This compact, densely built residential area occupies a plain both higher and narrower than downtown, which is immediately to the south. To the north, the plain narrows beyond 1st Street, where the Ohio River on one side and the steep bluffs of Wheeling Hill on the other virtually preclude development.
The National Road, which reached Wheeling in 1818, came down the steep slope of Wheeling Hill to 7th Street and continued a block west toward the Ohio River, then turned south to continue along Main Street. North Wheeling was then mostly a motley collection of livery stables, hardware stores, blacksmith shops, and taverns, all ready to serve travelers just arriving or just leaving. After 1852, when the B&O Railroad supplanted the National Road as Wheeling's major transportation artery, development in the area changed. North Wheeling became a desirable residential area because it was convenient to downtown, the high bench provided protection from floods, and the elevation afforded pleasant vistas across the Ohio River valley. Unlike residents of Center Wheeling and Wheeling Island, which were essentially separate communities with their own stores, schools, and churches, inhabitants of the smaller North Wheeling neighborhood participated fully in the commercial, social, and religious life of downtown. Aside from corner stores, the building stock of the second half of the nineteenth century was almost exclusively residential.
By 1900 the neighborhood was almost completely built up. Long before, however, a number of families had moved to the greener, cleaner eastern suburbs. By the third quarter of the twentieth century, the neighborhood was anything but a choice residential venue, and construction of the bridge carrying Interstate 70 across the Ohio River at the line of 9th Street, along with its attendant ramps, made it even less desirable.
During the last decade of the twentieth century, the Victorian Wheeling Landmarks Foundation, incorporated in 1990, spearheaded restoration of the neighborhood by purchasing several of the most important houses and opening them to the public. The foundation also owns and maintains what it terms endowment houses. Income from rental units in this second-tier group provides funds to maintain and restore the primary properties.
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