The past year has presented many positives within the Wheeling-area community, including successful business ventures, economic development, an evolving downtown district, and a changing attitude, and Weelunk readers have been in the middle of it because they have been offered the chance to re-examine history, to meet many of the difference-making people in this area, to be introduced to what maintains and improves the quality of life in the Upper Ohio Valley, and to get the “inside scoops” on the reinventions that are finally taking place in Ohio, Marshall, and Belmont counties.
In 2015, Weelunk readers reacted most often to the following stories because they took them back to their childhood or explained the complete story or simply because good people were doing good things. We look forward to providing the same in 2016 as Weelunk continues its community mission to reveal the progress and the people behind the forward movement while at the same time we celebrate and cherish the history this region owns.
No Asylum Now Offered By Roney’s Point Asylum. – In November 2014, Weelunk paid a visit to an off-limit area to where many of us ventured during those high school and college years, but in May we actually ventured inside the former asylum located on the outskirts of Ohio County. Roney’s Point is situated on county-owned property that remains mostly covered with dense woods except for an 8-acre area developed for harvesting natural gas. The interiors of both the former hospital and the former home of famed brewer Henry Schmulbach have deteriorated to the point where Ohio County Commissioner Orphy Klempa warned would-be trespassers to stay away from the dangers each structure presents.
Bridge Tavern Ready for New Era. – George Dormas has been working in downtown Wheeling since the days when his father owned and operated the Bridge Tavern & Grill at the time when stores like G.C. Murphy’s, J.C. Penney’s, L.S. Good, and Stone & Thomas were welcoming the retail shoppers of an entire valley. George then decided to purchase the business and the building that once housed the Wheeling Hotel, but after several decades he’s contemplating retirement and said he would be willing to part with what stands on the corner of Main and 10th streets.
Park Teacher Opens Minds about Wheeling. – Too often we hear that public school systems are worried only about state and national test scores, but Weelunk discovered Ohio County teacher Ryan Stanton and his “History of Wheeling” class at Wheeling Park High School. Stanton, a graduate of West Liberty University and a local historian, introduces his students to the role the Friendly City played during the country’s initial industrial revolution, and with the birth of the state itself, and he invites them to select their favorite historical landmark and to explain why they believe their selection proved so important to the past.
Blue Sign Mystery Solved for Downtown Wheeling. – We see them before the exits for The Highlands, Elm Grove, Washington Avenue, and Oglebay Park, but that’s where it stops. There exist no “Attraction” signs for Wheeling’s downtown district, and that’s because the state Division of Highways adopted guidelines for such signage that involves traffic patterns and safety. State officials determined that the stretch of Interstate 70 between Exit 2A and Wheeling Tunnel to be too “busy and dangerous” since the freeway shrinks to one lane for throughway I-70 traffic, and intersections with W.Va. Route 2 add to the confusion. The designation, though, did not stop Frank O’Brien, executive direction of the Wheeling Convention & Visitors Bureau, from erecting a “blue sign” billboard in the Elm Grove area that highlights the Capitol Theatre, Wesbanco Arena, the Artisan Center, Centre Market, the Eckhart House, Independence Hall, and the McLure Hotel.
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Nardone: “But then T.W.B.A.I. took over,” – He has been known for several things: a talented football coach; an inspirational teacher at Wheeling Park High; and he’s long been a fitness freak. But then Mark Nardone and his family were confronted with the unbelievable – Mark was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known to many as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” ALS is progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It is also a disease for which there is no cure, but that fact has not stopped Nardone from fighting, and the Wheeling Park High community has rallied around him and his family. It’s all about “T.W.B.A.I.,” he says because it’s all about a team that wins as brothers because everyone is all in.
‘Wild Escape’ – Why The Highlands Theme Park Fizzled – It was an announcement that caught residents of the Upper Ohio Valley by surprise because we had grown so used to traveling to Cedar Point, Kennywood, and Kings Island. A theme park? At The Highlands? In Ohio County? But with the beginning of the “Great Recession” in December 2007 investors backed away from developments all over the United States, and Ohio County was not excluded. The Highlands, however, has progressed since with a plethora of developments with new restaurants and retailers locating at the development, and Ohio County Commissioner Randy Wharton told Weelunk readers to expect more in the future.
Local Mother Turns Tragedy Into Triumph. – Jody Miller lost her daughter in an automobile accident that involved drinking and driving, and since then this mother has fought to raise as much awareness about drunken driving, organ donation, and Wheeling’s MADD chapter. The annual Heather Miller Memorial Golf Scramble, held each late July on Oglebay’s Crispin Golf Course, attracts hundreds of participants and raises thousands of dollars for scholarships to attend West Virginia University’s nursing program, the same one from which Heather was to graduate a few weeks after the accident that took her life.
“Anything’s A Blessing.” Or Is It? – The people of the Wheeling area often rally around those in need of help, but many questions were being asked about the existence of panhandlers along interstate exit ramps. Weelunk paid a visit to the area near Perkins Restaurant, and we took W.Va. Del. Shawn Fluharty with us in effort to help, if possible, the unfortunate. Sonny and Bill told their stories, we reported them, and the community reacted.
A Wheeling Steak Fry is Not Rare, but Well Done – Like DiCarlo’s Pizza and Oglebay Park, the “Steak Fry” fundraiser is uniquely Wheeling. Here we take you behind the scenes to learn the fun facts that explain why so.
The Wheeling Mob – The 10-Part Series – If Weelunk readers did not grow up during a time when mobster activities were considered normal throughout the Upper Ohio Valley, they have heard the legends throughout their lives. That’s why Weelunk examined those tales and presented a series of stories that revealed the bosses, the muscle, the criminal activity, and the accepted culture that included illegal gambling, prostitution, drug trafficking, stolen goods, and murder. The series, in fact, attracted the attention of The History Press, and a book – “The Wheeling Mob” – will be part of the publisher’s release schedule in early 2017.