I continue to be fascinated by what used to be and by what could have been, as well as what should be.
Take for instance, the structures in the town of Logan. Each enduring building holds its own stories of work, determination, good, bad, and, in some cases, deceit and corruption. However, since I’m not in the mood to chastise those who already know what I’m referring to, I will speak of some of the good things going on in a town that has no street clock but still remains lost in time.
The oldest standing structure in Logan, which once had enough residents to be described as a “city,” can be found directly behind the Logan post office. That monstrous four-story brick building was opened in about 1906, and its location adjacent to the railroad tracks on what is named Highland Avenue allowed the loading and unloading of just about any building materials imaginable during the early days of Logan’s rapid growth.
The building, which originally opened as Logan Hardware, sold everything needed for constructing homes and businesses, eventually even selling machine guns that were utilized by Sheriff Don Chafin’s “army” during the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain.
After over 100 years of service to the community, it was unfortunately left vacant — as other buildings have been — to eventually fall down or be torn down, either way at a great expense that would rival that of the fire that destroyed the historic Aracoma Hotel in Logan on Nov. 15, 2010.
Today, thanks to the vision of Courtney McCoy Quick (recently becoming the wife of Derek DeProspero), through hard work and their determination the site has been transformed into what can only be described as being the equivalent of a constructional heart transplant. A restaurant, a gigantic bar with billiards tables, and a third floor that has been remodeled into lodging, especially for Hatfield-McCoy trail riders, is just the beginning of the story. Large rooms are also being booked for weddings and other ceremonies with catering services available.
A stone’s throw from McCoy Station are two other vintage structures that are being transformed into modern facilities. Located on Stratton and Hudgins Street, the former Logan National Bank building that was purchased by David Gore has been modernized and even has beautiful night lights that illuminate the downtown location.
Although it once served as a bank, the building was first opened as O.J. Morrison’s Dept. Store, after the company bought the real estate there in 1928. Today, there are several offices available for business purposes.
The second building that is getting closer to opening for business is the former Peebles store location that is directly across the railroad tracks from McCoy station and sits directly across from the courthouse.
It is this building — at a site that once served as Logan’s first movie theater, which featured silent movies — that has people watching curiously the progress of a business that its owner declares will be a factory that could employ around 100 local people.
American citizen Dongming Pan, who is referred to by his friends as just Pan, has taken the town of Logan by storm by purchasing the former Logan Banner and Letter Shop properties near Holland Lane and the former pressroom building on Charles Street.
Extensive renovations have already been made at great expense to especially the former Logan Banner and Letter Shop locations. Pan introduced himself to Logan City Council and Mayor Serafino Nolletti last September, and he hired local people almost immediately to begin renovations that can be described as amazing.
As a former Logan Banner employee familiar with those Stratton and Charles Street properties, this writer can tell you that the amount of change and progress there is something to be appreciated, as it is likely that nothing short of demolition was in site before Dongming Pan came to town with a vision.
Pan’s optimism for Logan and his political views have caused many Loganites, banking officials and government officials to be skeptical of Pan’s intentions. It seems few can understand why he would choose Logan as the place to open what he calls “factories,” which, according to Pan, will employ local people in the making of clothing and textiles.
The New York developer, who is involved in businesses in New York, California, India, and the United Kingdom, has expressed frustration with some local government officials, who he believes do not appreciate what he is trying to accomplish.
Other people have even made such ludicrous comments as to say that Pan plans to “take over the city” and bring Chinese laborers into town. Further ignorance was displayed by one man’s comment of “We don’t need people like him around here.”
Despite purchasing several 30-minute long radio times to speak of his plans for Logan, a website he set up called My Logan Town, and a recent video made by his engineering employees to explain what is planned, negativity is spurred more toward political views than toward local progress.
Although Mayor Nolletti has expressed his pleasure with empty buildings now being occupied, there seems to be a miscommunication between Pan and some other government officials.
Just last Thursday, a truck brought 27 pallets of boxes of materials to be used in manufacturing to Pan’s worksite. Although he was away on business in Paris, France, last Tuesday, Pan was pleased to hear that the materials had finally arrived, after having been stored in boats off the New York harbor for several months.
Even though Pan has announced an agreement with the federal government to make certain materials for the military at his to-be-opened Logan plant, his frustration is shown in an email he recently sent to the Logan County Commission.
Although the email is somewhat difficult to fully understand, it is clear that he does not feel welcomed to Logan. “I am welcomed everywhere else I go when it comes to business,” said Pan. “In Logan, I open and renovate a building for potential factory work right next door to the Logan County Commission building and not one of them has bothered to come into the building and see what has been accomplished.”
However, Logan County Administrator Alvis Porter Jr. did tour the site several weeks ago — unbeknownst to Pan — when I invited him to get a look at the place when an employee there was showing me new machinery that had arrived. Porter said he was impressed with what he saw.
Perhaps Pan is dreaming as he plans to announce an international skateboard competition to include worldwide competitors in a race from Logan to Williamson that he hopes can be done in October when southern West Virginia’s mountain beauty will be on full display.
“My wish is to someday have a Logan kid to be a worldwide champion,” said Pan, the dreamer. “I want to open a skateboard park in Logan.”
Perhaps you’ve heard the names of other people who were referred to as “dreamers.” How about Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Albert Einstein, or some really other older dreamers — Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln — get my drift?
A good sign in Logan of opposites working together is that of Pan and businesswoman Courtney DeProspero of McCoy Station restaurant. Although on absolutely different ends of the political spectrum, the two have worked together in plans for future improvements, with Pan even helping Courtney to purchase at a discount certain items her business needs.
Before leaving Logan earlier this month, Pan was invited to Pikeville, Kentucky, where he was given a tour of their industrial park and where he was invited to open businesses there.
Pan is expected to return to Logan in the next few days, and he is hoping to sign a deed for property on Dingess Street, likely to be converted into a homeless shelter. In addition, he recently said it was going to cost a half million dollars to open a brewery/restaurant in Logan.
Maybe all of these hopes and plans in Logan are just a dream.
If so, please don’t wake me up.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.