West Point resident asking Historical Society to consider information center, mill model

WEST POINT – West Point resident Rhett Coates hopes to work with the Historical Society to build a Town information center.

"The center would encompass the entire scope of West Point, its people and their relevance, both in history, now, and in years to come," Coates said in a letter to the Historical Society and RockTenn paper mill representatives.

Coates, whose mother and father both worked at the West Point mill, located at 1813 Main St., will discuss his idea, which includes creating a visitor's center, complete with a model of the mill, with the West Point Historical Society on Sunday, October 13 at 3 p.m. in the Downtown Business Center.

"I would like to see the West Point Museum and Historical Society to run or share-manage an information center building, where the RockTenn model would be housed and presented," along with educational presentations on RockTenn and Norfolk Southern Railroad, Coates said.

Coates is proposing that the "old Nova Materials building" at 23rd and Main Street, across from the mill's scrap paper storage area, be housed at the visitor's center, and the 90-foot long and 30-foot wide model of RockTenn.

"This building will likely need to be completely rebuilt from the ground up, or at least have its sides re-shored, and a new roof installed," Coates said in the letter. "The interior will need to be rebuilt to accommodate the town's museum (West Point Historical Society) with enough room to display their historical artifacts from our area, as well as a two-tier viewing area for visitors to be able to see "down into the HO model of the paper mill."

According to Coates, the information center could also host periodic historic re-enactments or other festivals in the center's parking lot, and have a scrolling electronic board promoting events, such as: The Mattaponi and Pamunkey Indian Pow-wows and museums, the annual Crab Carnival, public sky diving at the Middle Peninsula Regional Airport, parks and recreation events, historical churches, etc.

"The site's formal approval and/or groundbreaking would be wonderful to coincide with the paper mill's 100th anniversary celebration, which will occur on May 16, 2014," Coates said.

According to Town Manager John Edwards, the Town Council has discussed a visitor's center in the past. However, they have not discussed or set aside any money to build one in the near future.

"It would be something to look forward to in the future," Edwards added.

"A visitor's center is not our top priority right now. We would have to plan ahead, find the funds and work on designs."

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.