by BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD — Watch the video here
By July 1, the Bluefield Automobile Club will be taking a short jaunt to the Old Dominion in order to set up shop near the Walmart Superstore in the Ridgeview Plaza shopping center in Bluefield, Va.
“We’re very excited about our relocation,” Laura Gooch of the AAA said. “We’re excited about our cooperation with the Bluefield Preservation Society and we’re excited about relocating to Bluefield, Va.”
According to Gooch, Bluefield had a small automobile club as early as 1917, but in 1924, that club became affiliated with the Automobile Club of America in 1924. She said that the move to Bluefield, Va., will enable the AAA to be a little more centrally located to serve the 9 counties of Virginia as well as the 5 counties of West Virginia in the club’s service area.
Although Gooch said the move is somewhat “bittersweet” for the Bluefield Automobile Club, she expressed her excitement about the developments in the downtown. “We’re very excited about what’s coming to downtown Bluefield,” Gooch said. “This is one of the most attractive buildings in downtown Bluefield. Alex Mahood was the architect who designed the building. He and Enio Corte were on the board of the Triple A when it opened in 1961.”
“We are excited to have this new acquisition,” Julie Hurley of the Bluefield Preservation Society said. She said that the preservation group that already owns the historic Granada Theater hopes to transform the Bluefield Automobile Club building into a museum filled with local exhibits as well as a model railroading exhibit and more.
“The building is in pristine condition,” Hurley said. “And the Triple A is still going to be partnering with us on things like our festival in late August. Triple A Insurance is still the sponsor of our antique and vintage car show.”
Eva McGuire, director of Craft Memorial Library said it was also a bittersweet moment for the library. She said that the Bluefield Automobile Club “has been a good neighbor,” but added that the library “is very pleased that the building won’t be empty when the club moves. McGuire also expressed thanks to the H.I. Shott Jr., Foundation for its support in the transition.
Joshua D. Cline, redevelopment and planning director of the city of Bluefield said that while the city hates to see the club move, the city is excited about how attractive the new features are for foot traffic in this part of the city. He said it is part of the city’s new development plan, “creating new business opportunities,” he said.
After the press conference, Gooch presented some archival materials to McGuire for the Eastern Regional Coal Archives at the library. By way of explaining how progressive that the automobile club has been, Gooch said that the first manager of the Bluefield AAA was Pearl Brammer who had the position in 1924, and added that Marble Weaver, who was hired in 1934, took over from Weaver in 1935. “Mrs. Weaver hired me 45 years ago,” Gooch said.
Gooch said that the automobile club serves a large region and said the new location will give customers more access. “We’re not moving that far away,” she said. “We’re still in Bluefield.”