ACHP 2021 Section 3 Report to the President


The Little Known History of a Fish Science Hub

Kearneysville, West Virginia

The bulk of United States Geological Survey (USGS) real property assets do not possess the type of building characteristics often seen in historic properties. Most building types have utilitarian functions like pole barns, garages, and modular units that usually do not possess historical significance and were not in existence long enough to contribute to the historic significance of a facility. USGS taps into the collective knowledge of senior science staff to provide context for the agency’s unique history. Scientists can offer eye-witness accounts of events to support a preliminary determination of eligibility that helps dictate where funding for National Register evaluation is directed. To minimize cost and maximize the number of historical evaluations performed, the USGS adopted a new evaluation process aimed at generating results for its inventory.This process was centered on two principles: (1) properties that do not show architectural distinction (e.g., mass produced) and are utilitarian in nature will be evaluated internally, and (2) USGS facilities that experience complicated and overlapping periods of science discovery will be evaluated by contracted professionals. In 2019 as a result of the new evaluation process, USGS selected the Leetown Science Center inWest Virginia to be evaluated by a contractor, resulting in the agency receiving a

Front elevation of Leetown Administration Building (USGS)

comprehensive historic evaluation of the location. First established in 1930-31, the Leetown Science Center has been known by many names and managed by several different federal agencies.The USGS gained control of the facility in 1995.The site is noted for its supply of cold-water springs, extensive water holding and distribution systems, and a modern research pond facility, which provide outstanding support for a wide variety of aquatic research.This government outpost was soon the epicenter of critical science research arriving at cures for distinct waves of illnesses that degraded the vitality of the fish populations in America.The history of the facility identifies a lineage of doctors, directors, and scientists that led the agency toward surmounting significant fish disease challenges.The work completed there was recognized as “the foundation of fish culture in the world,” and led the facility to become known as a hub of fish science. As the facility rose in prominence and science accomplishments mounted, expansion of the facility was necessary to keep pace with changing technologies such as added classroom space for teaching fish husbandry. The comprehensive historic evaluation revealed unexpected complexity and volumes of significant achievements throughout the life of the facility. Since the facility is associated with historically significant persons and events, USGS has identified it as a historic district with 73 contributing resources. Greater understanding of the facility’s history will help inform future planned projects.

Experimental Stream Laboratory (USGS/Nathaniel P. Hitt)


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