North Wheeling: Historically Hip

Neighborhood Is Big on?Charm

Photos by Casey Junkins North Wheeling resident Jackie LeMasters sprays the sidewalk in front of her 659 Main St. home.

WHEELING –Eastern Michigan University researcher Dan Bonenberger is evaluating structures for a possible expansion of the North Wheeling Historic District, as recognized by the U.S. Department of Interior.

Jackie LeMasters appreciates this, but said the neighborhood’s history is only part of the story.

“It’s just such a wonderful place to live,” LeMasters said of her 659 Main St. home. “I really like being within walking distance of Centre Market and Heritage Port.”

Walking on Main Street through North Wheeling in the late morning of a September day, one finds the area bustling with activity. There are also construction workers improving buildings, including Nic Perricellia, who works to apply a new coat of paint to the exterior of 725-727 Main St.

“There’s a lot going on up here,” he said of the neighborhood that many believe offers both convenience and serenity.

Much of the neighborhood is already recognized as part of the historic district, but officials with Wheeling Heritage and the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission are seeking more. A grant via the State Historic Preservation Office allowed members to hire Bonenberger as a consultant in the matter.

“The elaborate Victorian homes between Seventh and Ninth streets attract the most attention when compared to the humble and plain housing of the workers located to the north,” heritage Project Manager Bekah Karelis said. “But some of these homes have been standing since the mid-1800s, and they’re important to Wheeling’s story.”

Known officially as “The Early Dwellings in North Wheeling Intensive Survey,” the project began when heritage officials discovered the need to identify some pre-Civil War era homes. Many of the buildings were omitted from the historic district because they were considered less significant than the more elaborate homes located in the southern end of the neighborhood.

Preliminary geographic information system work is already underway. Bonenberger and his team are overlayering maps of Wheeling – from 1853, 1871, and 1890 – to determine which buildings align with the latest aerial photographs. This will help his team identify the earliest dwellings in the area.

“I realized years ago that many of the oldest buildings in Wheeling aren’t appreciated as they should be, perhaps because they are less conspicuous. Wheeling’s earliest homes typically have very subtle Federal and Greek Revival stylistic details, but many have none at all,” Bonenberger said. “They might not look significant, but these buildings are very important. They are among the oldest remaining links connecting us to Wheeling’s early history. If people recognize them as historic, they are more likely to be saved for future generations.”

Bonenberger plans to begin surveying North Wheeling homes in October, with hopes of finishing by May.

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