VFW post helps lead downtown revitalization in Martinsburg

West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — In West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, veterans and the downtown community are excited about a new fixture on the facade of the Queen Street VFW hall.

The V.F.W hall in the heart of downtown has been a fixture for generations. So when the vets restored a vintage clock to brighten up the streetscape across from city hall, no one was more pleased than Martinsburg’s first female mayor, Harriet Johnson.

“It’s going to really brighten up this end of town,” Johnson cheerfully said.

And that goes for the spirit of the town too. Bill Conklin is commander of VFW Post 896. He spent 19 years in the service, was stationed in Japan for a while. There is a lot of nostalgia associated with the brightened retro architecture at the post.

“It’s amazing,” said Conklin. “It’s something I remember from the ’70s when it was lit. It’s been a long, long, long, long time.”

Conklin and his fellow vets are actively devoted to volunteer community service. He works closely with high school youth in the annual Voice of Democracy contest. But his nostalgia for this Berkeley County seat is a special point of pride.

“We’ve been working downtown a few years now to beautify it,” said Conklin. “We’re a historic building. We’re trying to get back to where it used to be, the old Martinsburg. And I think we’re getting there.”

Mayor Johnson has worked hard in her first year in office on downtown revitalization. She takes special pride in the veteran’s community and their art deco contribution to a revitalized Martinsburg.

“That is just going to make more beautification for downtown and honor those vets and the city couldn’t be more pleased,” boasted Mayor Johnson.

There’s a lot of lore associated with this VFW hall. Legend has it that a 16-year-old Patsy Cline would sing on stage here as a warm-up for her big-time concerts in Winchester, Virginia just down the road.

Mayor Johnson will preside at a special Saturday evening ceremony to salute the VFW post at 7 p.m. across from City Hall on Queen Street downtown. The public is invited.

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