Laughlin Memorial Chapel Celebrates 150 Years of Service

This September marks the 150th anniversary of the historic Laughlin Memorial Chapel on 18th St. in East Wheeling! The Chapel is celebrating the occasion with a fundraising event being held at the Scottish Rite Temple on 14th Street on Saturday, September 17. The evening will include a Scottish-themed menu from chef Rocco Basil and entertainment by the Celtic Lads. Tickets for the event are $75 per person or $400 for a table of six and can be purchased through the Chapel’s website or by phone at 304-232-2630. On Sunday, Sept. 18, the Chapel will hold Sunday Service as well as hold a soul food luncheon afterward. 

As we look forward to the celebration weekend, let’s take a look back at the century-and-a-half history of this beloved Wheeling institution!

The building, which was originally built as a Lutheran chapel by the First German Church in 1836, was purchased by First Presbyterian Church in 1872. It was named the 18th Street Chapel and was attended by the local Scots-Irish immigrant community. After his passing in 1936, the Chapel was renamed the Laughlin Memorial Chapel after George Laughlin.

George Laughlin (Photo courtesy of the Ohio County Public Library).

Laughlin had been a prominent philanthropist, businessman, and politician in Wheeling, holding positions such as president of the Board of Trade, president of The Intelligencer company, an organizer of Wheeling Can and Wheeling Mold & Foundry, and the publisher of the Wheeling Telegraph. He was active in West Virginia politics, particularly social reform and Progressivism, which led to a seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates with a focus on miner safety and reforming the mining industry. Laughlin financially supported the chapel during his lifetime and left a financial bequest to the church in his will, intended for the upkeep and continued community service of the chapel, parish, and congregation. He also directly supported Wheeling residents through his 0% down home loan program—which still exists today through WesBanco—that has granted 308 loans to help locals buy their first homes and build the community that Wheeling is today. The Easter Sunday after his passing, the Laughlin Memorial Chapel was renamed in his honor and just under 50 years later, he was added to the Wheeling Hall of Fame’s wall of hometown heroes for his philanthropic endeavors. 

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Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 2001.

In 2005, the Chapel underwent a 1.3 million dollar addition, the biggest alteration to the building since it was constructed in the 1830s. The addition included a modern commercial kitchen, large dining hall, classrooms, study rooms, a library, and office space, designed by SMG Architects and built by Walters Construction. Most of the expansion directly benefits the Chapel’s well-known afterschool program, which is offered to the community at no cost. The program works to provide local children with meals, homework assistance, fine arts exposure, physical fitness instruction, field trips, and more.

The fundraiser on the 17th and service on the 18th will celebrate one hundred and fifty years of the Chapel’s heritage, volunteers, fellowship, community outreach, and mission. A full history of the church, written by history professor Dr. David Javersak with research assistance from the Chapel’s current executive director Martha Wright, is available on the chapel’s website.

• Ellery McGregor is a Wheeling transplant from Los Angeles, California. She works remotely for a marketing team in LA and now moonlights as an author for Weelunk. She earned her undergraduate degree in English from California State University Long Beach in Long Beach, California. Since moving to Wheeling over a year ago, she has spent her time helping her family restore an Italianate Victorian row house in Centre Market, picnicking at Heritage Port, and marveling over having actual seasons.