Monday, June 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
While student teaching this past semester I had the opportunity to observe first hand that it's the little things that matter. Little things such as old gas stations, abandoned mansions, tycoons like Henry Schmulbach, and historic spots can often turn into a magnitude of teachable moments. On my last day I decided to discuss the history of Wheeling with my students by utilizing video and some of my photographs. One student begged for my attention to privately ask the question, "How did they build houses back then?" After a short explanation, I told the student to notice the houses on their walk home from school. Social studies is all about being aware of your local community, and I have taken pride in having some of my students notice the little odds and ends of their community. These old gas stations can serve the same purpose. For example, photographs of taverns and gas stations could be used as an introduction to the road and it's many transformations. Kids notice things such as this, and from my experience, it's a good way to ignite the minds of students. "Hey... when I walk down the street, there are pot holes in the street, and I can see bricks underneath." Bingo - teachable moment.
The Hempfied Tunnel and Viaduct was built monetarily on behalf of the citizens of Wheeling and Ohio County. Their effort raised $454,000 in private and government donations that went towards the construction of a tunnel and a five arch stone viaduct that crosses over Wheeling Creek. The Hempfield Tunnel is no longer in use by the railroad, but is instead used for a walking trial. At one time, at least seven different railroads companies passed through the city of Wheeling. Even while in use, though, the tunnel was said to have been haunted. Before work could begin on the tunnel, a section of graveyard above the tunnel needed to be relocated. It is rumored that some of the graves were "robbed," and some were not removed at all. The Wheeling Intelligencer reported in July of 1869 that ghost sightings were "confirmed." Late, in 1874 a New York Journalist claimed to have seen a spirit of some sort in the tunnel. Haunts, spirits, apparition's, spooks, phantoms -- all the like, enjoy hanging from the roof of the tunnel, and some have been reported as "floating above the tracks." Today the tunnel is known more for its supposed haunting than its actual purpose. On my visit to this portion of the walking trial I drove up Rock Point Road and stopped at a pullover a few hundred yards from the tunnel. I took advantage of an unusually warm late December day (around 65 degrees), and spent a few hours exploring the tunnel, and continued walking to East Wheeling where I stopped and turned around.
I first approached the tunnel walking towards the west. I thought this appropriate as I tried to imagine the trains, their sounds, and the people anxiously awaiting their arrival to Wheeling. Since the northern panhandle has been experiencing a wet spell, walking through the tunnel was like encountering a light rain shower, especially towards the middle of the tunnel. Water was spurting out in little sprinkles from the roof, holes, and cracks along the side. As I exited the western side of the tunnel I stepped onto the five arch stone viaduct. The viaduct was engineered by Charles Ellet Jr., the same man responsible for designing the Wheeling Suspension Bridge. Today the viaduct stands as monument to stone arch viaduct engineering, and the railroad industry. Instead of the whistle and smell of smoke from the massive locomotives that once ran the rails, today they are used by bikers, joggers, runners, walkers, and dogs. From rails to trials, there is not one usable train track in Ohio County. It's interesting to note that parallel to the walking trial runs Interstate 70. From freight cars to 18 wheelers - what's next? To view more photographs of the tunnel (inside etc.), please visit my flickr page.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
So, on March 7, 2009 I parked near Rock Point Road and started walking west on the walking trial that once used to be home to the B&O Railroad. After passing through the Hempfield Tunnel (or Tunnel Green), and exiting the tunnel on the west side, I started up the little trial that takes you to the Wetzel Cave. The trial is very short, but quite steep, with very little room to balance yourself along the hillside. I found the cave, snapped a few quick photographs, and decided to proceed on the trail to what is called Wetzel's shelter. I stopped, though, because I noticed a few people sitting near the rock shelter, and rather than bother them, I thought I would just come back on quieter day. As I walked away, I thought it funny that I was not the only person with Lewis Wetzel on my Saturday agenda. Thinking nothing of it, I went home, sprung my clock forward, and called it a day.
Then I awoke the next morning to the headline: Murder in Wetzel County. Robert Maine Jr. is accused of murdering his cousin Gregory G. Maine Jr. in Wetzel County West Virginia which is named after Lewis Wetzel. After the accused committed the act, he then looked for a place to hide out. Having family connections near the Hempfield Tunnel in Wheeling (Ohio County), he then decided to hide out... in Lewis Wetzel's Cave! After the authorities were tipped off they found Maine sleeping in the cave.
(Officer) Laing said his search team initially looked for Robert Maine at a home in the Tunnel Green section of Wheeling. According to Laing, Robert Maine later told investigators he needed rest, but he feared police would track him down if he slept in the East Wheeling home.
"We were actually able to apply the handcuffs without waking him up," Laing said. "The tip was well founded, and citizens in East Wheeling were crucial in providing on-the-spot info that he'd departed prior to our arrival. That's what set the manhunt on the trail and in the woods in motion. That's when we began to tighten the noose."
Lewis Wetzel was a known Indian murderer during the late 1770's, 1780's, and 1790's in the Wheeling area and beyond. A sort of lesser known version of Danial Boone or Davy Crocket; he was a true frontiersman. Members of his family had been killed by Indians, he had been captured by Indians, and his occupation was to kill Indians, guilty or innocent. He was a cold blooded killer, but to the people of Wheeling, Lewis Wetzel was a hero because they lived their life in fear of the Indian. During the two battles of Fort Henry, it was the British and Indians who attempted to kill them, and Wetzel's ruthless way of revenge was admired by those who had endured such attacks.
Indians feared him because they said that his gun was always loaded, and it was. He would put musket balls in his mouth, and while on the run he would spit the balls down the barrel of his gun, load, fire, and kill. Some Indians even thought Wetzel to be something of a supernatural spirit.
There's so much to say about Lewis Wetzel, and that time will come. But today I think it's interesting to go over the fact that while I innocently walked past the mouth of the cave, an accused killer was most likely inside, or was at least soon inside. Just a few hours after my passing of this cave, the others who were at the shelter, and countless walkers, joggers, and bikers on the paved trial, the suspect was aprehended.
Please click on the above photograph, and upon doing so you will be taken to my flickr page. Then scroll over the photograph. You will find notes that explain the location of the cave, shelter, etc.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Recently, Reymann was inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame for his contribution to the economic success of Wheeling during its heyday. Some of his more notable ventures where the Reymann Brewing Company, Wheeling Park Casino and Amusement Park, and the Altenheim Home for aged and friendless woman. Just like Schmulbach, Reyman invested in railroads, and served as vice president and president of various enterprises.
Henry Schmulbach and Anton Reyman were not simply millionaires of Wheeling, they helped build the city. As I've already briefly explored with Schmulbach, certain monuments to his life still stand in his memory, like the Schmulbach building. But, on the other hand, we have also seen the monuments to their legacy crumble in time, such as the Schmulbach mansion.
It's said that Schmulbach and Reymann were fierce competitors during their time, and even in their death I suppose they are still competing. Whose accomplishments can outlast that of the other?
The Reymann residence no longer stands in its glory, but one structure of the property has remained standing, the carriage house. Constructed of red brick (that has a wonderful reddish orange glow). The second story is decorated with two round medallions and wonderful round windows. A feature that is quite well known to brewery architecture can be seen on the front, and that is the face.
One of the brew gods faces can be seen from the top of the carriage house. Coinciding with the Victorian Era and brewery architecture, faces on buildings was a common theme. As of right now, I am unable to identify the god depicted on the carriage house, and I would be grateful for any help in that subject. It's also important to note the design of barley above the face.
The carriage house is all that remains of the old Reymann Residence. At some point an addition was added to the front of the structure which is now home to Padden's Pharmacy, 1414 Eoff Street.
More detail of the building can be seen here:
Sunday, February 22, 2009
"...crowds have congregated every day, busily engaged in watching the interesting work of elevating the immense pieces of granite used in the extremely handsome front of the new City Bank building. These varied from eleven tons down to a small block weighing but a few hundred pounds"
Built by Messrs. Renhalter & Co., in their construction the company used "gray granite from the quarries of Maine." The ground floor is set off by pillars of polished Johnsbury granite, and the top of the structure is ornamented with Spanish tiles, and the very top is decorated with a fleur-de-lis. Traslated from French, "fleur-de-lis" means the design of either a lilly or iris. This ornament helped make it one of the tallest buildings in the state of West Virginia, rising 125 from the sidewalk to the fleur-de-lis.
The interior was just as elegant. A banking room on the first floor was finished in hard wood, while the main entrance was fitted with "large swinging doors, ornamented with antique bronze and trimmings of the very latest style of art hardware." The upper floors were finished with marble wainscoting. Complete with the latest technology, a Otis hydraulic elevator was used to reach the upper floors which included 26 rooms that were used for office space. All were said to have been finished in Georgia pine.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Advertisment for the City Bank of Wheeling. Dates from around 1915."][/caption]
Lavatories, or restrooms were included on each floor, each complete with cold and hot water. Rather uniquely, the water was gathered from an artesian well beneath the building. What makes an artesian well unique is that no pumping is required. The water gathers pressure from the rock where it's stored (which absorbs the water from its original source), and the water actually flows up instead of down when the water finds an outlet.
Said to be composed of fire proof material, the bank was outfitted with Bostwick fire proof steel laths from a Wheeling steel manufacturer (the first building ever to do so), and the joist of the building are "very heavy and far apart, which makes the best of fire-proofs, in spite of all the devices so loudly praised in the East."
As the National Bank of West Virginia, the City Bank of Wheeling would undergo major changes as the city and its role in the economy changed. What a treat it would be if the building was still used as a bank, but instead it is now commonly referred to as the Professional Building, and has been used partly used as a doctors office.
Last year, the Friends of Wheeling toured this building, and I invite you to view some photographs from that tour which provides a sample of the buildings interior (like the Otis Elevator). The original cost of the building was $80,000. Today it's currently for sale and can be purchased for $250,0o0. For more history and more photographs, check out http://www.wheelingwvinvestmentproperty.com/index.html. Use the link to the left to navigate towards the pictures, history, floor plan, etc. When you view the photographs, you can view photographs from each floor of the building.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Traveling south on Rock Point Road, you would have crossed the Manchester Bridge over Big Wheeling Creek on to 17th street in Wheeling. According to an atlas from 1873 (courtesy of the David Rumsey collection) this section of Wheeling would have been called Manchester or New Manchester, possibly relating to a one time property owner. The 1873 atlas shows a bridge crossing Big Wheeling Creek in the general vicinity, and even a search on Google maps today shows a bridge, but all that remains is the stand stone abutment that once carried traffic across the bridge. I was not able to locate any photographs of the bridges heyday.
As the stand stone abutment, this area around the south end of Rock Point Road is virtually abandoned. Some brick buildings show signs they probably date back to the Reymann Brewery, and others were at one time or another prominent businesses of Wheeling.
I invite you to view some more photographs of the bridge on flickr:
- what remains
- standing on what's left on the bridge. it appears the folks on the opposite side of Big Wheeling Creek use the west end of the bridge abutment as part of their yard or patio.
- no entry
Note: Thanks to Jim from Down the Road for some help with bridge terminology.