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National Road

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In 1859 an astute, if overly romantic, observer hoped that Wheeling would expand beyond its constricted Ohio River site: “Its suburban capabilities are unequalled. Close behind the town, divided from it only by the high hills which form the bank of the Ohio, is a deep-down mountain-girt, well-wooded valley, … giving hundreds of such sites for gentlemen's villas as no landscape artist could better contrive.” Although a few Wheelingites had already begun to move out of the city by then, it was not until after 1879, when horse-drawn streetcars first provided quick, inexpensive transportation all the way to Elm Grove, some seven miles southeast of the city, that the trickle of suburban development became a veritable flood. By 1897 electric cars had taken the place of horse-drawn trolleys, providing even quicker access and spurring further growth. Soon, National Road and the streets leading from it became the city's most desirable addresses, a status many of them still hold.

Unfortunately, during the latter half of the twentieth century, commercial enterprises began to replace many of the stately houses that once lined the pike, and the process continues. While some major houses and institutions still border National Road, the overall suburban residential flavor that once prevailed on the main thoroughfare is now better experienced along the many side streets. Fortunately, National Road no longer has to carry the burden of through traffic, as the parallel Interstate 70 now provides a quicker route for those merely passing through.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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