Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce Honors Local Businessmen During Banquet at Wheeling Park’s White Palace
Chamber Honors Local Businessmen
By HEATHER ZIEGLER
WHEELING — The role of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce in maintaining the integrity of the operations of Wheeling and Oglebay parks was made clear at Wednesday’s annual chamber dinner held at Wheeling Park’s White Palace.
Also during the dinner, the chamber honored Lee Paull III with the Keystone Lifetime Achievement Award. G. Ogden Nutting received the Keystone Community Service Award and the Just Us local development group was honored with the Keystone Community Commitment Award.
Paull, a fourth-generation business owner of the Paul Associates Insurance and Real Estate company in Wheeling, thanked the chamber for the award, saying he was truly honored. His son, Lee Paull IV, said his father “thanks you from the bottom of his heart.”
Nutting, publisher of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, was presented his award for his 41 years of service on the five-member Wheeling Park Commission. Nutting was appointed to the park commission in 1977 by the Wheeling Chamber.
Nutting explained that the Wheeling City Charter allows two appointees to the commission to be made by City Council and three appointed by the Chamber. He said the park commission concept was the idea of W.E. Stone of Stone and Thomas when the city had the opportunity to buy what is now Wheeling Park in 1924. Louis Haller and Charles Sonneborn had sought to buy the property as a major real estate venture. However, Stone stepped in and gave the city fathers two weeks to raise $350,000 to buy the property to serve as a city park. Stone put up $100,000 toward the effort, and explained that a park commission would be an entity to itself without political oversight.
“In 10 days, they raised $350,000. That was real money back then … it’s still good money today,” Nutting said. “Then on Feb. 11, 1925, the first Wheeling Park Commission was appointed independent of politics.”
Nutting said even after a 1992 charter review in Wheeling, the city charter continues to provide for the separate operation of Oglebay and Wheeling parks by the Wheeling Park Commission.
“The role of the chamber has been to protect the independence of the park system, keeping it free turmoil of city and state politics,” Nutting commented. “The independence from politics makes gifts possible.”
He noted Oglebay was just such a “gift.” Nutting thanked the chamber and noted the future role it must play in maintaining the park commission’s current independence.
Accepting the award for the Just Us honor were members Jack Felton, Nick Sparachane, Bruce Wilson and Michael Baker. Felton said Just Us was born out of the need for him and his brother Pat Felton to expand their CPA office. They purchased the Laconia Building in downtown Wheeling with their Just Us partners. He said the Laconia Building had five owners in its 145 years and was named for famed racketeer Bill Lias’ hometown in Greece. The building has been remodeled and repurposed.
To date, Just Us has purchased five Wheeling buildings, all of which are now occupied.
Chamber Board President Andy McKenzie said Just Us represents the start of a renaissance in downtown Wheeling, something the current City Council has worked to continue.