Volunteers filled with hope while clearing out McIntosh building's first floor

Katelyn Waltemyer
Jackson Newspapers
Mike Wray (left) talks about the history of the building with Renee DeLong (right) on the second floor.

Every step is accompanied by a splash of black water, footprints allowing the original wood on the first floor to peak through. Sounds of carpet ripping and wheelbarrows rolling out the front door fill the McIntosh Community Building on Sunday. 

"Beep, beep," volunteer Mike Wray shouted. "Move out the way." 

About 15 Ravenswood residents volunteered their time to clean out the first floor of the McIntosh. From noon to about 1:30 p.m., people were laughing, crying and discussing the future of the community building. 

Several of the volunteers had hosted baby showers, birthday and graduation parties in the McIntosh. Renee DeLong, a Ravenswood resident, said her wedding reception was in the community building 37 years ago. As she was cleaning out the first floor, she saw that the stained glass window by the stairway to the second floor survived the fire. Her hand covered her mouth as tears fell down her cheeks. 

"To see some of the things that are untouched from such a massive fire  it just gives you hope," DeLong said. 

As people were carrying out ruined carpet, damaged furniture and wheelbarrows filled to the brim with rubble, everyone shared a hopeful attitude. Laughs bounced off the wet, moldy walls and through the musty air as people were reminiscing on their memories. n

Tanya Bowers, of Ravenswood, still looked at the McIntosh with admiration, seeing not the ruin but the possibility of what's in store. She, along with several of her family members, donated money to the McIntosh's GoFundMe. Now, she's donating her time. 

She said she wants to see more people make memories at the McIntosh, and she knows there's endless work ahead to make that happen. 

"I think in ways it'll bring the community even closer because, you know, everybody's pulling together to do it," Bowers said. "It's going to be a long run."

Other volunteers, like City Recorder Jared Bloxton, hadn't been in the community building in years. That didn't stop him from spending his Sunday shoveling rubble and throwing soaking wet carpet into a trash pile. 

He saw Katrena Ramsey, Ravenswood Superintendent for Parks and Recreation, asking people to help clear out part of the McIntosh, and Bloxton said he needed to "do his part." This was his first time going inside since the fire. 

"It's overwhelming going in and looking at it for the first time," Bloxton said. "There's so much history in there." 

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Bloxton said he was in awe seeing what items made it out of the fire without a scratch. Most of the items don't have much monetary value, he said, but the sentiment is priceless. 

A bell, some chairs and a few books were set aside from the trash pile Sunday. Most of the fireplaces are still standing and the portraits of the McIntosh's — the first people who lived in the home — survived the flames, smoke and the firefighters' water. 

Ellen McIntosh (left) and John McIntosh (right) were the first people to live in the McIntosh home. Their portraits survived the fire.

The roof may be gone, the piano many people say Lois Armstrong played is now rubble, but the people of Ravenswood aren't ready to say goodbye to the McIntosh Community Building  all of the volunteers said they hope the building can be restored.

"It's not a very big town," DeLong said. "But they got a really big heart and they're going to make this happen."

The City of Ravenswood has hired professionals to clean out the second floor. The team is coming Tuesday and will attach chutes that connect from the second-story windows to the dumpster. 

— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at kwaltemyer@jacksonnewspapers.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.