Main Streets 2017: West Virginia
With some 70 historic buildings dating as far back as 1839, North Main Street embodies the vintage heyday of 19th century Wheeling, when this city on both the Ohio River and major railroad lines became a thriving center for industry and manufacturing.
North Main is part of the North Wheeling Historic District, and its streetscape recalls the long-ago contributions of the city’s workers and its business leaders. The heirloom architecture includes onetime taverns, liveries and blacksmith shops, along with fine homes in the Italianate, Queen Anne, Romanesque and Greek Revival styles, many with original iron fences and stone retaining walls. Spots along North Main offer sweeping views of the river and of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, a city landmark since 1849.
Mostly residential today, the North Wheeling neighborhood is a close-knit community, with corner markets, schools, restaurants and local taverns all within a close walk of North Main Street. The Victorian Old Town Association, a group of neighborhood landowners, organizes events and activities along North Main, and advocates for ongoing improvements to the streetscape.
The Historic District runs from Main Street Terrace at the north end to the access ramps for Interstate 70. Running behind the buildings on North Main is the Wheeling Heritage Trail, which parallels the river and connects the North Main neighborhood to the Wheeling Heritage Port and its lively schedule of public events.
Among North Main’s landmarks is the Eckhart House, a Queen Anne home in the heart of Victorian Old Town that was built by wealthy banker George Eckhart Jr. in 1892. The house is often called the crown jewel of Victorian-era Wheeling.
A different history distinguishes the Capitol Theatre, just a block below I-70 on Main and the largest theatre in West Virginia. From 1933 to 2007, this was the home venue for Jamboree USA, a radio show on WWVA AM that was second only to the Grand Ole Opry as America’s longest-running radio program. Two years after the deteriorating theater was shut down in 2007, a coalition of local groups bought it and undertook an $8 million restoration.
Now owned and run by the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority, the beautifully revitalized Capitol Theatre is home to the Wheeling Symphony, and throughout the year, it presents a lively, diverse schedule of live music and theater performances.
All photos courtesy of Joanne Sullivan