Kudos To Those Who Build Up

We congratulate Wheeling attorney Glenn Elliott who has purchased the Professional Building at 1300 Market St. and has plans to restore the historic downtown structure and attract new tenants.

It’s a positive sign for the potential of downtown revitalization that, in recent weeks, three major buildings have acquired new owners, all intent on preserving the structures and bringing new life to the once-bustling facilities.

Elliott told reporters that he became interested in buying the Professional Building when he participated in the Ohio Valley Young Preservationists’ project to show “love” for vacant or endangered downtown buildings on Valentine’s Day this year.

As has been noted, the Professional Building was the tallest structure in West Virginia when it opened in 1891 as the City Bank of Wheeling. Designed by famed Wheeling architect Edward Bates Franzheim, the turreted building now is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

By coincidence, a few weeks ago, an Ohio firm called Access Infrastructure acquired a vacant office building – the former Schmulbach Building – located a block north on Market Street. Reportedly, Access officials plan to renovate the complex and seek new office tenants.

Historians note that the Schmulbach Building, constructed by legendary Wheeling brewery owner and businessman Henry Schmulbach, was the city’s first skyscraper. Later, it became the corporate headquarters of Wheeling Steel Corp. and then its incarnation as Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. As the steelmaker faltered, the headquarters acquired a series of new steel-related owners when the corporation changed hands several times in recent years. After RG Steel put the structure on the market, Access Infrastructure bought the building.

Meanwhile, McKinley and Associates, a Wheeling engineering and architectural firm, finalized its purchase of the former Fort Henry Club building from St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church a week ago. Officials of McKinley and Associates intend to renovate and repair the well-known structure, located on the northeast corner of Chapline and 14th streets, with the hope of attracting occupants for the property.

When the Fort Henry Club ceased operations three years ago, St. Matthew’s bought the building to protect it from destruction or misuse by potential absentee owners.

Church officials sought community partners to engage in renovation of the structure and to occupy the complex, but those efforts came to nought. Throughout that time, the church continued to pay the taxes, fire service fees, utilities and insurance on the property. When it became obvious that a community partnership was unlikely to develop, church leaders decided to sell the Fort Henry to a reliable, responsible buyer. McKinley and Associates stepped into that role.

We applaud all those who seek to build up, rather than tear down, the city, literally and figuratively.

While the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the city’s demolition of long-vacant buildings in the 1100 block of Main and Market streets will continue to be debated in varous circles, at least, finally, the area of demolition has been leveled, filled in and seeded.

Construction of new buildings remains the dream for the area, but in the meantime, perhaps the sprouting of grass will create the image of an urban green area rather than a bombed-out war zone.

The Grapevine isn’t going to enter the fray of discussing the federal government’s shutdown, but we will salute National Park Service officials for doing the right thing and removing barriers at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Post reported Thurday that the National Park Service announced that veterans had the legal right to be at their monument and would not be barred in the future.

As visiting veterans defied the barricades at the closed-off memorial earlier in the week, many observers commented that a simple shutdown wouldn’t stop the brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy to defeat the Nazis and who persevered in the Pacific to bring down the Axis.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net