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Old Photos of the WVSDB
Administration Building
Destroyed by Fire, Feb. 26, 2022

The Romney Classical Institute building
The pre-Civil War Classical Institute Building was the center section of what became the Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Later it became the Administration building.


In the early morning hours of February 26, 2022 the Administration Building of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind was destroyed by fire. For photos go to: Hampshire Review
See more photos in the Hampshire Review of March 2, 2022, front page and page 8C.

This building is one of the most historic buildings in Hampshire County, West Virginia.
   On Dec. 12, 1846, the Virginia Assembly empowered the Romney Literary Society to establish a Seminary of Learning near Romney. This was to be known as the Classical Institute. The Romney Academy and the library of the Literary Society moved. Dr. Foote ran the school until a dispute developed between him and the Literary Society and he left in 1849. The Potomac Academy started in 1850 and is today the Blue & Gold Dining Room on the north end of campus. Both schools were busy until war broke out in 1861 and most of the students and teachers left join the conflict. After the war, the town was not to be the same since 125 of its young men were killed, many of them former students. Romney was devastated during the war and economically struggled afterwards. When the state needed a school for the deaf and blind, the Literary Society reformed and pushed for the school to be in Romney. In the fall of 1870 the school opened. The rest is history.
Source: Historic Hampshire, edited by Seldon Brannon.

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Photo Album of old pictures

Front of Building c.1884 with students & faculty

Fire Damage Photos - large photos

View from rear of building:


Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

We have on the site a set of the old Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Romney. They show the School building in some detail. Sections of the Administration Building are shown below, but the whole maps are available here.

Administration Building in 1894
Administration Building in 1899
Administration Building in 1908
Administration Building in 1915
Administration Building in 1923
Administration Building in 1931

Floor plan from 1882 Biennial Report of the Board of Regents [BRBR1882]

Campus Map 1923

Other Links:


For some more photographs of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind Click Here.
For the article on the laying of the Cornerstone of the main building in 1871 Click here. We appreciate the research of Dan Oates who pointed out this link to us from the South Branch Intelligencer. The image is from the Library of Congress web pages: Chronicling America.
A 57 page free download - History of WVSD&B at
For our web page on the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind Click here.
The official WV Historic Site Inventory Form HM-0053 for the Schools for the Deaf and Blind can be downloaded here. It contains two early reports outlining additions and modifications to the original building. It is suggested you download it directly to your computer since it is a very large 15 mb file. The form is available courtesy of the State Historic Preservation Office.


Timeline: - Working Draft

  • April 4, 1845 notice put in local newspaper asking for bids from contractors for the erection of a building for "the Literary Society of Romney." This was, in the words of the advertisement, to be "a brick building, 36 feet by 40 feet, 22 feet high from the foundation of the square, to consist of two stories, to have a tin roof and be surmounted by a cupola. The end to be the front and to be embellished with a handsome portico the whole width of the house." The notice is signed by E. M. Armstrong, John B. Kercheval, David Gibson, committee. {HHC-MS]
  • May 24, 1845 Land deeded for Romney Classical Institute
  • 1845 A contract for a building for the Classical Institute is let.
  • December 12, 1846 The Virginia Legislature passed an act empowering the Literary Society to "establish at or near the town of Romney, a seminary of learning for the instruction of youth in the various branches of science and literature." This led to the building of the Classical Institute which later became the main building of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind. M&SHHC p434
  • December 12, 1846 Literary Society moves into new building and changes name to Romney Classical Institute. [HEdWV]
  • 1859-62 ?? building owned by Rev. Joseph Nelson later returned to the Literary Society
  • 1870 Literary Society gives its old building to the State for the Schools for the Deaf and Blind. [HEdWV]
  • September 29, 1870 The first term of WVSB opened with 25 deaf and 5 blind students and Mr. H. H. Hollister as principal. Adaptations to the original building to accommodate present students and additions to handle more students are outlined in the First Annual Report Of The Board Of Regents & Principal Of The West Virginia Institution For The Deaf, Dumb And Blind For The Year 1870. Wheeling: John Frew, Public Printer. 1871.
        It was found necessary to have more complete communication between the different parts of the building, and especially between the different stories. To facilitate this, a double porch was constructed in place of the old back porch; the stairs were transferred from the wing to the porch, and a door was cut through the wall to give entrance to the upper rooms in the main building. This porch affords a delightful place for exercise in the cold months—the upper floor being assigned to the young ladies, and the lower to the male pupils. The transfer of the stairs to the porch gave us two rooms much needed for the use of the inmates. A hall has been constructed through the main building, from which doors open into the boys' dormitory and the school room. A room for hospital purposes has been partitioned from the chapel. In addition to these changes and repairs of the building proper, all the outbuildings were covered anew, and a cistern capable of holding a ten-weeks' supply of water was constructed....
        I therefore recommend that you ask of the Legislature for your institution an enlargement sufficient to accommodate one hundred inmates. The fact that I have already, for want of room, been compelled to reject eighteen applicants, is a powerful argument in favor of immediate action. Let not these unfortunate ones, the wards of the State, longer knock in vain for that culture which will fit them for happy, useful lives. The addition of awing on each side of the main building would be most convenient for our purpose, and at the same time give a fine external view to the whole building. These wings, to afford the necessary room, should be at least thirty feet by fifty feet. It is fortunate for the State that the building, which you have obtained free of cost through the munificence of the Romney Literary Society, is thus capable of enlargement without in the least interfering with the utility of the present room.
  • July 31, 1871 The Cornerstone is laid for the school building.
  • 1871 From the Second Annual Report Of The Board Of Regents, Of The Institution For The Deaf, Dumb & Blind For The Year 1871, pages 17 & 18:
       In my report of last year the necessity of enlarging your building was respectfully brought to your notice. The application which you made to the Legislature for a building appropriation was generously met; and as the result, we have an additional story on the main building, one wing nearly completed and the other under roof. In order to give the structure a harmonious and pleasant effect, the old building has been remodelled, and the whole built in the French style of architecture; while the greatest forethought has been exercised to make the interior convenient for the purpose designed. The detailed drawings, plans and specifications were furnished by Jackson C. Gott, Esquire, Architect, Baltimore, Maryland. The wings are built of brick each thirty feet by seventy, and with three stories, including Mansard, above basement. The whole building presents a front of one hundred and ninety-four feet. The new parts are devoted almost entirely to the use of the pupils, the north wing for the boys and south wing for the girls. The first floor furnishes sitting, with corridors leading to the dining-room, chapel and school room. The second and third floors furnish dormitories and hospital rooms. The dinning-room and chapel and most of the private rooms are in the old building. The rear wing has been fitted up for school rooms....
       The upper story of the main building and wings needs to be completed throughout, which will require an appropriation of $3,500. The architect has furnished plans for three verandas, one in front of the main building, and one in front of each wing. The cost of them will be about S500. Our present kitchen accommodations are very inadequate and inconvenient. The want of new and enlarged facilities in this department bill be still more pressing when we add to the number of inmates. Anew kitchen should be built with a bakery store-rooms, bath-rooms, and rooms for servants. This cannot be done without a special appropriation of 82,000 at least.
       To enter the school rooms now from the main building it is necessary to pass along an open porch. By closing the North side of this a hall can be formed which will be a continuation of the central corridor of the main building, and give communication between all parts to all the inmates without the necessity of passing into the open air. An appropriation of six hundred dollars is asked for this purpose.
  • 1870-73 During Mr. H. H. Hollister’s three years as 1st principal (superintendent), the state legislature approved the construction of north and south wings to the original building, and also the addition of a third floor in 1871-72. WVSDB140ppt2010
  • 1872 new wing added WVSDB:H70-04iii
  • 1872 "Accordingly, in 1872 wings were placed at each end of the Literary Society building" WVSDB:H70-04 page 3
  • 1875 A pupils’ dining room and chapel were added
  • 1878 new wind added WVSDB:H70-04iii
  • 1888 Under C. H. Hill "Extensive additions were made in the erection of a unit parallel to the first, giving the form of an "H" to give accommodations to about 200" WVSDB:H70-04 p.3
  • 1891-92 The north wing gets an eastern section (razed in 1959)
  • 189? Kitchen and store room added ??
  • 1901-? Hospital section opened above kitchen? (see Sanborn Map of 1915)
  • 1903 Electrical system installed
  • 1959 Eastern section of north wing is razed
  • 1964-? The third floor is removed
  • February 26, 2022 The Administration Building is destroyed by fire.

The following timeline for the Administration Building is found in West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind: A History, 1870-2004

  • Romney Classical Institute Building (presently known as Administration Building) erected 1846; occupied by the school in 1870.
  • Third Story to Administration Building 1871-1872
  • North Wing, West Section, Administration, 1871-1872
  • South Wing, West Section, Administration, 1871-1872
  • Steam heat system installed 1874
  • Pupils' dining room and chapel 1875
  • North Wing, East Section, Administration, 1891-1892
  • Kitchen, storerooms, Administration, 1892
  • Hospital (over kitchen and storerooms) Admin. 1901
  • Electric system, basement of kitchen, Admin. 1903
  • East Section, Administration, razed summer & fall 1959
  • Third floor, Administration, razed summer 1964

We would appreciate your help with dates related to the building

BRBR1882 = Biennial Report of the Board of Regents of the Institutions for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind at Romney, West Virginia. For the Two Fiscal Years Ending, September 30, 1882; W. J. Johnston, Public Printer, Wheeling, 1882
M&SHHC = Maxwell & Swisher, History of Hampshire County
WVSDB:H70-04 = West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind: A History, 1870-2004
WVSDB140ppt2010 = West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind Powerpoint presentation