Wheeling's architecture has a long-established cosmopolitan, urban character, with a more pronounced flair than most West Virginia cities display. Statistics help explain why. As early as 1830, even before it was incorporated as a city, Wheeling was Virginia's fourth-largest urban center. When West Virginia was created in 1863, Wheeling easily became the new state's largest city. Three years earlier, the 1860 census tallied 14,083 people, while Martinsburg, far away in the Eastern Panhandle, was the state's secondlargest urban area, with a population of 3,364.
Twentieth-century population figures contrast poignantly with those from the nineteenth century. Wheeling held first place as West Virginia's largest city until 1930, when Huntington surpassed it. Wheeling's population that year, 61,659, proved to be the largest ever attained. Every federal census since has shown a decline, and the city's 2000 population of 31,419 was only slightly more than half the figure achieved seventy years earlier.
With so much early growth and so little recent development, Wheeling has preserved—sometimes consciously, sometimes inadvertently—many structures of historical and architectural interest. On the other hand, few of its very earliest buildings survive, in large part because of the city's topography. Downtown Wheeling, where the city began, occupies a narrow strip of Ohio River benchland, with little room for natural expansion. There simply was not enough elbowroom for old and new to coexist when the city was growing at full speed. During the 1960s and 1970s, construction of Interstate 70 and its attendant ramps wreaked further havoc on the historic fabric, as did misguided modernisms and parking lots. In the last decade or two, Wheeling has become officially committed to preserving its historic resources. The city hopes to base a revitalized economy, and new growth, on the triplepronged theme of preservation, entertainment, and cultural tourism.
Ebenezer Zane first saw the spot where Wheeling Creek enters the Ohio River in 1769 and declared it “a vision of paradise.” The creek already had a name that meant something like “place of the head” to the Indians, who had stuck a colonial trader's head on a pole near its mouth to warn others to stay away. In 1751 explorer Christopher Gist drew a map and labeled the stream “Wealin or Scalp Creek.” Others began calling it by the seemingly less disturbing of the two names.
Ebenezer and his several brothers established tomahawk claims to the site by marking trees with their initials, and their families arrived in the spring of 1770 to settle permanently. William Crawford, writing in 1772 to George Washington, for whom he was surveying, reported that settlers were arriving “in such numbers the like was never seen.”
As the threat of Indian attack increased on the eve of the Revolution, in the spring of 1774 settlers constructed Fort Fincastle, named in honor of Virginia's colonial governor. One of the largest and most strategic of the colony's frontier defenses, the fort eventually covered more than half an acre. Palisades of closely spaced white oak pickets, 17 feet high, surrounded a two-story log commandant's house, a one-story storehouse, barracks, cabins, and a well. In 1782 the fort, renamed Fort Henry to honor the new state of Virginia's first governor, Patrick Henry, survived an Indian siege. The fort was saved thanks to the intrepid young Betty Zane, who brought gunpowder to the beleaguered settlers while under heavy enemy fire. By 1784 the fort was no longer needed. Major General Peter Muhlenberg reported the beginning of its ignominious end in his journal: “The fort is now totally decayed, and Captain Zane, the only inhabitant at or near the place, makes use of it for firewood.” The fort was near the corner of present-day 11th and Main streets, in the heart of what is now downtown Wheeling. Excavations for later construction on the site uncovered artifacts from the era during which it stood.
By 1793 Ebenezer Zane had a plat made of a portion of his property and began to sell lots. On Christmas Day 1795 the Virginia legislature established the town of Wheeling. When Tarleton Bates described it in his journal in 1798, Wheeling consisted “principally of one street [and] about 60 houses one good looking brick one & 5 or 6 taverns.” Bates added: “The Inhabitants appear tolerably Genteel & were they not Virginians might pass for decent people.”
When Brooke County was formed from northern Ohio County in 1797, West Liberty, formerly the seat of justice, suddenly found itself poorly located at Ohio County's extreme northern border. Wheeling was designated the new county seat, an event that would spur additional growth. At their first session in 1798, county justices chose a lot on present-day 10th Street, midway between Main and Market streets, for a new courthouse, jail, stocks, and whipping post.
In 1802 Zadok Cramer noted in his Ohio and Mississippi Navigatorthat Wheeling was “well known as one of the most considerable places of embarkation to traders and emigrants … on the western waters.” Its unrivaled site was the farthest point upstream where year-round navigation was usually dependable. Cramer advised his readers: “Boats can frequently go from hence when they cannot from higher up the river.” The last phrase was a veiled allusion to Pittsburgh, and in 1803 Thaddeus Harris noted that Wheeling was second only to Pittsburgh as a point of embarkation on the Ohio River. Wheeling's growth was affirmed when it was incorporated as a town in 1806. Thomas Ashe, who visited that April, counted every house: “The town is formed of about two hundred and fifty houses; ten of which are built of brick, eighteen of stone, and the remainder of logs.”
Wheeling's advantage of year-round river transportation was countered by the fact that it was at least a day's travel farther from the eastern seaboard than Pittsburgh. That disadvantage seemed to disappear overnight when the toll-free Cumberland (or National) Road was opened to Wheeling in 1818. It had been a long time coming. Congress passed legislation in March 1806 authorizing “a road from Cumberland, in the State of Maryland, to the State of Ohio.” The act authorized three presidentially appointed commissioners to decide where the road would cross the Ohio River, guiding them only to the extent that the crossing must be “between Steubenville and the mouth of Grave Creek.” The commissioners chose Wheeling but were careful to suggest a point below the mouth of Wheeling Creek, downstream from Wheeling Island and the town proper. This location ensured that only one ferry trip across the river would be necessary instead of the two that would have been needed if the road had crossed the island.
Benjamin Henry Latrobe, writing his son John from Wheeling in February 1820, predicted that the new road would “secure … great commercial wealth” and that the town would “become the great Emporium of goods going further by Water.” Goods and travelers could arrive as well as depart by water, and in 1831 Congress declared Wheeling an official port of entry. By the mid-1830s, 350 to 400 people arrived or departed via boats or stages every week. In 1836, as further proof of Wheeling's growth, the town was incorporated as a city. By then, Wheeling was well on its way to becoming an industrial center. In addition to iron foundries, the city's industries included cotton and woolen mills, glass factories, paper mills, steam engine plants, and sawmills. An influx of German immigrants fueled much of its nineteenth-century industrial growth, and by the 1840s Wheeling had the largest German population of any city in Virginia.
Wheeling's early-nineteenth-century architectural development was as impressive as its industrial growth and population increases, and was, of course, dependent on both. Writing in 1844, Alexander Jackson Davis might well have referred to Wheeling when he bemoaned American architecture's total infatuation with the Greek Revival: “It would certainly be difficult for a stranger in some of our towns, where the taste for Grecian temples prevails, to distinguish with accuracy between a church, a bank, and a hall of justice.”
Wheeling had them all, in good measure. First was the First Presbyterian Church ( WH14), followed by the second St. Matthew's Episcopal Church ( WH16.1). Both of these 1830s churches, one an Ionic temple, one Doric, survive. The Presbyterians looked to Pittsburgh for their architectural guidance, while the Episcopalians selected a Wheeling builder-architect.
The board of the Merchants and Mechanics Bank went farther afield, to Philadelphia. They selected Thomas U. Walter, who modeled his now-demolished Wheeling bank on William Strickland's seminal Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia. It was smaller, of course, and its portico had six Doric columns rather than eight. Walter also substituted stucco for stone, but he was proud enough of his work to list it later as one of his fifty best buildings.
There remained a hall of justice to fulfill A. J. Davis's description. Wheeling provided one in 1839 with a new Ohio County Courthouse. Built of brick and stuccoed, it had a hexastyle Doric portico that was almost archaic in its massive proportions. A two-tiered cupola, square in its lower section, octagonal above, and topped with a perky cap, attempted to relieve the severity. It succeeded only in looking foreign on the Doric temple and was taken down before the building itself was demolished.
Wheeling had at least two disadvantages—one correctable, one not—that surfaced early in its history. While its location on the Ohio River was nearly perfect from a navigational point of view, its topography was anything but. As early as 1814, Zadok Cramer had stated: “The situation is badly chosen, hemmed in by hills on all sides it admits but one street along the river. There is much better ground at the entrance of Wheeling Creek at the lower end of the town.” By the 1830s, Wheeling had grown to the south, having in effect leapt across the creek to encompass the broader expanse of level land there. First known as South Wheeling, this section of the city is now known as Center Wheeling.
The second problem had also been noticed by this time: the coal-burning factories, mills, and plants had a downside. In 1829 Benjamin Wailes of Natchez wrote in his journal, “The scenery about Wheeling is naturally fine but is deformed by the buildings which are ordinary & blackened by coal, the atmosphere being constantly obscured by it.” The ever English, ever acerbic Frances Trollope observed in her Domestic Manners of the Americans (1839) that she could not remember in England “to have seen any spot, however near a coal mine, so dyed in black as Wheeling and Brownsville [Pennsylvania].”
Henry Howe, America's travel chronicler of the 1840s, instead saw progress: “The city is surrounded by bold hills, containing inexhaustible quantities of bituminous coal, from which the numerous manufactories of the town are supplied at a trifling expense.” Howe counted ninety- seven stores in Wheeling, and, while he did not find so many churches, listed as diverse a group of religious buildings as existed in any antebellum Virginia city: “1 Episcopal, 1 Methodist, 1 Baptist, 1 Unionist, 1 German Methodist, 1 Lutheran, and 2 Presbyterian churches, a Friends' meeting-house, and religious societies belonging to the Reformed Baptists or Disciples, Swedenborgians, and reformed Methodists.” Surprisingly, Howe missed the Roman Catholic church. By the time he reported his findings, Wheeling was a recognized center of the denomination in Virginia. In 1850, five years after Howe published his findings, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling was established.
The Wheeling Suspension Bridge ( WH22) opened to deafening fanfare in November 1849. Designed by Charles Ellet, Jr., who was selected over John A. Roebling, the bridge carried the National Road over the Ohio River's main channel to Wheeling Island. The new structure, the world's longest suspension bridge at the time, replaced the ferry and completed a link already begun by a covered bridge over the shallower and narrower back channel behind Wheeling Island.
Washington Hall, one of Wheeling's earliest examples of the Gothic Revival, opened to host the banquet celebrating the 1853 arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Like the National Road, the iron horse had been a long time getting to Wheeling. The first spade of earth had been ceremoniously turned in Baltimore in 1827, twenty-six years earlier. Baltimore architects Niernsee and Neilson, who provided most of the railroad's architectural services, designed the first Wheeling depot.
Concurrently with the railroad, a new hotel, the McLure House, made Wheeling proud. Watson Carr, proprietor, bragged in Richard Edwards's Statistical Gazetteer of Virginiain 1855 that the hotel contained “thirty rooms more than the Eutaw House in Baltimore, and is more commodious than the Girard House of Philadelphia,” two of America's finest hostelries at the time. Carr's comparisons provide a fine sense of Wheeling's mid-nineteenth-century aspirations.
In 1855 the federal government purchased land for a new building combining a customhouse, post office, and courtroom. Designed by Supervising Architect of the Treasury Ammi B. Young, it introduced the formal Italianate style to the city, although a number of other buildings were already sporting Italianate trim and moldings by the time it opened. The building was completed in 1859 and is now known as West Virginia Independence Hall ( WH1).
Although no battles were fought in or around Wheeling, the city played a decisive role in the Civil War, one that culminated when it became the first capital of the new state of West Virginia in 1863. Even then, Wheeling was poorly located to serve as the state capital, and it would shortly lose the honor, first temporarily, then for good. For the moment, its pivotal role in creating the state, added to the fact that it was West Virginia's largest city and commercial metropolis, served it well. Because Wheeling was largely removed from the theater of war, many building projects were carried on during the conflict. One of the largest was the still-standing Mount de Chantal ( WH60), a young women's academy built by the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Visitation in 1863–1865.
The 1870s opened with mixed signals. An extension of the city limits in 1871, the first enlargement since Wheeling had become a city, took the boundaries all the way south to the Marshall County line. But a year earlier, a more ominous note had sounded. On April 1, 1870, pursuant to a legislative order of February 26, 1869, Charleston became West Virginia's capital. Wheeling then sought to get the government back. Legislation introduced in January 1875 was soon approved, and in May state officials returned to Wheeling aboard the steamer Chesapeake. Part of Wheeling's carrot to lure the legislature had been a promise to furnish a capitol at no cost to the state. The city promoted a $100,000 bond issue and commissioned local architect J. S. Fairfax to design the new building, which was completed in December 1876. The capitol, which faced Chapline Street between 15th and 16th streets, was a massive, three-story, Second Empire affair, built of red brick with a profusion of stone trim and a veritable forest of towers. Its form was something like the letter H, with a recessed central element and projecting wings on either side. Domes capped the towers that stood at each corner of the wings and the taller clock tower that rose from the center. Over the years, a number of monuments and memorials embellished the grounds. After Charleston became the permanent state capital in 1885, the former Wheeling capitol became the City-County Building. It was demolished in 1956, and all the civic sculptures, including the August Pollack Monument ( WH35), were moved to new locations. A successor Ohio County Courthouse ( WH4) stands on the site.
J. H. Diss Debar's 1870 publication, The West Virginia Hand-Book and Immigrant's Guide, gave facts and figures about various cities and their industries. Among Wheeling's impressive statistics, Debar cited “six iron and nail factories, producing 17,350 kegs of nails per week.” Wheeling acquired the sobriquet “Nail City” during this period, as it produced more kegs of cut iron nails than any other city in the country. Soon partisans spoke of it as the “Nail Capital of the World.” Debar also enumerated foundries that “supply a very large trade in stoves and other castings, and have lately extended their production to iron fronts for houses, etc.” There were also “saw and planing mills and sash factories.” In short, Wheeling could supply almost anything a builder might need.
Thanks to its rapidly developing architectural fraternity, Wheeling could also design almost anything. The 1867–1868 city directory listed two architects: Franklin Coen and J. S. Fairfax. Coen and his father were partners in the firm of E. Coen and Son, Carpenters and Builders. Fairfax soon had the State Penitentiary in Moundsville and the Wheeling State Capitol to his credit. The 1878 city directory listed five architects, among them S. M. Howard, the first West Virginia architect whose work was published in American Architect and Building News, the nation's premier architectural journal of the time. The May 27, 1876, issue of the journal illustrated his People's Bank, then under construction at Main and 12th streets. The Italianate building, which incorporated stone, brick, and iron in its fabric, housed the bank on the main floor, Wheeling's Western Union telegraph office in the basement, offices on the second, and a fraternal lodge on the third. In both its multiple materials and uses, it was typical of downtown buildings of the time.
Howard was a partner in the all-purpose firm of Howard Brothers and Company, whose 1879 advertisement in The Industries of Wheelingcited several unusual products, among them the “Howard Rotary Nail Picker,” the “Perpetual Calendar Ink Stand,” and the “Glass Dome Sky Light.” Among his surviving works are the Christian Hess House in North Wheeling ( WH40) and the West Liberty Presbyterian Church outside Wheeling in Ohio County ( OH2). In 1885 Howard moved to Washington, D.C. Two years later he began working for Supervising Architect of the Treasury Mifflin E. Bell. After Bell's retirement in 1889, he applied unsuccessfully for the position. Howard's request for an endorsement gives a glimpse of his self-assessment and helps explain why he did not get the prize: “It is generally conceded that no first classArchitect will take the office, so I think I stand as good a chance as any other of the common herd.”
C. C. Kemble, another Wheeling architect of the period, has few local buildings now remaining to his credit, but he is known to have designed Woodburn Hall ( ML2) at the University of West Virginia in Morgantown. His 1873 specifications for that building show that he was decidedly first class in his knowledge of building practices. Kemble also had a hand in designing the 1880s West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston when the city wrested the seat of state government from Wheeling.
Edgar W. Wells (1850–1890) moved to Wheeling in 1874 from Bethany, where he had worked as a carpenter and studied drawing and engineering at Bethany College for several months. After a brief stint with architectbuilder Charles P. Hamilton, Wells became a journeyman with contractors Klieves, Kraft and Company. In 1878 he became a partner in the firm and its chief designer, having studied architecture in his spare time. Judging from his own house ( WH34.1), a virtuoso display of Victorian eclecticism, he devoted much of this study to ornamentation. His major works seem to have been in Center Wheeling, where he lived and where he is known to have helped design St. Alphonsus Catholic Church ( WH29.1). Because Wells practiced mostly with a building firm, much of his work remains anonymous, but he likely played a larger role in Wheeling's architecture than is generally recognized. His career was cut short on May 8, 1890, when he drowned in the Ohio River at the age of forty.
The zest displayed in the exteriors of Wheeling's late-nineteenth-century houses was more than matched by their interiors, where the city's own manufacturers aided the architects. Several manufactories produced stained glass, while the Wheeling Corrugating Company was largely responsible for the plethora of stamped steel ceilings that embellished the city's residences, stores, and offices. One account even claimed that metal ceilings, known as “Wheeling ceilings” (the phrase is better said than read) were invented in the city. By the 1890s, Wheeling Corrugating Company had offices and warehouses in Chicago, St. Louis, and New York and had obviously branched out in its product line as well. A company advertisement of the period listed “steel rock face brick siding, steel stone siding, iron crestings & finials, steel ceilings and side wall patterns, galvanized store fronts, galvanized cresting, [and] sheet metal weatherboarding.”
As downtown became ever more crowded, and as Wheeling Island experienced several disastrous floods in the late nineteenth century, Wheelingites began to move “out the pike” to the eastern suburbs along the National Road. Wheeling's continual problem with coal-borne pollutants provided another incentive to move beyond the narrow confines of the river valley. Even the promotional booklet The Industries of Wheeling (1879) had to admit, “the traveler in passing in or out of the city … sees things under such a gloom of smoke that the beauty of the suburbs is generally unknown.” The booklet assured readers that those who ventured east of Wheeling Hill were in for a treat: “Costly residences and charming cottages attract the eye on every side, beautiful grounds, rich with cultivated shrubbery, or picturesque with natural forest trees charm the sight.” Many of the costly residences and charming cottages were designed by a generation of talented young architects just beginning their careers in the 1890s. The most important of these formed a triumvirate: Franzheim, Giesey and Faris. Although their partnership lasted only a few years, all continued in practice long afterwards.
Wheeling native Millard Fillmore Giesey (b. 1856) was self-taught as an architect. Giesey was in practice by 1890 and some six years later formed a partnership with Frederic F. Faris (1870–1927). Faris, who was born across the river in St. Clairsville, Ohio, was the son of artist J. A. Faris. After he finished school, Faris worked for a time in the office of Edward Wells in Wheeling. He is first listed in the city directory for 1892–1893, when he was in an architectural partnership with Joseph Leiner, about whom little is known. By 1902, six years after Faris joined with Giesey, Gibson Lamb Cranmer, in his History of Wheeling City and Ohio County, West Virginia, claimed that Faris had been “personally interested in and designed … most of the prominent buildings and residences in the city.” Ohio Architectdevoted its November 1915 issue to Faris's work, illustrating a phenomenal number of Wheeling commissions of various types and in a range of styles. Faris was particularly adept at the emerging classicism that was popular for banks and office blocks, as well as in residential design. When he died in 1927, he was widely recognized as the dean of the city's architects. During the last several years of his practice, Faris's nephew and namesake worked with him, and the firm continued through the 1990s under the auspices of Tracy R. Stephens. Fortunately, the Faris drawings survive and will become part of the archival collections at West Virginia University.
Edward Bates Franzheim (1866–1942), the third member of the group, received far more formal training than his partners. A member of a prominent Wheeling family, he first attended the city's Linsly Institute, then went to Chauncy Hall near Boston, well known as a preparatory school for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to his obituary in the Wheeling News-Register, Franzheim “had private tutoring” under MIT professors and then studied with the well-known Boston architect John H. Sturgis for six years. His apprenticeship was “supplemented by travel and study abroad.” The young architect could hardly have picked a better time to be in Boston than the 1880s. Henry Hobson Richardson's landmark Trinity Church had recently been completed, and Franzheim, along with others, soon preached Richardson's Romanesque gospel throughout the country. He returned to Wheeling in 1890 and opened an independent office before forming a partnership with Giesey and Faris. His earliest works, including an addition to Center Wheeling Market ( WH27), the City Bank Building ( WH25), the no longer standing Bank of Wheeling (1892, demolished 1983), and Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church (1896; WH52), were and are exuberant and personal interpretations of Richardsonian Romanesque that obviously reflect his Boston education.
Franzheim designed buildings beyond the borders of the Northern Panhandle, and in his 1902 history, Gibson Lamb Cranmer called him “probably the most successful and best known architect in the state of West Virginia.” At one point Franzheim took five years off from architectural practice to try a second career as a theater manager, actor, and playwright. He was a bon vivant and a meticulous dresser who, according to one account, always arrived at the office in formal morning attire and changed to a black jacket in the afternoon. He died in 1942 at age seventy-five.
Charles D. McCarty was another Wheeling architect who practiced at the turn of the twentieth century. He started as a carpenter, went on to study architecture, and managed a contracting business until he gave that up to concentrate exclusively on architecture in 1896. One of his major commissions was a factory building for Bloch Brothers, makers of Mail Pouch chewing tobacco, which was advertised on barns throughout West Virginia and beyond. In 1906 Manufacturers Recorddescribed the Bloch Brothers factory as the “largest manufacturing building in the State of West Virginia.” The building still stands on Water Street between 39th and 41st streets in the city's southernmost section.
Wheeling native Charles W. Bates was an architect and structural engineer who studied at the Armour Institute of Technology and the Art Institute of Chicago. He worked with D. H. Burnham and Company in Chicago, then in Pittsburgh and Altoona, Pennsylvania, before returning to his hometown in 1908. Edemar ( WH62), the house that Bates designed for Wheeling manufacturer Edward W. Stifel, shows off his structural and engineering skills, perhaps at the expense of his architectural proficiency. While some of his work appears formulaic, he displayed a rare sense of originality and verve in his National Bank of West Virginia ( WH24). Like Franzheim, Bates enjoyed a practice that extended far beyond Wheeling and he was featured in the November 1912 issue of Ohio Architect.
By 1921 George W. Petticord (1876–1941), listed in early city directories first as a painter, then as a contractor, had begun his architectural practice. His primary output was residential, concentrated in the suburb of Edgewood. Birch Avenue ( WH56) seems to be the epicenter of his work, and he lived at number 18 by 1923. Petticord continued as a contractor and designed and built several apartment houses.
The 1906 issue of Manufacturers Recordthat mentioned the Bloch Brothers factory carried a laudatory article on Wheeling by Albert Phenis: “Here are architectural iron works whose product has even gone into skyscrapers in Pittsburgh.… Wheeling seems unquestionably destined to grow much greater industrially, and even Pittsburghers themselves hail her as a sort of understudy.” Perhaps inadvertently, Phenis touched on a sore point, one that Wheeling had to admit more and more frequently as the twentieth century progressed. The city was no longer a rival to Pittsburgh as it had considered itself in the heady days when the Suspension Bridge was new and when the B&O had just arrived. Still, it continued for several decades as West Virginia's major manufacturing and financial center, taking as its twentieth-century motto “Wheeling Means Business.” Presenting Wheeling, 1925, an admittedly biased publication, boasted that “with over two hundred and fifty diversified industries, Wheeling enjoys the undisputed reputation of being the greatest industrial city of its size in the United States.”
As described in the WPA guide to West Virginia, Wheeling's industry was still flourishing (and polluting) at the beginning of World War II. From the stacks of mills and foundries rose “a constant cloud of smoke that settles heavily in soot over straight-fronted tenement houses that crowd up steep streets … and blackens even the most recently constructed office buildings in the downtown area.” The guide praised Wheeling for having developed a “civic consciousness characteristic of a long-settled metropolitan area” and cited its parks, symphony orchestra, and other cultural activities.
Unfortunately, the first site listed, the former state capitol, was demolished in 1956. Within a year or so, however, as the city started planning for West Virginia's centennial, Wheeling began to notice its significant architectural heritage and instituted steps to preserve it. Initial efforts focused on the former U.S. Customhouse and Post Office. Now lovingly restored as West Virginia Independence Hall, it has become one of Wheeling's major attractions. Friends of Wheeling, Inc., came into being in 1970 to promote architectural preservation. The group targeted downtown's Market Plaza ( WH21) and the area around Center Wheeling Market ( WH27) for “practical rehabilitation.” In more recent years, the Victorian Wheeling Landmarks Foundation has preserved significant examples of residential architecture and has opened them to the public. The Foundation's primary focus has been North Wheeling, where a number of fine town houses overlook the Ohio River. Most of Wheeling's historic resources have been entered in the National Register of Historic Places, either as individual nominations or, more typically, as historic districts.
Wheeling's current preservation efforts are as encouraging as any in the state. In 1997 the city's mayor declared that in addition to its plans to develop as “a high tech hub,” Wheeling aimed “to become a tourist destination for the American historian.” An artisan and handicraft center has opened in the landmark List Building ( WH26), and in 1998 an 850-car downtown parking deck opened across Main Street from the center. The deck replaces a 1960s facility that had been built on the site of the town wharf, freeing it for the Heritage Port Project. This multimillion-dollar development, primarily for pleasure craft, once again unites Wheeling with the Ohio River, its reason for being in the first place. In 2002 the state Economic Grants Committee awarded $70 million to help revitalize a six-block area of downtown and transform it into a Victorian-themed outlet shopping center, scheduled to open in 2004.
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