Smith’s Scene Returns Home To Wheeling

A long-lost painting of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge has been returned to the Friendly City, albeit a bit worse for the wear.

The painting, done by the late Wheeling artist Frasier Smith, had belonged to the late Audra Wayne, who was a well-known Wheeling genealogist. Her daughter, Barbara Wayne, who now lives out of state, donated the artwork.

The painting arrived in Wheeling last weekend, but unfortunately it sustained serious damage in the shipping process. It remains to be seen how, or whether, the damage can be repaired.

In any case, Jeanne Finstein, president of Friends of Wheeling, said, “The painting will belong to Friends of Wheeling but will be on permanent loan to the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau.”

A few weeks ago, Barbara Wayne — who is downsizing — posted a photo of the Suspension Bridge painting to the “Memories of Wheeling” group on Facebook in an effort to find someone to take the picture. Friends of Wheeling member Joanne Sullivan saw the Facebook post and commented on it. The wheels then were set in motion for the bridge painting to be sent back to Wheeling.

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The ever-busy Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling has been “hopping” with activities for the past couple of weeks, with a hectic summer season also on the horizon.

Library officials held a grand re-opening celebration last weekend Saturday to mark the 45th anniversary of the facility’s original opening and to celebrate the culmination of a $1 million major improvement project. The festivities took place at the same time and in the exact location where the first ribbon-cutting ceremony occurred at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 1973.

On a personal note, I was humbled and honored to be among the group of Wheeling residents who received “Library Legend” awards during the celebration. Also honored were Richard Morriale, the late Kate Quinn, Margaret Brennan, David Javersak, West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman, Judge Frederick and Joan Stamp, the late George and Janice Seibert, the late Thomas A.E. Stephan, Lester C. “Ted” Hess, Ann Thomas, the Wheeling Area Genealogical Society and Wheeling Heritage.

Hess, who served as a board member when the “new” library opened in 1973, and Wheeling resident Jean Bailey, daughter of Stephan, who was a longtime board member, offered brief remarks about efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to secure the property and construct the current facility.

Former Wheeling resident Charles Julian, associate university librarian at Potomac State College of West Virginia University, gave a condensed history of the library. Julian also talked about the well-known Ethan Allen statue that occupied a place of honor in the old Wheeling Library. He explained how the Allen statue became a fixture at the old library (although the “why” remains a bit fuzzy) and related its eventual destiny of being sold, appropriately, to the Ethan Allen Furniture Co.

As part of the festivities, Harshman read poems about libraries and the Rev. Bonnie Thurston of Wheeling read an original poem that she wrote for the occasion. It was interesting to note a common theme in the reminiscences by Harshman and Thurston of the importance of libraries. Both reflected on their use of libraries in their hometowns and of libraries in other locations, and how those sites have been citadels of resources, respite and recreation over the years.

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

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