Four historic preservation projects in Wheeling are about to get a boost through the “Wheeling Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program” from Wheeling Heritage. The organization announced this week that it will award $375,000 to four projects in the first round of this three-year grant program.
How did this program get started? In September 2021, Wheeling Heritage was awarded a $750,000 Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant from the National Park Service. The intent of this grant is to foster economic development in rural communities through the rehabilitation of historic buildings in those communities. Wheeling was one of 11 communities across the country that received this competitive award.
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After Wheeling Heritage received funding, they went to work assembling a committee and plan for distributing these funds to historic preservation projects in Wheeling. The result was the “Wheeling Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program,” which was designed to provide preservation assistance to downtown commercial redevelopment and catalytic neighborhood projects in urban neighborhoods that meet each category’s requirements. Applications for qualified projects will be reviewed twice annually for the next three years, or until funds are exhausted.
The first round of applications were reviewed in October, with four projects being selected to receive funding. Those projects were the 1400 Block of Market Street, Berry Supply Building, SMART Center, and the Hughes House.
We checked in with these recipients to learn more about how funds from this program will make a positive impact on their projects and the greater community.
Chip Desmone, 1400 Block of Market Street
1437, 1433, 1429, and 1425 Market Street
The 1400 Block of Market Street has been on a long journey to redevelopment, and there’s plenty of excitement on the horizon. Three of these four buildings were originally purchased by the City of Wheeling under former Mayor Andy McKenzie’s leadership. In 2016, the fourth building was purchased by the city under Mayor Glenn Elliott to complete the block, with the goal of making it a more enticing package for developers.
After an extensive nationwide request for proposals on the properties, Chip Desmone, CEO of Desmone Architects, saw the potential in Wheeling and these buildings and made an offer. The Desmone team has since been working with the City, Wheeling Heritage, and other stakeholders through an extensive due-diligence process that will lead to the redevelopment of these buildings and become a destination for locals and tourists alike.
Why would a Pittsburgh-based firm with no prior ties to Wheeling be interested in such a project? Chip’s answer is simple: “Great architecture. Great location. Big future!” He continues, “These buildings are iconic and unique to Wheeling. They deserve to be saved and we have assembled a team both public and private that are willing to do the heavy lifting that’s required to help transform this block.”
Chip’s plan includes utilizing street-level storefronts for restaurants and creating 9 Airbnb units on the upper floors. Funding through the Wheeling Historic Revitalization Program will help fill the gap in predevelopment and stabilization to ensure this project’s long-term success.
Dan Milleson, Berry Supply Building 1230 Water Street
Dan Milleson has a clear vision for the future of the former Berry Supply Building. He has been working diligently since 2019 to rehabilitate this building into the first waterfront commercial development in decades. Once completed, the building will house two restaurants, a tavern, live performance space, retail shop, two Airbnb apartments, and an event venue with an occupancy of 250 people.
Funding through the Wheeling Historic Revitalization Subgrant will be used for the live music venue buildout, providing funding for essential production items like audio/visual equipment, lighting, staging, a backdrop and more.
When asked about the importance of investing in Wheeling, Milleson said, “a rebirth and the redefining of Wheeling feels like it’s about to happen, and I want to contribute to it and share it with other people.”
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Milleson noted that he hopes that his building will offer a little something to everyone. “I want people to get married here, have their friends from out of town stay in the apartments, shop in the retail store, do yoga on the rooftop, buy a ticket and listen to a Grateful Dead cover band in the music venue, take lunch meetings in the bar or restaurant, work from their laptop…the list goes on and on.” He continues, “The feeling I want them to have is more like how you might think of your friend’s house – comfortable, welcoming, safe, fun. Sometimes you just hang out there, sometimes there’s a party, sometimes you’re listening to music – but you belong there and you can be yourself.”
Libby and Robert Strong, SMART Centre 1410 Main Street
Libby and Robert Strong have operated the SMART Center for more decades, and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. The Strong’s recently announced that they had purchased 1410 Main Street with the intent of turning it into the permanent home of their interactive science store.
The building was previously home to the Goodwin Drug Company for nearly 100 years. In order to utilize the second floor of the building as a hands-on science center and program space, two restrooms will be installed. Funding through Wheeling Heritage’s grant will help the Strong’s project move forward so that they can open their doors to the public in the new year.
“We are excited to be a part of the Downtown revitalization,” says Libby Strong. She shared her vision for the building and what it means for children in Wheeling. “The renovated space will be a place where both locals and visitors can come to look at the interesting displays and merchandise on the first floor of the building, shop for gifts, or enjoy a Kirke’s ice cream treat. The second-floor space will allow camps, school groups, and teacher workshops to co-exist with the first-floor retail space. It will also be open to the public as a hands-on science center as soon as renovations are completed.”
Friends of Wheeling, Hughes House 724 Main Street
As the oldest historic Preservation organization in West Virginia, the Friends of Wheeling know the importance of maintaining the integrity of our historic neighborhoods. That’s why they sprung into action to save the antebellum Hughes duplex, located at 722-724 Main Street, after falling into disrepair.
The duplex was donated to the organization in January and, at the time, was in serious danger of being demolished. Since then, they have worked to stabilize and rehabilitate the duplex into two residential homes that will be assets to the North Wheeling Historic District.
We spoke with Friends of Wheeling president Jeanna Finstein, who explained the importance of keeping historic neighborhoods intact.
“We realize that the total cost of this project will end up being far more than the cost of demolition. However, there are three reasons we feel that it is important to save this building. First, the loss of the duplex would create a huge hole in an intact row of five historic buildings, jeopardizing neighboring structures and diminishing the value of the historic district.” Jeanne continues, “additionally, the history of this building spans from pre-Civil War years to the present day, with the Hughes Family of particular historic significance. Losing the building would be like losing a part of Wheeling’s history. As a preservation organization, we hope that our use of approved building techniques and materials can serve as examples to others who want to renovate historic structures.”
Once the buildings are completely stabilized, the Friends of Wheeling plan to host a series of house tours at the duplex to illustrate its progress throughout the project.
Weelunk and Wheeling Heritage will continue to follow these projects throughout the revitalization process and keep you posted along the way!
If you or someone you know is planning to embark on a historic redevelopment project in Wheeling, you can learn more about the Wheeling Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program by visiting wheelingheritage.org/historic-revitalization-subgrant. The next deadline to apply is April 15, 2023. Wheeling Heritage also offers technical assistance for anyone interested in the redevelopment of their historic buildings.
Which project are you most excited to see come to fruition? Comment below!
• Alex Panas is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband where they raise four cats and four spunky backyard chickens.