Honoring Wheeling ‘Friends’

Friends of Wheeling Inc. recognized three deserving honorees – two individuals and a civic group – at the annual preservation awards dinner held at the Wheeling Artisan Center Wednesday, May 7.

The event, coinciding with the national observance of Historic Preservation Month, was presented by Friends of Wheeling in partnership with the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp.

Friends member Jay Frey presented the first preservation award to the Wheeling Kiwanis Club for spearheading a 13-month project to restore the iconic Mingo Indian statue that greets motorists on National Road at the top of Wheeling Hill. Frey noted that the Kiwanis Club has always maintained a keen interest in Mingo as the club was involved in the placement of the statue in the early part of the 20th century.

Wilkes Kinney, who was president of the Wheeling Kiwanis Club at the time of the restoration project, accepted the award on behalf of the civic organization. “We enjoyed working on this effort,” he said.

Kinney extended special thanks to Jim West, Butch Duplaga, city leaders and Wheeling City Council for a financial contribution and the Ohio County Commission for a financial contribution. In addition, he said, “We had a substantial number of anonymous donors.”

The next Friends of Wheeling preservation award went to Jon Smith, a preservationist, master craftsman and educator. Jeremy Morris, executive director of WNHAC, introduced Smith as “a man who knows how to get things done and knows how to do it himself.”

Morris observed that through Smith’s hands-on work and his teaching efforts, “He ensures that the preservation ethos continues in Wheeling.”

Smith’s career as a preservationist began during an apprenticeship with Bob Weir, a local preservationist and “restoration guru,” Morris said. Smith also has worked with Allegheny Restoration, through its office in Neffs, and has been an instructor at Belmont College for the past 10 years.

Showing photographs of some of the many preservation and restoration projects in which Smith has been involved, Morris said the master craftsman has worked on projects as varied as the Graceland Mansion on the campus of Davis and Elkins College in Elkins; the B&O Railroad train station in Oakland, Md.; several covered bridges; the West Virginia Capitol and governor’s mansion in Charleston; Woodburn Hall at West Virginia University; the Cass water tower and the Droop Mountain tower.