Point Pleasant River Museum
"Whatever it takes to make the museum grow," as Ruth Fout, the Assistant's Director says as she explains the Point Pleasant River Museum. The River Museum and Learning Center provides past and present information of the life and operations on the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, where they meet in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The museum has been opened since May 1, 2003 and has since then been educating people with its fish tanks, pictures, artifacts, and newly added towboat pilot house simulator. Although they suffered a fire on July 1, 2018, they have moved their office to 221 Main Street and remain opened to the public.
Backstory and Context
Ever since the building was first occupied in 1854, it was used for the people of the river. Referring to the interview with Jack Fowler, who is the Executive Director, he said that the museum “was the dream to several retired rivermen,” meaning those of the surrounding area of Point Pleasant. After meeting and making a small organization, they appointed Al Biggs as the leader. They got together with the Chamber of Commerce and were awarded a Governor’s Partnership grant of $50,000. Following that, John Musgrave, former Director of the Farmer’s Home Association, gave them a $100,000 grant to start the construction of the River Museum.
At the same time, the Hartley family owned the present-day building of the museum. After hearing the news of the group acquiring the grants, they donated the building to the city specifically for the museum to be placed. The city and rivermen hired a contractor to put on a new roof, concrete floors, and new windows to get a new blank slate to start with. They were then left with around $20,000 for the museum.
The next portion of the project was deciding the name of the museum. The group had a small amount of debate and split up for a short time over it. The mayor of Point Pleasant, at the time, was John Roach and he asked Jack to take over the museum project and begin the reconstruction of the first floor. Jack accepted the job and wrote another grant, which he received from the Federal Highway Transportation Enhancement Fund and started building. From January 2000 to this date, the museum has been a cleanup and rebuild job.
One interesting thing Jack mentioned was that the first architect they hired had built the museum into different rooms, which made no sense to him and has no “museum-type” layout.
Along with improvements, the museum added two towboat pilot house simulators, which come out to be over $300,000 for the both of them. The simulators were used to train pilots on the river boats, as well as give the public an intel on what being a pilot would be like and collecting more income for the museum. Following the fire on July 1, 2018, the simulators are no longer at the museum.
As previously mentioned, the River Museum suffered a fire on July 1, 2018. Thankfully, the attic was the only floor that suffered the effects of the fire, but the basement suffered water damage. Although the ceiling of the second floor did not collapse and the simulators were unaffected, the clean up agency disassembled them for safety. The artifacts are being stored in the River Museum office on 221 Main Street in Point Pleasant, about three blocks from the original location.
The museum is now looking for donations of any kind to help rebuild the museum to its former glory. I respect the amount of hard work and dedication that Jack Fowler, Ruth Fout, and others have put into the museum.