“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Thomas in Tucker County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

Dwellings and Design

Thomas, West Virginia

Dwellings and Design Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), July 17, 2020
1. Dwellings and Design Marker
Residential Architecture in Thomas
Modern society places value on home ownership, especially a house with land. However, families that moved from Europe or large cities such as New York in the early 20th century were not necessarily accustomed to single-family houses or large yards. In Thomas, many preferred apartment life, conveniently located right above their businesses and close to all the amenities that East Avenue had to offer. The families living in the Benedetto Building (No. 4), the DiBacco Building (No. 3) and others formed a tight-knit community and shared a common rear yard where the women washed clothes and children played together. In the days before automobile travel and improved roads, it made little sense to live any farther than necessary from the railroad depot, shops and doctors in town.

In the rapidly changing early years of the 20th century, industrialization created more wealth for a growing middle class and a concern about the health of city life. These factors and others led to rise of the suburb and single-family homes. Soon home ownership became the American Dream.

Dwellings and Design Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), July 17, 2020
2. Dwellings and Design Marker
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transition between higher density apartment homes and lower-density houses is readily seen by simple looking uphill in Thomas. East Avenue contains one house (No. 14) and one duplex (No. 16). Both these houses are influenced by the Gothic Revival style that was popular beginning around 1850. Over half of the buildings located on Spruce Street today are single-family homes and generally reflect styles popular in the early 1900s such as Craftsman (No. 31) and American Foursquare (Nos. 26, 29 and 30). The streets above Spruce are almost exclusively filled with houses.

Thomas's domestic architecture is a timeline of changing American values and architectural trends.

Choices in Housing
Two of the original Jewish families to settle in Thomas demonstrate two different approaches to residential architecture.

Barney Schilansky immigrated from Russia to New York in the 1870 with his wife Sarah. He traveled throughout the Southeastern United States selling goods as a pack peddler and after visiting Thomas, decided it was a promising place to move his wife and daughter Celia. They arrived in 1886 and Barney continued door-to-door peddling until he had saved enough to build a general store.

Sarah's sister Annie and her husband Victor Rubenstein who had met in New York in the 1870s, joined the Schilanskys in thomas in 1894, and the two
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families formed a close-knit association. Barney's daughter Celia married Victor's son Ruby and the two families operated various businesses including meat markets, grocery stores and clothing shops.

The Schilansky-Rubenstein Building (No. 6) housed both families in two large apartments, as large as any single-family house. The home became the center of the Jewish community in Thomas, hosting weddings, worship and holy day observances.

The Schatz brothers, George and Harry, also arrived as peddlers in 1886 and were later joined by their brother Isaac. The 1909 Schatz home on Spruce Street (No. 28) is one of the largest houses in the historic district. The style of the house is folk Victorian, with a cross-gabled roof, large wraparound porch and fine interior woodwork.

Though the Schilansky/Rubenstein and Schatz families had much in common and undoubtedly were well-acquainted, they each chose different building types to house their families.
Erected by The City of Thomas, West Virginia.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: ArchitectureChurches & ReligionSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the West Virginia, The City of Thomas series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1850.
Location. 39° 8.989′ 
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N, 79° 29.898′ W. Marker is in Thomas, West Virginia, in Tucker County. Marker is on Appalachian Highway, in the median. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 214 Appalachian Highway, Thomas WV 26292, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Lesson in Resourcefulness (within shouting distance of this marker); Thomas, West Virginia Mine Disaster Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); The Melting Pot of Thomas (within shouting distance of this marker); Connecting Thomas to the World (within shouting distance of this marker); Out On The Town (within shouting distance of this marker); The Story of a River / Life in a Coal Mining Town (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Exploring the Coketon Industrial Site / West Virginia Coal (about 300 feet away); Historic Thomas and the Coketon Industrial Complex / News Flash! (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Thomas.
Additional keywords. Judaica
Credits. This page was last revised on August 3, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 18, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 76 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 18, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Mar. 29, 2023