Appreciating Lady Justice

I preface my column this week by noting I am not a historian, nor do I clamor for all things old. I have always enjoyed the study of history in school, but I’m no expert on the topic. The History Channel remains a favorite in our home, however.

While I respect and acknowledge buildings of the past, I also enjoy the smell of a freshly poured concrete foundation and newly honed wooden steps.

This week, longtime Marshall County journalist Jim Cochran paid me a visit and brought me a gift. He shared a piece of Wheeling history with me via a booklet of pictures of the early days of the Friendly City.

Page after page of black and white photographs stared back at me. Some of the most beautiful examples of fine craftsmanship are seen in those pictures. Each building, whether a private home of some of Wheeling’s early wealthy families or a commercial business structure or factory, was finely detailed, ornately crafted and built to last.

With that said, there is a time and place for things old and new. When I saw a picture of Wheeling’s old courthouse — one I had seen before — I could not help but sigh at the loss of such a beautiful building with its ornate fountain in the courtyard and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument there as well. However, progressive leaders suggested the building outlived its usefulness and made way for more modern facilities. Today’s City-County Building serves its purpose, but it’s far from the edifice that once stood in its place.

Jim Cochran has probably crossed the threshold at the Marshall County Courthouse in Moundsville more times than any lawyer doing business there over the past half-century. The Greek Revival red brick and stone building was constructed between 1875 and 1876.

West Virginia has its proud landmarks, but don’t discount our neighbors in the Buckeye State. Just take a look across the river. The Belmont County Courthouse is the jewel in a crown of public buildings in St. Clairsville. Constructed between 1885-88, it is a thing of beauty that serves many functions to this day.

In Cadiz, the Harrison County Courthouse also is worth a look. Made of stone and constructed in the late 1890s, the building has arched windows and a stately clock tower. Lady Justice has a home there, too.

Wheeling has and probably will through my lifetime, have the best of both worlds. Older buildings renewed mingle just fine with new construction. It’s knowing when to let go or retain that makes for interesting conversation around the planning commission table.

Heather Ziegler can be reached at: hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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