Former Kirk’s Art Supplies Property in Wheeling Soon To Become Blank Canvas

Photo by Casey Junkins Contractors with Edgco Inc. prepare to demolish the former Kirk’s Art Supplies building on Market Street in downtown Wheeling.

Wheeling city leaders said the former Kirk’s Art Supplies building on Market Street should be reduced to rubble by the end of this week, at a cost of about $50,000.

Once the debris is cleared, Wheeling Heritage officials will have room to place the giant Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the property, which is adjacent to West Virginia Independence Hall. The monument will be moved from its current site at Wheeling Park.

“We certainly want to make sure this doesn’t happen with other downtown buildings,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said. “The time to save that building was about 10 years ago.”

Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said recent heavy rain led to even more damage to the already-deteriorated roof. While standing on Market Street and looking though the front windows, one can clearly see the massive hole.

“It’s gotten even worse. We need to get it down quickly,” Thalman said.

For several months, perhaps even a couple of years, those looking out from the upper floors of West Virginia Independence Hall could see the top of the Kirk’s building slowly cave. At one point, what appeared to be garbage cans and toilet lids could be seen dangling at the top of the roof before their ultimate fall through the hole.

Last year, council voted to use $300,000 to install new roofs and facades on city-owned buildings at 1107 and 1109 Main St., along with those at 1425, 1429, 1433 and 1437 Market St. This is the model they hope to use for vacant structures, specifically in the downtown area, moving forward.

Elliott and other city leaders said the plan is for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History to eventually take ownership of the Kirk’s site once it is cleared, though the details of the transaction must be finalized.

Last year, officials expressed concerns about the stability of the soil upon which the hefty monument would sit on the north end of the WVIH site. They were not sure the ground could hold the 25-ton statue.

However, Wheeling Heritage Executive Director Jake Dougherty said officials now believe they can stabilize the soil to the point to hold the statue.

According to Wheeling historians, the monument was originally built by the Soldiers Aid Society of Wheeling at what was then the state Capitol at 16th and Chapline streets, while being dedicated on Memorial Day 1883. Upon the former Capitol’s 1956 demolition, the monument was briefly relocated to The Linsly School before moving to its hilltop location at Wheeling Park in 1958.