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Young Newcomers Lead Historic Preservation Efforts in Wheeling

Natalie Hamilton of Wheeling is rehabilitating a long-vacant building at 1306 Market St. Now painted a cheerful yellow, the building housed jewelry stores in the past.

WHEELING — Young newcomers are leading the next wave of saving Wheeling’s historic architectural treasures.

Youthful enthusiasm and expertise were in the spotlight at the annual Preservation Forum last week at the Ohio County Public Library. Friends of Wheeling and Wheeling Heritage were co-hosts of the event.

Natalie Hamilton, who moved back to Wheeling a year ago, is rehabilitating a long-vacant building at 1306 Market St. She wants to live on the third floor and plans to renovate the second floor for residential space; she is unsure of what to do with the first floor.

“I’m really glad to be putting such a grand building into productive use,” she said.

Mike Koker, who relocated from San Francisco to Wheeling a couple of years ago, and Roger Edwards are renovating a four-unit apartment building at 635 Main St. A loan from Friends of Wheeling’s guaranteed loan program “has helped a lot,” Koker said.

Noting that “preservation got me into politics,” Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott said, “There isn’t a city with fewer than 30,000 people that has the same stock of architecture we do. It’s on us to save as much as we can.”

Giving updates, Elliott said developer Steve Coon of Canton, Ohio, has secured out-of-town funding for a $30 million project to transform the Schmulbach Building, in the 1100 block of Market Street, into a residential and retail complex. Coon hopes to get started this year, the mayor said.

Redevelopment of the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel headquarters “is not going to come without controversy,” he said, but added “We’re not going to get another one if we lose it.”

The city is looking at the Chase Bank property as a site for a parking garage to serve Coon’s project. However, Elliott said he would like to keep the adjacent Chris Miller Furniture building.

The mayor is pleased that the city no longer owns two buildings at 1107-1109 Main St. He is hopeful that Ryan and Nikki Stoker’s plans for the 1400 block of Market Street will materialize.

Work is being done to stabilize the former Marsh Wheeling Stogies building, in the 900 block of Main Street, in which Coon has interest for a residential and commercial project, Elliott said.

In the private sector, Klos Towers at 1207 Main St. was purchased six months ago by a New York man who is looking at residential housing options, Elliott said. The building’s terra cotta facade has been damaged by the elements and needs considerable work.

Sarel Venter and Bekah Karelis gave an update on several projects in which their company, Adventures in Elegance, is involved. They also are restoring their own building at 1069 Main St. and plan to have a retail tenant by the end of summer or early fall, Venter said.

“I am a believer. I believe in the future of Wheeling. … I believe it will be built on the history of Wheeling,” he said.

The contractor hopes to finish a “monumental task” of replacing the Fort Henry Building’s porch, at 14th and Chapline streets, by March 31. “We had to remove 78 tons of rubble and clay material to put in a new deck,” Karelis said.

The porch’s original sandstone had too much water damage to be reused, so stone from the demolished Second Presbyterian Church is being cut for the porch’s exterior wall, she said. McKinley & Associates owns the Fort Henry Building.

In another example of creative reuse of resources, “magnificent” woodwork — from the former nurses’ residence at WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale — is being repurposed in the building at 1109 Main St., Venter said.

Architect Gabe Hays, who owns 1109 Main St., said Mugshots coffee shop is opening in the building soon. Construction of an egress tower is the next phase of a project involving 1107-1109 Main St. and the adjacent State Farm Insurance building at 1111 Main St., he said.

Brother John Byrd, vice president of the South Wheeling Preservation Alliance, said South Wheeling’s designation at a National Historic District is expected to be received this summer.

Jeanne Finstein, president of Friends of Wheeling, said the former Columbia Gas building, at 16th and Chapline streets, is being renovated as medical office space, primarily for mental health doctors. The owner of the former Becker’s Hardware building, 1054 Market St., is in the second phase of obtaining tax credits, she said.

The current owner of the former Berry’s Supply building, 1230 Water St., plans to build fire escapes and return to the original style of windows, Finstein said. Historic rowhouses at 722-724 Main St. were sold last week, with rental units planned by the new owner, she said.

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