The old Imperial Pool building in East Wheeling has been vacant for at least 20 years. In all that time no one has been interested enough in saving the structure to invest money in doing so. Meanwhile, it has been allowed to deteriorate to the point that the Wheeling Fire Department wasn't even willing to use it for training exercises.
Yet now there is talk of preserving the Victorian-era structure.
A few weeks ago, Wheeling officials announced the city had taken ownership of the building and planned to have it razed. The previous owner, facing municipal court action over building code violations, apparently was happy to simply get rid of the building.
City Manager Robert Herron explained the timing of the transaction. Demolition crews from Edgco Inc. already are working in East Wheeling, under contract with the city to remove other structures in preparation for construction of a planned recreational complex. Adding to the Edgco contract while crews and equipment still are in the vicinity would mean the city could have the Imperial Pool building demolished for about $48,000. Waiting and having the work done under a separate contract probably would cost about $67,000, Herron noted.
This week, Mayor Andy McKenzie confirmed there has been discussion of attempting to save the building. He said such consideration primarily involves members of a historic preservation committee he formed earlier this year.
At one time the Imperial Pool building was a magnificent structure. Its crumbling remnants remain an imposing sight from W.Va. 2.
But the building has been allowed to fall into near-terminal disrepair. Sections of the first and second floors have collapsed and little remains of the roof. Repairing the building would cost a small fortune.
Preserving significant old structures and converting them for modern use is a laudable endeavor - when practical. But the Imperial Pool building may be beyond saving.
City officials should, if feasible, allow interested parties time to consider whether "adaptive reuse" is a workable strategy there. But delaying demolition at additional expense to taxpayers should not be considered.