You don’t have to be a student of architecture to appreciate the wealth of historic buildings in Wheeling. While the skyline has changed a bit over the years, many of these gems remain intact and are home to businesses, civic organizations, or private residences. Many architects have left their mark on Wheeling, but few have become household names. By designing awe-inspiring buildings that have stood the test of time, Edward Bates Franzheim has done just that. Let’s take a look at five buildings that are emblematic of this ‘bon vivant’ 1 of Wheeling.
First, a biographical snippet: Edward Bates Franzheim was born in Wheeling in July of 1866. He attended Linsly School and then went on to study at Chauncey Hall in Massachusetts. Afterward, he studied with renowned architect John Hubbard Sturgis for six years in Boston. In 1892 Franzheim returned to Wheeling to open his own architectural practice. Soon after, he formed an architecture firm with Millard F. Giesey and Frederick F. Faris.2 The trio would work on projects independently as well as in collaboration with one another, and occasionally with other Wheeling architects, such as Charles W. Bates.3 After a long career, Franzheim passed away in 1942, with over 250 buildings standing in the tri-state area as a tribute to his work 4
The Court Theater
Board of Trade building, with entrance to Court Theatre on right side of building.
Interior of the Court Theatre
An excellent example of the spirit of collaboration between Franzheim and other local architects outside of his firm is the Board of Trade Building at 1206 Chapline Street. When the Ohio County courthouse burned down in 1909,5 Charles W. Bates worked with Edward B. Franzheim to design the Board of Trade Building and Court Theater contained within it. For Franzheim this was an act of profession as well as passion, and after the theater was completed he took five years off from his architectural career to manage it. During this time he wrote, performed in, and directed productions, and also founded a theatrical troupe, the Players Club.6 His devotion to the theatrical craft would run in tandem with his architectural career, and upon his death he was hailed as a leader in local theater. 7
The Professional Building (City Bank Building)
When the City Bank Building–now called the Professional Building–was completed in 1891, it was Wheeling’s tallest building.8 It held onto that distinction until it was eclipsed in height by a later project of Franzheim, the Schmulbach Building. The Professional Building is a unique addition to the landscape downtown, with its signature turret, dramatic archways, and granite construction. This project is a credit to Franzheim, who clearly drew upon his training in Boston and abroad to create this dramatic structure.9
The YWCA building at 1100 Chapline Street is the organization’s third home, having spent its first year after organization in a rented home, before moving to the Schenk building at 1130 Market Street. Franzheim designed this third and final iteration of the chapter’s headquarters,10 where the YWCA has been able to provide services that empower women for over 100 years.
El Villa Apartments
Wheeling Intelligencer, July 1, 1929.
Franzheim designed this impressive Spanish-style apartment building with adjacent shops in 1923. This is just one of the many apartment buildings built along National Road as the “out the pike” neighborhoods grew.11 At 99 years old, the El Villa is still a place for Wheelingites to call home. It also contains Whisk bakery and a handful of other local shops.
Fort Henry Club (Renovation)
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These architects didn’t just do new construction, but renovations as well. Edward Bates Franzheim distinguished himself by lending his skills to the renovation of what is now known as the Fort Henry Club. The Classical-Revival townhouse was built in 1850 as the Fitzsimmons residence but became known as the Howell mansion when it was purchased by Allen Howell. By 1890, the “Fort Henry Club” was formed and purchased the Howell mansion. They then went on to hire Franzheim to oversee the renovations of the structures, which would become the home for their exclusive men’s club. The Fort Henry Club closed its doors in 2011, and was acquired by McKinley and associates in 2013.12
In recent years, McKinley and Associates have been restoring the Fort Henry Club to its former glory, which the Wheeling Heritage Media team helped document last year.
After getting a taste of Edward Bates Franzheim’s style – which of his buildings are your favorite? Many of the buildings on this list are right in Downtown Wheeling, so head out this week and check them out up close!
• Kate Wietor is currently studying Architectural History and Historic Preservation at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. She spent one glorious year in Wheeling serving as the 2021-22 AmeriCorps member at Wheeling Heritage. Since moving back to Virginia, she’s still looking for an antique store that rivals Sibs.
1 Allen Chambers Jr. “Edward Bates Franzheim.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 11 May 2022. Web. 16 May 2022.
11 Highsmith, Carol M, photographer. A block along the National Road in Wheeling, West Virginia, that includes the El Villa Apartment Building. United States Wheeling West Virginia, 2015. -05-10. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2015632027/.
12 “Fort Henry Club” Ohio County Public Library. https://www.ohiocountylibrary.org/wheeling-history/3996