Photo Exhibit Debuts Friday at Waterfront Hotel

Morgantown Dominion Post
28 June 2012
By Lindsey Fleming

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Frank Scafella at or Terri Cutright at or 304-292-01168. After its three showings, the exhibit will be permanently on display at the Morgantown History Museum at 175 Kirk St.

Empty warehouses, rusty chain-link fences, swaths of overgrown land — former Morgantown City Manager Dan Boroff said it may be hard for folks who’ve only seen the Wharf District in its current, bustling state to imagine what it was like before the rail-trail, the restaurants, the park and the businesses in place now called the banks of the Monongahela River home. But thanks to the efforts of former Morgantown Mayor Frank Scafella, Main Street Morgantown, and photographer and archivist Sue Amos, they won’t have to.

From 6-8 p.m. Friday, an exhibit, “Renaissance Morgantown,” documenting much of the area’s massive make-over, will debut at Waterfront Place Hotel. The seeds for the exhibit were planted in 1998, when the City of Morgantown commissioned Amos to capture the development going on at the time, including the creation of Hazel Ruby McQuain Park, One Waterfront Place and the accompanying hotel, and an array of businesses.

“Sue worked until the [Waterfront Place] hotel was completed in 2002,” said exhibit organizer and co-photographer Scafella. “She’s a real go-getter. She got to know most of the guys working on the various projects. As Waterfront Place went up, they would take her up in the elevator. She was shooting up there when it was nothing more than steel beams and metal flooring. She has buildings going up and their insides. Digging of the foundations. You just see the whole thing, step by step.”

These images are juxtaposed with shots of that stretch of riverfront today. There will also be some archival images taken from Westover Hill of the city during the 19th century.

While Boroff, who was city manager at the time of the development, said he has no exact dollar amount for how much revenue the $200 million investment in the area may generate for the region now, he estimates that projects of its kind typically generate about two to three times their initial costs in indirect benefits.

Scafella said it’s important to see the development as part of a bigger picture for the city.

“What it did, in part, was bring high-tech companies, like KeyLogic, to the city. Because it was clear, by the end of the ’90s, that these companies could locate anywhere. They didn’t have to stay in big cities. And we have a rail-trail and a nice riverfront area with plenty of amenities you can’t get in a city. ... And the B&O taxes from the buildings helped increase the city’s income. ... It’s a domino effect.”

And pinpointing the one project that set the whole thing in motion is tricky. Boroff points out that in the ’80s, then-West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton made possible the expansion of the twolane road leading into Morgantown to be transformed into today’s fourlane thoroughfare that better showcases the river.

“That put everything in place,” he said. “Then, you needed a spark.”

That spark came in the form of a $200,000 grant given, in 1994, by the Hazel Ruby McQuain Foundation for the creation of a rail-trail, which allowed Boroff to leverage another $800,000 in state and federal grants from Caperton. Scafella and Boroff also credit former WVU president David Hardesty for choosing to locate One Waterfront Place in the area.

“I felt it was important for the town and the university to have common purposes, when possible, and to collaborate in the improvement of our community,” Hardesty said. “It meshed pretty well with the plans the city had. The new highway, the Caperton Trail coming through, there was a synergy with city activities and state activities. I think it’s a wonderful thing for this part of West Virginia.”

In fact, Boroff said, it’s one of the best examples of what he refers to as Morgantown’s greatest asset — the cooperation of its people.

“It flowered in a lot of different projects, and this is one of the more visible ones,” he said.

“The private sector and the volunteers shouldn’t be left out,” added Hardesty. “The Chamber of Commerce was vital in the process; and volunteers supported the university and the city. Businesses took a risk as well. It was a lot of people working together.”

And Hardesty is happy to have all that those efforts remembered and showcased through the exhibit, which will be a permanent addition to the Morgantown History Museum after its three showings around town.

“It’s rare when communities stop to document their progress,” he said. “It’s a very visionary thing.”

Friday-Saturday — Waterfront Place Hotel. Reception set for 6-8 p.m.
Friday. July 11-Aug. 8 — Ar ts Monongahela, Jackson Kelly Gallery. Reception set for 6-8 p.m. July 20.
Aug. 10-Oct. 1 — WVU Erickson Alumni Center, Statler Wilson Commons.