Missing Piece Was Taken Down

WHEELING – A piece soffit on the former Second Presbyterian Church in Center Wheeling is missing because it was purposely removed, city Building Codes Official Frank Wilson said.

Wilson said his department received a couple calls from people concerned about the building – the roof of which originally collapsed in 2011 – and a piece of soffit that appeared to have fallen off of it. After contacting one of the building’s owners, Richard Pollack, Wilson said he discovered the piece was purposely removed Saturday by workers at the site. Rope was attached to it so it could be lowered to the ground. Pollack forwarded him photos of the men lowering the soffit, Wilson said.

“They are doing what they are supposed to be doing – removing parts that are dangerous and getting ready to rebuild,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the owners were ordered in June or July to have the work “substantially complete” within six months – a timeline set in Wheeling Municipal Court. Wilson said that means the building at that time should have a new roof, be deemed safe and that the barricades surrounding the structure should be gone. Once the dangerous pieces are removed, work to rebuild the masonry walls is expected to start and then new roof trusses can be installed, he said.

The sidewalk beside the building, located just north of Centre Market, has been closed since 2011.

“They are deconstructing so they can reconstruct,” he added.

Pollack said he is glad people are keeping an eye on the city’s historic structures, including his.

“We’re preceding with repairs with the ($47,000 matching grant) we received from the state,” Pollack said, noting the soffit may be reused.

He said the soffit had been tied up for awhile until volunteers, students and graduates from Belmont College’s building preservation program took it down. They were led by preservation instructor Jon Smith.

Back in 2011, the building’s roof collapsed due to structural issues. A private engineer hired by the building’s owner, Near Earth Object Foundation, discovered that decades ago three of the roof’s trusses were cut and modified to allow the hanging of a chandelier in the sanctuary. Because of this roof-raising work, the ceiling and roof failed about 50 years later. The building, located at 2100 Market St., was not occupied when the collapse occurred at 3:45 p.m. Sept. 22, 2011. No one was injured during that collapse.