The recipient of the 2013 Dr. Emory Kemp Lifetime Achievement Award is Jon Smith, a preservationist, master craftsman, and educator – a man who knows how to get things done and has the skills to do it himself. Over the span of 45 years as a master craftsman, he has been directly involved in the hands-on preservation and saving of countless historic sites in West Virginia. And, as an educator, he has ensured that the preservation ethos grows and that preservation skills are passed on to future generations.
Jon Smith started his education in Marshall County schools. As a young man, he learned teamwork and discipline as a member of the United States Coast Guard. Jon’s career as a preservationist began during an apprenticeship with Bob Weir – a master carpenter, restoration guru, and a preservationist before the word even started being used. Over the years, Jon worked at various locales, and he started at Allegheny Restoration after being referred by one of his heroes, Paul Marshall, who is also known for his contributions to statewide historic preservation as well as extensive research and writing in state history. Jon’s time with Allegheny Restoration has been a benefit to us all as he has worked with the company on some of West Virginia’s most historic places.
When PAWV asked Jon about his favorite jobs, he said it was tough to whittle it down after 40 years, but he did tell me about a few. Graceland is located on Davis & Elkins College campus. It was the summer home of Henry Gassaway Davis. On this unique project Jon assembled a crew, including future Allegheny Restoration supervisor Tom Shaffer. Working under the direction of Paul Marshall, Jon and the crew rebuilt the grand porches.
The Martinsburg Train Station was another favorite. Allegheny Restoration received an American Institute of Architects award for craftsmanship of the porches. This project was also Jon’s first job working with Tom Anderson. Not only did Tom pitch in with a hammer he went on to build the company that is the pride of Jon’s career. Together, they went on to restore the Oakland Maryland B&O station, “another AIA award,” Eight covered bridges – mostly with the assistance of Dr. Emory Kemp’s drawings – The West Virginia state Capitol, including the main building, the East wing, West wing, Holly Grove, and the Executive Mansion Windows.
But two of Jon’s absolute favorites are the water tank at Cass, and the Tower at Droop Mountain. Both jobs were done with a skeleton crew of craftsmen and apprentice. In the case of Droop, it was just Jon and his apprentice starting with a pile of logs, to re-construct that iconic tower. Utilizing century-old techniques, every cut of those logs was made by hand. It was the student and the teacher, covered in sawdust, standing atop one of West Virginia’s majestic mountains. Droop Mountain was a job that dreams are made of, and Jon says he was living it in the daytime.
Jon’s most Humbling job is as an Instructor at Belmont Community Technical College. For the last ten years, Jon has been sharing “tales of the old superintendent” with students from around the world, and he has impacted countless lives. Jon is known all over the country for his skills and work, and it was our honor to recognize Jon for these accomplishments and present him with the 2013 Dr. Emory Kemp Lifetime Achievement Award.