Potomac State College publishes Cistern book

Cistern book

Adjunct Instructor Terry Falkowski (left) and Patricia McGuire, a Library Technical Assistant at Potomac State College of West Virginia University, stand next to the display of items found in the cistern Summer 2008. Falkowski holds The West Virginia Prep Cistern Collection book that the two co-authored. Proceeds from book sales will benefit the PSC Alumni Association (see article on where to purchase book).  

By Debi Swick-Cruse

It all began as a routine renovation to widen the road between the Administration Building and the Mary F. Shipper Library on the campus of Potomac State College (PSC) of West Virginia University. However, as the hole grew wider and the machines dug deeper, what the workers discovered was astounding.

The brick-walled cistern that lay beneath the College had been long forgotten until it was discovered during the renovations which began on June 20, 2008 – West Virginia Day, which seems appropriate due to the numerous items recovered from the College’s past.

Patricia McGuire, a library technical assistant and Terry Falkowski, an adjunct instructor in chemistry; cleaned, photographed, researched, and documented the many items found in the cistern.

“This didn’t begin as a coordinated effort between the two of us,” said Falkowski.

“In fact,” added McGuire, “We were both going out and taking pictures, but we didn’t realize that at first because we kept missing each other. We just wanted to document the day-by-day findings and digging because it was so interesting.”

When the two realized what the other one was doing, they compared pictures and coordinated times to digitally record the process. Some of the items recovered include: ink bottles, soda bottles, chemical bottles, and numerous other types of bottles; a license plate; hubcap; light bulbs; coal and coke pieces; gasolier; and gaslight fixtures. One of the most notable items was fragments of newspapers – still readable.

The collection is on display in the upper level of the library where the public can view it during library hours. (Visit www.potomacstatecollege.edu for hours of operation.)

The West Virginia Prep Cistern Collection book is a coffee table type publication and can be purchased at the Media Center which is located on the lower level of the library. The price of the book is $50; sales benefit future endeavors of the College’s historical books.  

Funds for the publication of the book were donated by Falkowski and her husband, Henry, who serves as professor of chemistry at the College.

For more information, contact Falkowski at 304-788-6927 or McGuire at 304-788-6905.