West Virginia held an auction last month and nobody came.

As part of its plan to restore the once-thriving lumbermill town of Cass into a recreational community, the state's Department of Natural Resources had planned to auction 20-year leases to five turn-of-the-century wooden houses in the town. Successful bidders would be required to restore the exteriors of the deteriorated houses and make other improvements.

Although the state had mailed out bid information to more than 200 people, nobody showed up for the Oct. 6 auction.

"We've been trying to determine what went wrong," said Cordie Hudkins, assistant chief in charge of operations at the Division of Parks and Recreation. The state has mailed questionaires to people who made earlier inquiries. Bidders would have been required to start the bidding at $2,000 and to make a minimum total investment of $10,000.

"If we can make changes in the procedures or the specifications that will make the auction more desireable, we will do that and try again," Hudkins said. "If not, we will have to decide whether historic restoration through leasing is practical."

West Virginia bought the town for $1.5 million from the Mower Lumber Co. and reloated the remaining residents. With an eye toward attracting investment from regular visitors to nearby ski areas, the state this summer spent $1.1 million on the sewer and water lines and restored the exterior of one house as a prototype. CAPTION: Picture, Prototype of restored house West Virginia government hoped to have in Cass. By Penelope Lemov for The Washington Post