Former Kirk’s Art Supply Store Demo, Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument Move, Set in Downtown Wheeling

Photo by Casey Junkins By summer, Wheeling Heritage officials hope to move the 50,000-pound Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument from Wheeling Park to West Virginia Independence Hall.

WHEELING — City officials will spend almost $50,000 to demolish the former Kirk’s Art Supplies building on Market Street, but this will clear room for the 50,000-pound Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument to be moved to West Virginia Independence Hall.

“We will begin work in the spring. We hope to have it done early in the summer,” Wheeling Heritage Executive Director Jake Dougherty said of bringing the statue from its current location at Wheeling Park. “The monument is dedicated to the soldiers who fought to preserve the Union in the Civil War. There is no better place for it than at Independence Hall.”

Tuesday, members of Wheeling City Council gave final approval to the ordinance to spend $49,850 to demolish the former art supplies store at 1508 Market St. After closing approximately a decade ago, the structure has gradually deteriorated to the point that one can now see through the roof while looking through the building’s front windows.

“It is beyond any realistic rehabilitation at this point,” Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday, who is also an architect, said of the building. “The fact that the building hasn’t collapsed on its own is amazing.”

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.

“The time for saving this building was 10-15 years ago. Unfortunately, it is too late for this one,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said of the former art store. “I do not want demolition to be a model for how we treat our buildings.”

Elliott said officials hope to save the ornate upper front facade of the Kirk’s building. City Manager Robert Herron said he believes there is still time to do this, as he said city building inspectors do not fear an “imminent collapse.”

For several months, perhaps even a couple of years, those looking out from the upper floors of 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.

Councilman Brian Wilson echoed Elliott’s comments about reversing the trend of Wheeling landlords allowing buildings to fall into significant disrepair.

“I think it is unfortunate that we are footing the bill for this demolition,” Wilson said. “I look forward to resolving this epidemic in our city.”

Elliott and other city leaders said the plan is for the state 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.

Dougherty said he believes once the state gets control of a cleared site, it will allow the Soldiers and Sailors monument to be relocated from Wheeling Park to Independence Hall. In addition to weighing about 25 tons, the statue is about 15 feet long and 20.5 feet wide.

“There are various parts of the statue. It will be deconstructed for the move. It will be moved by truck,” Dougherty said.

“Once it gets to Independence Hall, it will be restored,” he said.

Dougherty said in slightly more than two years, Wheeling Heritage officials have worked to raise “over $100,000” to pay for the monument move. He said they need about $15,000 more, but said this is highly achievable.

“We are in the latter end of fundraising,” Dougherty said. “We’ve had organizations donate, but have also gotten a lot of help from several individuals.”

Last year, officials expressed concerns about the stability of the soil upon which the hefty monument would sit on the north end of the Independence Hall site. They simply were not sure the ground could hold the 50,000-pound statue.

“We have done some geotechnical surveying. We have a plan and a process to address the weight,” Dougherty said.

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 Wheeling Park in 1958.