Nearly three years after Wheeling Hospital purchased the former Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, dirt is moving at the site - but hospital officials said they have nothing to announce concerning a future use for the property.
Although several bulldozers and dump trucks could be seen operating on the property Wednesday, Wheeling Hospital spokesman Gregg Warren said no new plans are imminent for the property which the health care provider purchased for about $4 million on Aug. 2, 2011.
"Right now, they're contouring the land," he said. "They're just trying to get the land in somewhat of a uniform state."
Roughly three months after acquiring the property from the Sisters of the Visitation, Wheeling Hospital began demolition of the school building that had stood there since 1865. Hospital officials since have been quiet about any plans for the grounds.
Bryan Minor, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which owns Wheeling Hospital, referred all questions to hospital officials. In 2011, the Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield - bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and chairman of the hospital's board of directors - said it was possible the property could eventually be used for Wheeling Jesuit University's health sciences programs, but no such plans are in the works at this time, according to university spokesman Phillip Stahl.
"We're not involved with that at all," he said of the Mount property.
The hospital hasn't applied for any building permits for the land, located at 410 Washington Ave., according to the city's Building Inspections department. No permit is required simply for moving dirt, according to Public Works Director Russell Jebbia.
Last year, the diocese announced the Wheeling Central Catholic High School soccer and lacrosse teams would practice on the old school grounds, an arrangement which remains in place, Warren said.
Faced with declining enrollment, the all-female private school graduated its final class of 11 girls in May 2008. The final Sisters of the Visitation, which had operated the school for decades and continued to live there even after the school closed, were reassigned to the Washington, D.C., area in 2010.
Many items inside the building were sold at auction, including a chandelier that now hangs at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling and two 1906 Steinway pianos.
Following its purchase of the property, Wheeling Hospital made extensive repairs to the cemetery on the grounds, which is the final resting place of many of the Sisters of the Visitation from throughout the years.