By Chris Rouhier
East Wheeling has been the site of many revitalization efforts in recent years, including a new sports complex, the Vandalia Heritage Foundation’s new apartment buildings on 15th and Wood Streets, and renovations in progress.
However, there is still work to be done, which is why East Wheeling resident Stephanie Wright founded the East Wheeling Enthusiasts group. The group’s first event – a neighborhood clean-up – is scheduled for Saturday, November 8 and Sunday, November 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The clean-up will focus on 14th and 15th Streets and has three goals: beautifying the existing streetscape by mulching, weeding, and planting spring bulbs; weeding and debris removal; and cleaning up leaves, which will be used by Grow Ohio Valley for composting.
“We’ve had some generous donations that will allow us to replenish top soil, mulch and plant spring bulbs,” said Wright.
About a dozen volunteers have signed on so far, and there is room for many more. According to Wright, interested volunteers should bring gardening supplies such as gloves, weed-eaters, pruners, and shovels, among other things. Wright also urged volunteers to bring “willing friends.”
Despite the many positive developments shaping the future of East Wheeling, there are still many derelict properties negatively contributing to the streetscape.
“We do have a fair share of problematic property owners, many of them are the same offenders throughout Wheeling and it’s easy for these properties to define a neighborhood, especially when so many buildings are owned by the same neglectful owner in the span of a single block,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s important to come together for events like this clean-up. Is it my passion? No. I’m absolutely incapable of growing anything, but it’s good to come together and sort of gently send the message that we’re proud of this community.”
East Wheeling Enthusiasts is the newest among many preservation-oriented groups in the Wheeling area. Others include the Victorian Old Town Association in North Wheeling and the South Wheeling Preservation Alliance.
According to Wright, “East Wheeling Enthusiasts was formed to draw the East Wheeling community together and to provide a platform for others interested in preserving our neighborhood, to have a forum to discuss what is important to us as a community.
We are native Wheelingers and transplants alike, we are long term residents, young adventurers, entrepreneurs and investors.”
In addition to keeping East Wheeling clean, Wright and partner Brian Wilson are investing in the community. For the last two years, Wright and Wilson have been renovating a Queen Anne style house on 14th Street.
“[The house had] collapsed floors and gaping holes in the masonry walls; it was too beautiful to simply watch decay any further,” said Wright. “[Wilson and I] had both just completed the Building Preservation and Restoration Program at Belmont College and had no intention of taking on such a project or investing in East Wheeling, but the house just called to us. So here we are almost two years later – with floors and no more holes – yet so much further to go.”
Although this is the first event for East Wheeling Enthusiasts, it is not the first community clean-up in the neighborhood.
According to Wilson, “One weekend a few months after we started working on our house in East Wheeling a friend [Ohio Valley Young Preservationists co-founder Liz Paulhus] offered to come over and show some love to the planters in front of our house and in front of the empty lot next door. She and [Wright] weeded, laid new top soil and put down a layer of mulch. The next morning when we arrived to get to work something unexpected had occurred, there was no trash. [Normally] I would pick trash out of those planters, but that morning there was nothing, nor was there any the next day or the day following that.”
This initial success led OVYP to sponsor an East Wheeling clean-up day.
“We hope to revive the interest in beautifying our streetscapes and plan for this to be a bi-annual event,” said Wright.
In addition to this weekend’s community clean-up, East Wheeling Enthusiasts is also hosting a community meeting on Monday, November 10 at 6:00 p.m. at the “Blue Church” at the corner of 12th and Byron Streets. Anyone interested in learning more about East Wheeling Enthusiasts can keep up with their progress at https://www.facebook.com/eastwheelingenthusiasts .