How the Friends of Wheeling Saved the Hughes Duplex

As the oldest preservation group in West Virginia, the Friends of Wheeling have gotten an inside look at countless historic homes in Wheeling. Since 1970, their mission has been to support historic preservation and Wheeling history through tours, presentations, workshops, and recognition of others. Through the years they have also taken on a few restoration projects of their own, but in January 2022 they embarked on one of their biggest projects yet – saving the historic Hughes Duplex in North Wheeling.

Wheeling has no shortage of historic homes in need of some extra attention, so what compelled Friends of Wheeling to take on this particular project? Friends of Wheeling president Jeanne Finstein explains that this particular building was in danger of being demolished. Its destruction wouldn’t just be a loss in itself, it would also have the potential to negatively impact the surrounding neighborhood, too.

“North Wheeling is a National Historic District, it’s also one of three design review districts in the City of Wheeling. That designation means that there are extra restrictions on what can be done on the exterior of the property to help maintain the flavor of the neighborhood. If this property [Hughes Duplex] was gone, we were afraid that the entire row of five houses with be endangered.”

  • Exterior of the Hughes Duplex before major restoration began to save the structure.

Historic buildings like the Hughes Duplex are often integral to a neighborhood’s character and create a distinct sense of place. With each building that gets demolished, the area risks losing its distinctive appeal. For property owners, each building lost can lead to decreased property values and economic activity over time as the area loses its unique identity and charm. The Friends of Wheeling coming together to save the Hughs Duplex is a testament to their commitment to preserving Wheeling’s architectural and cultural heritage.

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Once the duplex was donated to Friends of Wheeling by the previous owner, they immediately went to work stabilizing the endangered structure and seeking all available funding sources to help move the project forward. Thanks to donations from the community and grants from the city, state, and Wheeling Heritage, progress has continued to rehabilitate the duplex into two residential homes that will be assets to the North Wheeling Historic District.

As a recipient of the Wheeling Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program, the Wheeling Heritage Media team took a look behind the scenes at the Hughes Duplex to document the progress that’s been made and the group’s vision for the future. Check out the video below to learn more about the Hughes Duplex project and how the Friends of Wheeling came together to save this piece of Wheeling history. Follow Friends of Wheeling on Facebook to stay up-to-date with the Hughes Duplex project, along with the rest of the group’s activities.

• 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.

Wheeling Heritage Media creates a variety of multimedia experiences in order to tell Wheeling’s story, both past and present. Through videos, podcasts, photos, and more, they create content and provide digital access to help more people feel connected and engaged with this vibrant, growing community