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Wheeling, Locals Are Recognized For Preservation

Photo by Alan Olson – A view of the Boury Lofts at 16th and Main streets in Wheeling.

WHEELING — Wheeling’s heritage stands proud in 2020, thanks to the work of local architects, cultural committees and city leaders, who were recently recognized by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia for their efforts.

The city of Wheeling and the Wheeling Historic Landmarks Commission received the Award for Preservation of Historic Downtowns.

The PAWV highlighted the city’s “forward-thinking approaches to encourage historical preservation,” such as the Facade Improvement program, which has awarded hundreds of thousands in funding to repair, maintain and improve the exteriors of buildings in the downtown business district. This funding — up to $15,000 per building — accompanies private funds for the same purpose.

Mayor Glenn Elliott said he was honored that the city had received the award, and that the work to improve and maintain historic landmarks was beneficial to the city, both aesthetically and financially.

“We have made historic preservation a priority over the last few years on council, and I think all we’ve done is build upon past projects,” he said. “All we’ve tried to do is encourage historic preservation where possible. You look at historic downtowns across the country, they’re taking advantage of historic architecture to help build up the spaces. I basically made the case repeatedly that I don’t think there’s a city in this country with a population of 27,000 or fewer that has a greater stock of Victorian architecture.

“Restoring that wherever possible is something that not only makes sense from a beauty perspective, but from an economic angle. … It’s money well spent, it increases property values, encourages others to invest in properties, and really improves the neighborhood,” he said.

Elliott said the city was eyeing improvements to the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building on Market Street, which he said would be “a huge undertaking” and one the city has been trying to start for several years.

Local architect Victor Greco was recognized with the Dr. Emory Kemp Lifetime Achievement Award, for his work to preserve countless historical buildings including the Capitol Theatre, Boury Lofts and Flatiron Stone Building over the course of his career.

Greco said that receiving the award named after Kemp, who he knew and learned from, was a huge honor as an architect.

“It’s a terrific honor, and I’m still surprised by it,” he said. “I knew Emory Kemp, and he was a great man, and I learned a lot from him in his appreciation for architecture, specifically bridges. I’ve been at this type of work for almost 40 years, … and I’ve always had an affinity for saving old buildings, whether we can restore them the way they were originally, or have the ability to turn them into something new.

Greco added that he was excited to begin another project on Market Street, unrelated to the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building.

He concluded by musing that he wished more communities made an effort to preserve their historic buildings, rather than seeing them demolished to make room for new plots.

“It’s something more people should pursue, is to recycle, rather than seeing the buildings just dumped in a landfill,” he said. “I think that’s one of the strongest attributes, is in having something that can be restored and saved.”

Additionally, the Bob Weir Craftsperson Award was given to Jeffrey Forster of Burgettstown, Pa. Forster is a blacksmith and metalsmith, and much of his work can be seen across Wheeling, especially in the Chapline Street Row Historic District and the North Wheeling Historic District where Forster repaired and reproduced the rod-iron fencing in those areas. He has also worked on a number of churches in Wheeling including St. Alphonsus Church.

The awards will be delivered in-person to the recipients at a later date.

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