If you take a walk through Downtown Wheeling – what places stick out most in your mind? Is it the Capitol Theatre that hosts several Broadways shows and is home to the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra? Perhaps it’s West Virginia Independence Hall, the birthplace of West Virginia. Or maybe it’s the Bridge Tavern – a great place to unwind after a long day. What do these places have in common? They have all been carefully restored and maintained so that we can enjoy these historic buildings for years to come.
While it’s clear to see the value that these activated buildings bring to our city, it’s easy to overlook the potential that exists in Wheeling’s vacant buildings. That’s why Volunteer Wheeling is launching a “heart bombing” campaign that will take place throughout the month of February – and they invite anyone from the community who is interested to be a part of it!
Heart Bombing: Explained
The concept of heart bombing began as a grassroots campaign organized by the Buffalo Young Preservationists in 2012. The goal was to draw attention to Buffalo’s vacant buildings and showcase them as community assets rather than eyesores. Their idea sparked several other preservation-focused groups to host their own heart bombing events – including Wheeling!
The concept of heart bombing is simple – gather a group of people who are passionate about saving a place, use basic art supplies to make big Valentine’s for the places you love (bonus points if you use glitter!), and then decorate buildings with Valentines for the community to see.
Heart Bombing in Wheeling
Wheeling isn’t a newcomer to the heart-bombing game. In fact, thanks to the Wheeling Young Preservationists, Wheeling’s historic buildings have been heart bombed in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2018. These events have typically garnered a significant number of volunteers to lend a hand. From local students to young professionals and retirees – it’s one event that everyone can be a part of!
These local efforts have helped raise awareness and encouraged people to reinvest in our historic buildings. In 2014, the Professional Building was purchased by Mayor Glenn Elliott after falling in love with it during the Wheeling Young Preservationist’s first heart bombing campaign in 2013. It goes to show that a little creativity can go a long way in getting the right people in our available spaces.
This year, Volunteer Wheeling is taking the reins to bring back this beloved project, and they are inviting anyone who is willing to help to join them! If you’re someone who wants to help spread some love in Wheeling, there are two easy ways you can get involved:
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Heart Bomb Wheeling: Craft Night
On Wednesday, February 2 from 5 – 8 p.m. at the Wheeling Artisan Center, you can help Volunteer Wheeling cut and decorate hearts that will adorn buildings throughout Downtown Wheeling. Supplies and light refreshments will be provided. If you can’t attend this event and would still like to participate, you can decorate hearts at home and drop them off at Wheeling Heritage by 5 p.m. on Friday, February 4. Learn more about this event here.
Heart Bomb Wheeling: Decoration Day
If you’d like to lend a hand in decorating buildings around town, then this is the event for you! Volunteers will meet at The Wheeling Artisan Center at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 5 before heading out to heart bomb more than 10 buildings around town. Learn more about how you can get involved here.
While Volunteer Wheeling is focusing on select buildings in the Downtown and East Wheeling Historic Districts, anyone who wants to heart bomb their own buildings can join in the festivities! Download our coloring sheet and put your artistic abilities to work!
You can display your heart on the front door or window of your building or home and leave it up throughout the month of February.
If you do choose to decorate your own building, we’d love to see your designs! Share your hearts on social media using #IHeartSavingPlaces and be sure to tag Wheeling Heritage (@wheelingheritage) and Weelunk (@weelunk).
• 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.