“Imagine a drone shot of that when it’s completed,” McCauley added. “It will be sweet.”

VanNostrand said the goal of the arts district is that the property’s “vacant spaces can be updated into fun and interesting boutiques and the like.”

“All of this is geared toward fun, but at the bottom of it is economic development,” he said. “I am particularly focused on kids and having a town that is hip enough [for youth to want] to stick around and progressive enough that all kinds are welcome.”

A vintage 1960s ‘Men in Black’ car is being restored and will be suspended over the entrance to Trader’s Alley.

McCauley said he looked at the permits at city hall and learned there’s about $15 million in economic development going on downtown currently.

“When you add up Citizens Bank and go right on down the line, Community Care, Orion Strategies, Fish Hawk Acres, Stone Tower Brews, The Opera House, the five-story Bryson has, the beautiful apartments CJ (Rylands) is putting in, Jesterline, the Innovation Center and the Colonial Theatre – when you are having that kind of private development downtown, the least you can do is some of these kinds of enhancements to help bring it all together. Trader’s Alley was just calling – it has to be done.”

“Every community has an economic planner on board, but those guys are looking at big industry,” VanNostrand said. “We are planning for quality-of-living issues. The arts play a huge role in that even though it’s hard to measure how the arts create jobs. The arts are definitely a component that are overlooked.”

A sign marking the Trader’s Alley Arts District project.

McCauley said he thinks economic growth will snowball as Trader’s Alley grows.

“In the future, I see the laterals – Florida Street, Spring Street, Kanawha and Locust – we want to be sure there is period lighting on all of those side streets,” the mayor said. “We want to clean up all of the sidewalks, fresh pavement. Take this concept from Main Street we are now interjecting down Trader’s Alley and keep going with this flow up and down every side street downtown.”

Featured

SHOPS & SERVICES

Consolidated board determines North Kanawha will remain a two-way street

BUCKHANNON – The Consolidated Public Works Board voted to keep North Kanawha Street a two-way street after previously considering making it a one-way road. The CPWB took up two previously discussed traffic items during their Jan. 26 meeting. The board […]

Become a premium member to unlock immediate access to this story — and thousands more. Free trial available! Signing up is easy — just tap the button below.

Barbour County man arrested for alleged sexual abuse of a juvenile in his care

BUCKHANNON — A Barbour County man who is listed on the West Virginia State Police’s Sex Offender Registry has been arrested for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor in his care. Kenneth D. Call, 52, of Belington, W.Va., was […]

Become a premium member to unlock immediate access to this story — and thousands more. Free trial available! Signing up is easy — just tap the button below.

Buckhannon: Then & Now – Big snow in Upshur County

Buckhannon: Then & Now. Join us in showcasing Upshur County throughout history and today. Much like today, Buckhannon has experienced major snow accumulations throughout history. Pictured here, Buckhannon received a record breaking accumulation of 40

County commission tasks new owner of Holly Apartments with cleaning up the site, will reevaluate in 90 days

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission has given the new owners of the Holly Apartments building in Adrian 90 days to clean up the property. The Holly Apartments were considered a total loss after a fire spread throughout the whole […]

Become a premium member to unlock immediate access to this story — and thousands more. Free trial available! Signing up is easy — just tap the button below.

SHOPS & SERVICES

B-U claims 11 conference titles, finishes second at Big 10 Swim Championships on Saturday

BRIDGEPORT — The Buckhannon-Upshur High School girls and boys swim teams collected 11 gold medals, two conference records and a second-place overall finish at the Big 10 Championships in Bridgeport on Saturday. The host Indians won the combined team event, […]

Become a premium member to unlock immediate access to this story — and thousands more. Free trial available! Signing up is easy — just tap the button below.

Wesleyan lacrosse picked fifth in MEC preseason poll

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. – West Virginia Wesleyan women’s lacrosse has been selected to finish fifth in the Mountain East Conference, the league announced today. WVWC totaled nine points in the vote. Frostburg State and Notre Dame College tied

Swim Bucs head into Saturday’s conference championship meet coming off strong final performance at home

BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon-Upshur High School boys and girls swim teams will head into the Big 10 Conference Championships on Saturday with the current at their backs after winning 10 events in their final home meet of the season. The […]

Become a premium member to unlock immediate access to this story — and thousands more. Free trial available! Signing up is easy — just tap the button below.

Owens steps down as head coach of Lady Bobcat soccer program

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. – Richard Owens has resigned as head coach of the West Virginia Wesleyan women’s soccer program, WVWC Athletic Department announced on Thursday. Owens spent five seasons as head coach of the Lady Bobcats,

SHOPS & SERVICES

This Week in West Virginia History: Jan. 29 – Feb. 4

Charleston, WV – The following events happened on these dates in West Virginia history. To read more, go to e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia at www.wvencyclopedia.org. Jan. 29, 1903: The great rhododendron was designated the