Deal For Club Yet To Be Finalized

WHEELING – More than six months after the architectural firm McKinley and Associates announced it was “very close” to acquiring the downtown Fort Henry Club building from St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, the deal has yet to be finalized.

“Attorneys are talking to each other. All that really remains to be done is the closing,” said the Rev. Mark Seitz, rector at St. Matthew’s. “Obviously, we would like to go ahead and close the deal.”

After St. Matthew’s acquired the building for $1 in December 2011, county records show the church has paid a total of $8,772 in property taxes on the property, including a $2,176 half-year payment on Aug. 9. The property’s most recent assessed value is $154,020 – but the estimate to renovate the five-story structure is around $900,000, Seitz previously said.

In February, both Seitz and McKinley and Associates President Ernie Dellatorre said the two parties were on the verge of finalizing a sale. Seitz declined to disclose the agreed-upon purchase price.

At that time, Dellatorre said he was not sure what his firm would do with the building, but it likely would be rented as office space. Attempts to reach Dellatorre for further comment were unsuccessful.

Built in the 1850s as the Howell Mansion, the building was home to the Fort Henry Club, a private social organization that dates back to 1890, until its closing in September 2011. It was largely fear of the unknown, Seitz said, that prompted St. Matthew’s – located directly across 14th Street – to purchase the building for $1 three months later, rather than see it sold at public auction.

“Our concerns were mostly around what could go wrong,” he said.

But the church’s subsequent effort to find tenants for the building was unsuccessful, and the church at one point last year was prepared to seek bids to demolish the building that in its heyday hosted the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Herbert Hoover and Babe Ruth. It was then, Seitz said, that McKinley and Associates expressed interest in the structure.