There are problems, and there are issues, no doubt, and no one is denying that fact.

And no one is ignoring any of it either.

Not the drugs; not the out-of-towner criminal influence; not the crumblings called infrastructure; and not the needs. Citizens of Wheeling, one must realize, face the same challenges all cities do plus the lingering impacts involved with the Rust Belt era like a declining population because of limited employment opportunities, and, of course, the realities involved with fractured families.

There are positives, too, and many believe in the last decade our amenities finally are outweighing what has plagued this municipality in the past because of proactive government, an engaged public, and community cooperation.

That’s why the following photos represent Wheeling’s history, the city’s current issues, the residents’ collective fight against blight, and the efforts made to re-think it and to change it thanks to the banishment of that crack-kicking way of addressing it.

Abandoned Grin

Nearly no one knows the two tubes even exist, but perhaps more do now since Weelunk published a story in late April about the Top Mill and Mount Wood tunnels. The train systems allowed for the crossing of the Ohio River and passage into the state of Ohio, where in Martins Ferry the tracks led to the north and south, and to the west, as well.

This simple sketch of graffiti, inside one of the manholes within the Top Mill Tunnel that still today travels beneath the Northern Parkway to North Park, is one of many artworks inside the retired passage.

A Mind’s Memories

It was placed there by the Marion House in East Wheeling, and it is what it sounds like – a house where staff members welcome those who have admitted they suffer from mental illness. These folks want help, and the staff members are more than willing.

One way they believed their visitors could express themselves was to ask them to design a mural that would be displayed as close to the Marion House as possible, and today it provokes thought from all those who pass by it on 17th Street.

Dumbledore

It innocently rests right there, along 22nd Street next to the Smart Centre and near the two market houses, opening to a mid-building, narrow courtyard. It’s likely not noticed by local folks, however, because it’s been in place for several years now, but the accent fits into this historic district thanks to its Victorian elegance and detail.

Traffic Holdup

Gus Suwaid, District 6 Engineer for the state’s Division of Highways, reported recently that as many as 55,000 vehicles travel through the city Wheeling each day along Interstate 70, and when right-lane motorists exit for the downtown area, they pass by this Bob Villamagna creation while navigating Main Street beneath the interstate’s overpass.

Villamagna organized a group of students from West Liberty University to work with Wheeling Heritage on the project in an effort to transform the gateways into the district. The Wheeling resident was named the West Virginia Artist of the Year and was recently inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame.

Concrete to Creek

When the Wheeling area receives significant rainfall, this is one system in place that allows for the precipitation to make its way to Big Wheeling Creek. The directed drainage originates from several streams flowing from the North Park area; it dates back to the 1950s and is located beneath U.S. 40/National Road near the base of Wheeling Hill in Fulton.

Ready to Serve

Lt. Louis Bennett Jr. served in the Royal Air Force, and he was killed in action over France on Aug. 24, 1918. His mother, Sallie Maxwell Bennett, commissioned sculptor Augustus Lukeman to create this bronze statue, and it has stood on the campuses of The Linsly School since the early 1900s.

Noah Linsly founded the educational institution in downtown Wheeling in 1814, and for several decades the school was an all-boys military option for local parents to consider for their sons. Linsly Institute shed the military format in 1978, remained males only, and transformed into a college preparatory academy. In the late 1980s, both the lower and upper schools began welcoming female students.

“Ready to Serve” is the inscription chiseled into the front of the statue’s base.

Berry Echelon

“Those little buggers are pretty photogenic, aren’t they?” acknowledged Dominick Cerrone, owner of Good Mansion Wines on 14th Street in East Wheeling. “I believe they are as delicious as beautiful, too.”

These pastries, and so many others, are available six days a week, and any of Good Mansion’s menu items can be pre-ordered.

Hello Deer

A scenic photo of a babbling Big Wheeling Creek instead of the raging rapids that were a reality nearly two weeks ago was the photographer’s thought, especially since several Wheeling firefighters and Ohio County Sheriff deputies were called out to rescue five kayakers.

But the search for such a photo led to this encounter that presented a reminder that wildlife roams the wooded areas of several neighborhoods of the city.

Blue Eyes

This is a photo of one of the four white boards, created by local artists, at the beginning of the annual Wheeling Arts & Cultural Fest in mid-June. The display, located near the festival’s Information Tent, invited locals to contribute their color schemes.

New Fashioned

Wheeling Island. Elm Grove. Glen Dale. The Blue Moon in Wellsburg.

Drive-in theaters were once a staple in the Upper Ohio Valley, and this past weekend parents had the chance to take their children to something pretty darn similar at Wheeling Park. “Grease” was shown on two inflatable screens and broadcast on an FM radio station for hundreds of automobiles and more than a thousand attendees ranging in age from single-digits to seniors.

The 1975 thriller “Jaws” will be the featured flick this Friday at Wheeling Park with the parking lots opening at 7 p.m. The movie will begin as soon as dusk arrives, and in the case of rainy weather the event will be moved under the ice rink’s shelter.

(Photos by Steve Novotney)



2 Responses

  1. Brent

    Small murals throughout the city and community areas can make a tremendous impact on the morale of the community members. I would love to see more artistic creations throughout the city, notably the many retaining walls along the bike trail. I am sure there are many artistic individuals who would donate their talent and time to brighten the city, like what was done to the parking meters at Centre Market. Whenever I pass by a mural or a parking meter, I can’t help but stop and admire and think about the artist that created it. It is creations like these that can give the “big city” feel to a smaller city.

    Reply
  2. Stephen

    I will be spending part of my vacation back home in Wheeling starting next week. I can’t wait.

    Reply

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