WEIRTON - The Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center officially has its new home.
Museum officials were joined Saturday by a large crowd of area residents for a grand opening to celebrate the museum's new location at 3149 Main St., formerly the site of the Home Furniture Store and Outlet.
"The dream has arrived," long-time museum board member and volunteer Victor Greco said while fighting back tears.
Museum President Dennis Jones welcomed everyone, recognizing several public officials and thanking all of the board members and volunteers who have worked during the last year to get the building ready to house the collection of items tied to Weirton's history.
"We have a home for our history, and it will be here for a long time," Jones said.
While ideas for a Weirton museum were discussed 25 years ago, it wasn't until the last decade momentum really started to take place and a group of residents began tracking down various items and looking for a place to display them.
Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center President Dennis Jones welcomes the crowd gathered Saturday for the grand opening of the museum's new home. Jones is surrounded by museum volunteers, board members and city officials. -- Craig Howell
Jones credited Greco and Dick Reinard for helping to get the ball rolling several years ago.
"They were they team that started getting this into the public," Jones said.
The Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center originally opened to the public in July 2006, sharing space at 3393 Main St. with the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"The dream has arrived." - Victor Greco, a long-time volunteer and board member for the museum
Museum officials purchased the new building almost one year ago with the intention of having a larger location to showcase more of the collection, as well as to expand some of its services to the community.
Jones explained none of it could have been accomplished without the work of many volunteers, as well as contributions from throughout the community. He noted grants from the JC Williams Charitable Trust and ArcelorMittal among those donations. It also was announced the museum would be the beneficiary of the Rotary Club of Weirton Heights' Mardi Gras fundraiser.
"It's just been unbelievable, the joint effort from everyone," Jones said.
So far, only the first floor of the building will be open to the public, but officials plan to renovate additional floors for more exhibits in the future.
The new building includes a gift shop where visitors can purchase a variety of items, including the museum's calendars, the Weirton History game and T-shirts. Exhibits already include items such as ammunition shells made by Weirton Steel during World War II, the desk used by Thomas Millsop while he was president of Weirton Steel, and numerous photographs of the area.
Future plans include a screening area for movies, areas to highlight Holliday's Cove, the Peter Tarr Furnace, Crawford's Crossing and local railroad history, and the history of firefighting in Weirton. Officials also would like to have space for a meeting room and offices.
Mayor George Kondik was among those on hand Saturday, thanking the museum for bringing life back to the building, which he described as once being a hub for the downtown business community.
"I'd like to thank Dennis and the committee for bringing an asset back to downtown Weirton," Kondik said.
Hancock County Commission President said he was amazed when he arrived Saturday.
"I walked into the building for the first time and I just said 'wow,'" Davis said. "I'm sure this is just the beginning."
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)