Volunteers begin Hotel Thelma cleanup

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 5:24 PM EDT
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BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WVVA) - During the segregation era Hotel Thelma was one of the few Mercer County listings in the Green Book, which was used by African Americans to find safe lodging while traveling. Efforts to clean the building of debris began thanks to the Appalachian South Folklife Center out of Pipestem and a group of young volunteers from Illinois.

“First of all it does the obvious good to cleanup and repair. Secondly they learn some skills. A lot of these kids have not done construction work before and they’ll pick up those skills. But the most important thing is getting people together,” said Director for the Appalachian South Folklife Center, Tim Mainland.

The group began by tackling the downstairs of the building, removing trash, sweeping and moving furniture. The group will continue to clean through Friday until they return home. Hotel Thelma’s current owner says this is the first step of a long journey for the building.

“Well we’re looking at overall, I’d say at least a year, year and a half for the restoration to be fully implemented with reconstruction and putting things back like they were,” said Reverend James Mitchell Sr.

Mitchell says he has big plans for the building and says the restoration wouldn’t be possible without support from the community.

“We want to have a museum in here also have an outreach to the community. We want to have a restaurant, a store. Also a place to gather for the youth and seniors. Just a place to go for this part of town,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell says once all the debris is removed from the building the next step will involve fixing leaks in the roof. As for the volunteers, Tim Mainland says it’s likely he’ll bring in another group to help with the restoration project.