Statement of Significance:
Wheeling is recognized for its architectural significance but it is in Centre Market Square that there is also a prevailing atmosphere of tradition. This distinctive neighborhood revolves around the two market houses with the 1853 structure being the oldest cast iron market house in the country. The unusual combination of commercial, residential and institutional uses has been retained for over one hundred years together with the ethnic makeup of the residents.
The district began as an English and native American section which was sparsely settled as a residential area along with a few industries on the banks of Wheeling Creek. In 1848, the congregation of the Second Presbyterian Church moved south of the creek to the same location where their 1850 church stands today. By then Wheeling was flourishing with an industrial base with the iron mills and glass houses employing the greatest number of people.
The German immigrants had congregated in the area south of Wheeling Creek. The 1850 census records showed that one out of every five persons in Centre Wheeling was born in Germany.
That year Centre Wheeling residents demanded a public market be built in Centre Wheeling. One of their councilmen was John W. Gill. He was the wealthiest resident in Centre Wheeling and owned the largest silk factory in the United States. He was also president of the Wheeling Gas Company which was incorporated in 1850. City Council members finally agreed and the cast iron market, complete with gas lights, was completed in 1853. The architect was Thomas Pope from Wheeling and the columns were cast at the Wheeling foundry of Hamilton & Rodgers. The two block area expanded with the construction of small shops, homes and three more churches. They were the German Zion Lutheran Church in 1852, the Disciples Church in 1855 and St. Alphonsus (a German Catholic parish) in 1859.
During that period the Harding family lived across from the Second Presbyterian Church. Richard Harding was city treasurer but it was his daughter, Rebecca Harding Davis, who became nationally famous as a pioneer social realist in literature. Her first published work (and the most famous), Life in the Iron Mills, is about Wheeling.
In the 1860 presidential election the voters from Ohio County showed a preference for the Southern candidates, Bell and Breckenridge. However, the voters from Centre Wheeling voiced their voting approval for Lincoln and Douglas by 57.6%. The following year the members of the Virginia Convention adopted an Ordinance of Secession on April 17, 1861. A delegate, Chester D. Hubbard, returned to his home in Centre Market two days later and immediately raised the first two companies of troops to support the United States Constitution. On May 6 a man was almost hanged for saying "Hurrah for Jeff Davis" and on May 23 only 5 of a total of 517 votes from Centre Market were for succession. In June, the members of the convention from the western counties of Virginia were meeting in Wheeling. They signed the Declaration of the People of Virginia. This action ultimately resulted in the creation of West Virginia. Three of the six delegates from Ohio County to this convention were from Centre Wheeling. Andrew Wilson's home still stands in the District at 2114 Market Street. Later there were war meetings at the market house which also served as an assembly spot for troops. Centre Wheeling residents continued to be strong supporters of the Union and for West Virginia statehood. Even after the War of the Rebellion, feelings were still running high and during a meeting at the market house a resolution was passed to remove the returning residents who were rebels.
By 1888, the Wheeling Business Directory reveals that the merchants in Centre Market Square were almost entirely German. From approximately 53 names, only 8 appear to be of other national origins. An "Apotheke" sign on the building at 2153 Market Street remains from that era. The Atlas published the following year shows only one vacant lot. Therefore, it can be assumed Centre Market Square was thriving. This is reinforced with th knowledge that the second market house was completed and occupied early in 1891.
The Maxwell property at 2100 Market Street was purchased by the Board of the Wheeling Independent School District. The building on the site was remodeled and in 1898 became the first Wheeling High School. The adjoining property to the north was also Maxwell property which had been given to the YMCA. The mansion had been remodeled and a gymnasium added to fit the needs of the YMCA.
In 1910 the new YMCA facility had replaced the Maxwell Mansion and a year later the Wheeling Public Library had replaced the other Maxwell structure. At that time the roads were mostly mudholes but Centre Wheeling was on the line of the Traction, Panhandle, and City street car companies. It was also only a very short distance from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station where more than 100 passenger trains stopped daily.
According to oral history, World War I was very difficult for the German people in Wheeling, it is believed it was then that the issues of the German newspapers were destroyed and the word "German" stricken from the names of banks, churches, etc. The Wheeling City Directories, under the heading of churches, list in 1917-18 the First German Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and St. Alphonsus German Catholic Church. In 1919-20 it was the Zion Evangelical Church and in 1921, St. Alphonsus Catholic Church.
By the 1930s, the ethnic origins of people in the District had changed. Lebanese, Polish, Greek and other nationalities had joined the neighborhood. In 1932 some of the names were Janke, Shia, Maroon and Saad.
In recent years there have been changes to the physical appearance, particularly in the 2100 block. However, the entire district has clearly retained its identity. The market is celebrating 130 years of continuously serving the public and today offers fresh produce, poultry, cheeses and the famous fish sandwiches for sale. It is a well known and appreciated landmark. The current property owners still reflect the immigration into Wheeling and many of them have been associated with Centre Market Square for generations. Children are still attending St. Alphonsus School and shopkeepers are often seen welcoming customers at their front doors. On warm summer evenings the people from homes and apartments above the shops sit outdoors while the children play in the open market house and theatre goers arrive for an evening performance at Towngate. On Sunday mornings the quiet is broken only by the people arriving for church services.
Statement of Significance Part Two:
Centre Market Square has a large majority of architecturally or historically significant buildings with the two Centre Market houses providing the focus. The District is located in a section of Wheeling named Center Wheeling and is approximately two blocks east of the Ohio River and is one block south of Wheeling Creek from 20th to 23rd Streets. The creek is the boundary between Center Wheeling and the Central Business District. The Centre Market structures, which are listed in the National Register, are mid-center of Market Street, between 22nd and 23rd Streets on a north-south axis.
The architecture reflects the development of the District from 1850 to the present time with such styles as Greek Revival, Victorian Italianate, Gothic, Neoclassical and Personalized Contemporary. Over two thirds of the existing fifty-eight buildings were originally constructed in the nineteenth century. Although there are no nationally important buildings, except for perhaps the market structures, the District is an excellent example of architectural synergism.
Most of the buildings are brick with native sandstone foundations. Stone, moulded brick, moulded wood, stained glass and metal are some of the materials incorporated as facade ornamentation. The scale is relatively low with only two five-story buildings and church towers.
Wheeling was founded in 1769, survived British-Indian sieges during the Revolutionary War and subsequently began to expand with the first lots laid out in 1793. Nine years later Wheeling became a town by an act of the assembly but the land south of the creek was not included. At that time it was a wilderness of trees interspersed with a few clearings for cornfields. Even though some of the area was platted in 1829 and was included as part of the City of Wheeling when it was incorporated in 1836, the area south of the creek was still sparsely settled. It was not until the 1850s that the area began to develop rapidly. Until 1851 it was a part of "South Wheeling" but that year became "Centre Wheeling."
The nearby iron and glass industries provided employment and in 1853 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad terminated at the confluence of Wheeling Creek and the Ohio River. That same year the completion of the cast iron market house was the catalyst for growth. By 1860 there were small shops with living quarters, modest residences and four churches in the District. In 1891 a second market house was completed and many of the existing buildings were then remodeled or had additions while others were replaced with larger, more substantial structures.
Following World War II the Center Wheeling Business and Professional Peoples Association was working for the advancement of Centre Wheeling. Their c.1946 brochure included this statement, "Center Wheeling Market, even though in a disreputable state of repair, offers a place for farmers to bring their produce to sell directly to the people. Fridays and Saturdays in the Market are the shopping days when the farmers of the district meet the shoppers of the area at Center Market. Notwithstanding its age and dis-repair, the old Market attracts thousands on Market days and serves a definite need in the city."
During recent years some repairs have been made to the market houses and many of the surrounding buildings have been "modernized", especially on the ground stories. There are intrusions, the most obvious being the parking garage which is also Central Fire Headquarters. However, this garage occupies land through to Chapline Street which in turn is connected by a skywalk to the Ohio Valley Medical Center complex which is a known economic resource for the District. And the firemen are a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
It is recognized that the key to a successful revitalization of the District remains with the market structures. A Center Market Program was formulated in 1983 which is an approach to the "re-creation of an historical part of Wheeling's past through economic development." Currently private and public funds are committed to the restoration of the city owned Centre Market buildings. The city is also working with the property owners in the District who have enthusiastically expressed their willingness to participate in the rebirth of Centre Market Square.
(Detailed architectural descriptions of each building have been prepared by Tracy R. Stephens, A.I.A. They are filed with the West Virginia Department of Culture & History, Historic Preservation Unit and also with the Wheeling Landmarks Commission)
BUILDINGS OF NATIONAL, MAJOR, AND PIVOTAL SIGNIFICANCE
(numbers refer to the numbers used on the maps)
1. SECOND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, 1850. 20th and Market Streets.
Greek Revival: 2-Stories and tower, no basement.
Current use - Wheeling Christian Church
Original use - Second Presbyterian Church
4. WHEELING CATHOLIC CONSOLIDATED SCHOOLS - St. Alphonsus Building
(East wing), 1875. 2111 Market Street. Italian Romanesque Precedent: 3-stories.
5. ST. ALPHONSUS CHURCH, 1887. 2111 Market Street.
Italian Romanesque Precedent: 1-story with balcony.
Architects - Fr. Anthony Schuermann; E.W. Wells with the firm of Klieves Kraft and Co.
(This church building replaced the 1859 St. Alphonsus church building on the same site.)
6. MARY A. REED BUILDING, c. 1885. 2125 Market Street.
Italian Revival: 2-stories (HABS 1976)
Current use: Wheeling Flower Shop
1885 City Directory Supplement - John T. Reed, druggist.
14. SHAEFER BUILDING, 1886. 2201 Market Street.
Wheeling Victorian: 3-Stories and basement.
Current use: Medovic's AG Food Center
City Directory 1886 - Schaefer, F.F. cigarmaker.
27. BELLINGER BUILDING, c. 1885. 2259-2261-2263 Market Street.
Wheeling Victorian with Italianate: 2-Stories and basement.
Current use: Odds & Ends 2259; City Glass Co. 2261; Top Hat Stoves 2263.
City Directory 1888, Atlantic Tea Co. (James Henderson and James McCann)
wholesale and retail dealers in teas, coffees and spices, fine teas a specialty.
28. SCHMEICHEL BUILDING, c. 1900. 2265-2267 Market Street.
Neoclassical with Victorian: 4-Stories and basement.
Current use: Vacant
City Directory 1900-02, Schmeichel F. & Son, furniture.
39 & 40. ZINK HOUSE, c. 1878. 2206 & 2208 Market Street.
Late Victorian with Italianate: 2-Stories and basement (HABS-1976)
Current use: 2206 residence, 2208 being rehabilitated by Friends of Wheeling.
Original use: assumed to have been rental property.
47. LOTZ BUILDING, c. 1873. 2226 and 2228 Market.
Victorian Italiante: 2-Stories and attic (rear addition of concrete block: 2-stories 1980)
Current use: 2226 Union Fish Market; 2228 Paradox Book Store.
52. THONER HOUSE, c, 1877. 2240 Market Street.
Wheeling Victorian Italianate: 2-stories, attic and basement (HABS-1976)
Current use: Anne's Corner on the Market
1879 Pan-handle History, John Thoner wholesale and retail merchant, residence same.
56. CENTRE MARKET HOUSE (UPPER), 1853.
Architect: Thomas Pope (National Register 1975; HAER 1974)
Neoclassical (Roman Doric): One story, no basement.
Current use: public market
Original use: public market
57. CENTRE MARKET HOUSE (LOWER), 1891.
Architect: Edward B. Franzheim (National Register 1975; HAER 1974)
Romanesque precedent: One story, no basement.
Current use: public market
Original use: public market
BUILDINGS OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
31. WHEELING PUBLIC LIBRARY, 1911. 2100 Market Street
Neoclassical: 3-stories and basement, tall 1st story, 3rd story a later addition
Current use: Georgian Center (Banquet, Reception, and Party Rooms)
Original use: Public library
Historical Significance: The library is especially important because of its connection with the labor movement. The City fathers authorized a vote on a $50,000 library levy to purchase a site and for books and maintenance in order that there might be a Carnegie Free Library in Wheeling. The proposed library had strong supporters from leading businessmen and prominent citizens. However, the members of the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly were firmly opposed to a monument to Andrew Carnegie and worked vigorously for the defeat of the levy. On January 26, 1904, the levy was turned down by 201 votes. Wheeling became the first American city to reject a Carnegie grant. The Board of Education eventually voted to erect a library with its own resources which opened in 1911.
35. GREEK EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN ZION'S CHURCH, c. 1850. 2118 Market St.
Eclectic: Gothic, Greek and Italian Revival: 2-stories
Note: The building was constructed as a Congregational Church and remodeled for use as a Lutheran Church in 1852. Ten years later a tornado struck the building. The roof fell in and the north and south walls were damaged. Three children were killed and ten more injured. The church was rebuilt and rededicated the following year.
Original use: church
Current use: Oglebay Institute-Towngate Theatre
Historical significance: This is one of the oldest church buildings in Wheeling, and the congregation was German. The church's history relates its growth in membership was due to the constant arrivals of new families from the Lutheran sections of Germany. Once settled, these immigrants influenced their friends still in Germany to come to Wheeling. These families must have had an important impact on Centre Wheeling and the entire city.
Form prepared by Beverly B. Fluty; html by Christina Minigh
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and funded in part by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.