The Historic Little Kanawha Valley Bank
That same year, the bank was constructed with wood coming from a local plaining mill and then decorated with metal work that had been brought in on river packet boats. In 1906, two Glenville banks merged - the First National Bank and the Little Kanawha Valley Bank, forming the Kanawha Union Bank, which is now United National Bank.
It was in the historic Little Kanawha Valley Bank that the WV State Folk Festival first established a Country Store in 1960. Volunteers were Starling and Nelson Wells, Nellie Engelke, Myra Mick, and Festival president, Fern Rollyson. Around 1970, the Country Store and Museum was relocated to the old Ruddell General Store, which was built in 1890 on Court Street
The Little Kanawha Valley Bank needed to be moved from its location on the corner of Main and Powell St because Kanawha Union Bank wanted to expand their property. In March of 1977, the president of Kanawha Union Bank, Jack Stalnaker, offered the historic bank to the West Virginia State Folk Festival if the organization would preserve it as a landmark. In addition, Kanawha Union Bank donated $500.00 toward the moving fee. Folk Festival volunteers met on Monday, March 21st, 1977, and voted to accept the offer. Nelson Wells was appointed a committee of one to seek donations, contact movers and builders for the foundation, and to direct the restoration of the building. On Monday, March 28, 1977, the move was completed within one week, and the bank was set on the corner of Fern Rollyson’s property on Howard Street, where it still stands.
In 1991, the Little Kanawha Valley Bank was listed on the National Register of Historic Places through the efforts of the West Virginia State Folk Festival and the General Federated Woman’s Club of Glenville.
Inside the bank, you will see the oak framing, marble counters and the original metal grillwork around the two bank work stations, one for the cashier and one for the bookkeeper. Several old cash registers are also there. An old bank safe stands open in a back room. Photographs on the walls tell the history of the bank.
WV State Folk Festival volunteers are still in the process of preserving and restoring this local landmark, which requires donations. A donation box can be found in the bank – we appreciate your help to preserve and restore the Little Kanawha Valley Bank as a unique part of West Virginia history. Donations may also be made via PayPay, by clicking here.
Folk Festival Raising Money for Repairs of Little Kanawha Valley Bank Building
By Judy Rich
Located on Howard Street, overlooking downtown Glenville, is the Little Kanawha Valley Bank building. The Little Kanawha Valley Bank received its charter in 1901, and the building was constructed the same year. In 1906 the bank merged with the First National Bank forming the Kanawha Union Bank, and the Classic Revival-style building was occupied until 1916 when the bank outgrew the small facility. Originally located on Powell Street, it was moved to its present location in 1977 when the Kanawha Union Bank donated the building to the West Virginia State Folk Festival. The building has served various functions since 1916 and has been moved three times, but is now situated on a lot roughly a block from its original location.
The building is architecturally significant for its pressed metal material and its use of classical detail – the bank's sheet metal exterior is its most notable characteristic. Pressed metal was a popular building material during the early twentieth century, and the low cost of the material allowed the bank to imitate the impressive classical fronts of larger, urban financial institutions. Since the 18th century, American buildings have displayed ornamentation in a variety of metals which was primarily reserved for grand houses and large commercial and religious buildings. Technological advances after 1800 led to a greater variety of metals available at a lower cost, but sheet metal became less popular after the 1930’s. Many buildings that had been covered with metal were stripped, and those that were originally covered with the metal during the turn of the century are few. Although the Little Kanawha Valley Bank has been moved several times, it still retains its original sheet metal exterior that it had in 1901.
For many years, the building was home to the late Claude Kemper’s “Birds of My Hollow” exhibit during the Folk Festival, and this tradition continues with Ron and Lynne Kemper. The building is also home to the paper quilling demonstrations by Reita Marks during the festival. The Folk Festival would like to continue to use the building for these purposes, as well as for other artistic purposes throughout the year. In order for this to continue, repairs to the roof and windows are urgently necessary.
The Little Kanawha Valley Bank is a historic treasure that only adds to the legacy of the downtown area, but it has had little attention in recent years. Its most urgent need is a new roof, which requires that the Folk Festival committee conduct fundraising activities. The results of a successful fundraising effort toward the repair of the building can only be a positive for the Glenville and Gilmer County communities.
The Little Kanawha Valley Bank building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and is now under federal protection. Contributions for the maintenance and improvements to the building are welcome and may be sent to the West Virginia State Folk Festival, P.O. Box 362, Glenville, WV 26351. Donations may also be made online at www.gofundme.com/littlekanawhabank.
Birds of My Hollow Exhibit
The Kemper Family’s Birds of My Hollow collection will be on display in the Little Kanawha Valley Bank on Howard Street during the Folk Festival. This collection of Claude Kemper’s carved birds and his daughter-in-law Lynne’s additions to the collection have been coming to the Folk Festival for almost 40 years. Once again, the family will be holding a bird identification contest and this year will raffle off one of the birds Lynne has carved.
As youngsters growing up on a farm in Newberne, West Virginia, Claude Kemper and his sister Eva, like many young people in his community, spent their free time with whatever Mother Nature provided. At age 4, Claude received his first pocket knife, a tool that would stand him in good stead well into his 90’s. Initially, that tool was used to fashion all sorts of toys, such as a whistle, or a pop-gun, from branches and scraps of wood found around the farm. Later in life, a pocket knife would be the primary tool used to carve out the birds with which he had become familiar as a boy. As children, he and Eva would begin looking for bird nests in the spring and once finding them watch as the parents fed their young and the fledglings flew from their nests. The images of those birds stayed with him, and in his early 60’s they emerged as the beautifully and faithfully carved Birds of My Hollow collection.
To help him identify the birds in his hollow, Claude collected small bird identification trading cards that came with packages of Arm & Hammer Brand Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda). On the front of each card in the Useful Birds of America series was a reproduction of a watercolor painting of a bird by artist Mary Emily Eaton who was an illustrator for the New York Botanical Garden, National Geographic Magazine, and the U.S. National Herbarium in the early 1900’s. On the back of each card was a description of the featured bird and a caution: “For the good of all, do not destroy the birds.” A small collection of these cards are on display in the Little Kanawha Valley Bank with the Birds of My Hollow.
When Claude’s daughter-in-law Lynne first began carving with him, he suggested that she carve some of the numerous warblers that he had not gotten around to including in his collection. So far she has added four warblers to the Birds of My Hollow collection: the Golden Winged Warbler, the Kentucky Warbler, the Palm Warbler, and the Yellow-throated Warbler. She also carves realistic individual feathers out of bass wood and tupelo that are part of her Birds of a Feather collection. Several of her feathers have won awards in the Florida International Wood Carving Expo held in Fort Myers, Florida. During the Folk Festival, Lynne will be demonstrating how to carve her feathers and will have a display of the process set up for visitors to view. Lynne is also an art instructor at the Cape Coral Art League where she resides for most of the year. Come see if you can identify her warblers and the feathers in the display at the Little Kanawha National Bank.
Bird Identification Contest
COME TEST YOUR BIRD IDENTIFICATION SKILLS: There are now 49 carved birds in the Kemper Family’s Birds of My Hollow Collection, all of which spend at least part of their year in Glenville, West Virginia. The identification contest will be held during the Folk Festival in two categories: one for adults and one for young people 16 years old and younger. The contest will run all day Friday and end at 3:00 PM on Saturday afternoon. Prizes will be awarded at 4:00 PM on Saturday to the first contestants who have identified the most birds and feathers correctly.
Bird Identification Contest Winners, 2015
Twenty-six contestants took part in the Kempers’ bird identification contest. Eleven of the participants were 16 years old and younger; 15 were adults. There were 47 birds and 3 carved wood feathers to identify this year.
Winners in the young people’s category:
1st place: Rhea Finley, Glenville, WV (35½ points out of 50)
2nd place: Tobias Bone, Glenville (32½ points)
3rd place: Casey Bone, Glenville (22 points)
4th Emma Samples, Lost Creek, WV (11 points)
The youngest participant was 4-year-old Nora Richmond, Sunbury, OH (10 points).
1st place: Earl Lemley, Core, WV (46½ points)
2nd place: Patrick Hall, Smithville, WV (43 points)
3rd place: Kelley Sponaugle, Shady Spring, WV (41 points)
4th place: Kate Conn, Moseley, VA (40 points)