Preservation Month Events Set

The list of events in Wheeling to mark May as National Historic Preservation Month keeps growing.

To celebrate this special month, the Belmont College Building Preservation/Restoration Student Association will present a Traditional Building Arts Expo in the atrium at the Wheeling Artisan Center from 5-8 p.m. Friday, May 3.

At the free First Friday event, area residents will see completed projects and demonstrations by Belmont students who are learning skills to preserve, maintain and restore historic buildings. Officials said examples of ornamental plaster, wood parquetry, stained glass, hand-made ceramic tile and scagliola – all made by students in the program – will be on display.

Meanwhile, also on Friday, May 3, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s State Historic Preservation Office, in cooperation with the Wheeling Historic Landmark Commission, is presenting an intensive training session, “Historic Preservation: How to Guide Potential Buyers of Historic Properties,” at West Virginia Northern Community College’s Education Center in Wheeling.

When Wheeling Hall of Fame member Robert DeFrancis introduced West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman of Wheeling for induction in the hall Saturday, April 20, he finished the presentation by reading a selection from one of Harshman’s celebrated children’s books, “Only One.”

DeFrancis concluded his remarks by observing, “There is only one Marc Harshman, and we are fortunate to have him as one of us.”

Regarding the honor of being selected for the Hall of Fame, Harshman remarked that “it is more humbling than you can know.”

The poet and children’s book author began his brief acceptance speech by noting that his introduction to Wheeling occurred when, as a 10-year-old boy, he and his family traveled through the city on their way to a vacation in Washington, D.C. He recalled “crossing this great river” from Ohio into Wheeling, which, a few years later, became “the anchor to all my homes.”

Harshman also quipped that on the family trip to the nation’s capital, his father’s car sustained the first of three flat tires near Bridgeport and the second flat tire in Elm Grove. It didn’t sour his father on the Ohio Valley, but it was the last time the elder Harshman bought that particular brand of tire.

Vehicular travels also figured into the memories shared by Ira S. Latimer of Charleston when he accepted a Wheeling Hall of Fame plaque on behalf of his first cousin, the late Rosemary Front.

Front used a wheelchair after a childhood bout with polio, but it didn’t stop her from driving a specially-equipped vehicle.

Apparently, according to her cousin, she had a reputation for speed behind the wheel.

Latimer recalled that on a trip to Detroit, a truck driver wasn’t showing the courtesies of the road. When Front finally gained the upper hand and passed the truck, she waved at the driver. It was then that Latimer realized Front had “only one finger up on her waving hand.”

Latimer, a former long-time director of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, had a close bond with his cousin. When Latimer was born at home in Follansbee, his aunt, nurse Mary Margaret Latimer, assisted in the delivery. Ten years later, “Aunt Peg” gave birth to her daughter, Front.

On a serious note, Latimer recalled that Front contracted polio at age 13 and began her rehabilitation and recovery in an iron lung. One of her strengths, he said, was that “her disability would not stop her from what she wanted to do.”

As executive director of the Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center in Wheeling and a leader and advocate for people with disabilities on the state and national levels, “she (Front) succeeded in accomplishing so much for so many,” Latimer commented.

When Frank Ellis, president of the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly, accepted a Wheeling Hall of Fame plaque on behalf of the late stogie king, Augustus Pollack, he revealed big plans for the famous statue of Pollack erected by union members after his death.

In the early 1900s, the Pollack statue was placed on the grounds of the Ohio County courthouse in downtown Wheeling. When that grand old edifice was demolished to make way for the current City-County Building, the statue was moved to its present location in North Wheeling near the westbound entrance to the Fort Henry Bridge.

However, Ellis announced that the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly is in the process of seeking to move the statue to Heritage Port, near the statue of labor leader Walter Reuther. “I think this year we’ll get it done,” Ellis said.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: