Former Club To Be Razed

WHEELING – The landmark Fort Henry Club at 14th and Chapline streets is set to meet the wrecking ball.

Leaders of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling confirmed Wednesday morning that after more than three years of effort, working in concert with others, they are unable to renovate and preserve the Fort Henry Club building.

The Rev. Mark Seitz, rector, said, “As a result, the church is now seeking bids for demolition of the building.”

Seitz said despite numerous efforts to obtain tenants for the stately building, costs to renovate the structure proved too much for potential renters who have inspected the property.

“It took a while to come to this decision. It’s not what we wanted, but frankly it was problematic from the beginning,” Seitz said.

In December, St. Matthew’s purchased the building for $1. The Fort Henry Club is located across the street from the church property.

The Fort Henry Club, a Wheeling social organization dating back to 1890, closed it doors last September as membership had dwindled. The facility was a popular destination for businessmen during the early 1900s and a much-utilized facility for social events.

Seitz said McKinley and Associates, a local architect firm, estimated it would cost on the order of $900,000 per floor to renovate the five-story structure.

“McKinley has extensive experience in renovating these types of structures and was able to craft a vision for how the cost could be underwritten by the people renting space,” Seitz said. “We had a viable plan from another church and several businesses who would have liked to rent space, but no one has been willing to pay the renovation costs.”

Seitz said efforts by Kennen and Kennen Realtors showed some encouragement as far as attracting tenants, however, the high cost of renovations deterred those who actually toured the building.

“We did what we could to find a way to preserve it, but no one stepped forward,” Seitz added.

Seitz said the demolition won’t happen for some time, as there are numerous demolition projects currently taking place in the city and getting bids may take a while.

“It won’t be immediate. This again is an opportunity to know where we are,” Seitz said.

After demolition, the short term plan is to develop a parking area on the site. The church will have to obtain permission from the city to develop the parking lot. Seitz said it will be a start at recouping the cost of demolition.