Things ‘Perking’ Up In Town

It has been another great week of restoration and revitalization in Wheeling.

Kudos go to West Virginia Northern Community College for repurposing and revitalizing another corner of 16th and Market streets in downtown Wheeling.

Congratulations and thanks also are extended to the Wheeling chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and its partners, the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. and the Wheeling Park Commission, for spearheading the restoration of the historic Madonna of the Trail monument along National Road.

The week began with the much-anticipated opening of West Virginia Northern’s latest facility on the southwest corner of 16th and Market streets, featuring a combination Barnes & Noble bookstore and Starbucks shop on the new building’s first floor and the college’s student activities center on the second floor. Public officials, civic leaders and other guests joined college representatives for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of the new facility Monday, July 15.

Wheeling architect Victor Greco, who also is the genius behind the transformation of the intersection’s northwest corner for Northern’s new Applied Technology Center, noted that his design for the new bookstore-student union picks up architectural elements of Northern’s historic B&O Building located across the street. Greco explained that the new facility’s clock tower is a historic nod to a clock tower that once stood at the former B&O Railroad station. The architect added that he wanted the new clock tower to create a piazza-like look for the plaza area adjacent to the center’s entrance.

As with the Applied Technology Center, the new building’s copper accents complement the copper trim on the roof of the B&O Building, Greco pointed out.

For many years, a large building on the intersection’s southwest corner was occupied by a bank until that institution moved to a new facility out the pike in the 1970s.

Later, a Winky’s restaurant operated in part of the building for a time. Eventually, the vacant former bank building was razed. More recently, the corner lot was occupied by the Straub Hyundai sales office until the dealership built a new complex at The Highlands.

Speaking at the rededication of Madonna of the Trail statue Tuesday, July 16, Debi McClelland Smith, a Wheeling DAR member and state DAR historic preservation chairman, recalled that seven years ago, after the Wheeling DAR chapter received a grant from the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. to replace flowers at the monument each season, she and her husband, Greg, noticed age-related and environmental damage to the statue.

Smith then started the long process of applying for grants, waiting, reapplying for grants and waiting again until funding was awarded to restore the Madonna of the Trail.

In addition to receiving nearly $30,000 in grants, Wheeling DAR members also have been making contributions of their own and conducting fundraising for the long-awaited and now-completed project.

The hot, humid weather Tuesday didn’t deter participants in the Madonna of the Trail rededication ceremony. While many of the guests moved to shaded areas at the site, DAR members remained resolutely in the sunshine directly in front of the monument and the podium.

A few of the speakers commented on the weather conditions. DAR state regent Barby Frankenberry, who happened to be wearing a black dress, remarked graciously that she was “glistening” in the heat.

However, Tim McCormick, president of the Ohio County Commission, was blunter in his assessment of the conditions. Rather than “glistening,” he said, “I’m sweating.”

Later, taking the podium, Douglas Dalby, president and chief executive officer of the Wheeling Park Commission, quipped, “When I was standing back there, I thought that next winter when I’m looking for a warm jacket, I’m going to pick this one.”

The mention of Lustron houses in last week’s Grapevine piqued the interest of several readers.

Lustron spotters have pointed out the existence of a number of the porcelain-enameled steel houses in Wheeling. In addition to the two Lustron homes on Edgwood Street that were mentioned last week, two more of the unusual houses are located nearby on Edglawn Avenue. Another Lustron house is situated on Pallister Road and one also can be found on Romney Road.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: