North Main Street: Wheeling, West Virginia
Located along a high bluff above the Ohio River, North Main Street features one of the greatest concentrations of mid- to late-19th Century Victorian-era residences for a city of this size. Nearly 70 buildings, some dating to 1839, remain along the street that is part of the nationally registered North Wheeling Historic District. An ordinance adopted in 2001 established an Historic Landmarks Commission to review new construction and renovations to ensure changes are in keeping with the street's historical character and architectural integrity.
Eight blocks between East 1st Street and 9th Street immediately north of downtown Wheeling.
Original iron fences and stone retaining walls define the front yards of some of the homes, which represent styles that include Italianate, Queen Anne, Romanesque, and Greek Revival. Anchoring the northern end of the designated blocks are 62 rental and owner-occupied apartments, townhouses, and single-family homes that complement the Victorian architecture. The new homes, some of which meet affordable housing guidelines, were completed in 2002 with a $17 million HOPE VI grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The street affords scenic views of both the Ohio River and the 1849 Wheeling & Belmont Suspension Bridge designed by Charles Ellet Jr.
Defining Characteristics, Features
Early Development Shapes North Main Street
- Wheeling dates to 1769 when settled by Ebenezer Zane; well located, Wheeling is connected to other cities by the National Road (originally the Cumberland Trail) and, in 1852, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
- Street is location for residences and commercial enterprises that serve the owners and workers of Wheeling's essential businesses and manufacturing operations including iron foundries, boat and steam engine shops, glass factories, water works
- Manufacturing companies gone, but original North Main Street buildings that remain were used as stores, taverns, liveries, and blacksmith shops during 19th and early 20th centuries; some of the buildings now used for multi-family housing
- Most historically significant buildings are within the North Wheeling Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in December 1988; historic district extends along North Main Street between Main Street Terrace to the north and the Interstate 70 entrance and exit ramps to the south
- Street-front buildings represent a mixture of Victorian styles -- Italianate, Greek Revival, Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Second Empire; some of the Italianate-styled buildings have elaborate window and door hoods; original doors and windows, including hardware and art glass, still exist on several houses
- Renaissance Revival-styled house at 827 North Main Street built in 1858 for Wheeling grocer and banker Henry K. List; kept in the family until the 1940s and separately added to the National Register of Historic Places in October 1978
- Construction materials include stone, metal, wood, and terra cotta with cornices of metal; these materials came from the brick, lumber, glass, and tile produced by the Wheeling manufacturers that were in operation during the mid- and late-19th century
Planning and Community Preservation Efforts
- Wheeling's first zoning ordinance for North Main adopted in 1946; the most recent update, in 2001, established the North Wheeling Special District designed to protect the street's existing historic character while allowing for limited commercial and mixed uses
- The nonprofit Victorian Wheeling Landmarks Foundation owns 11 houses on North Main; these buildings are either being rented, used for office space or restored by the organization
- Victorian Old Town Association is a group of local homeowners that advocate for streetscape improvements and organize events and activities for North Main Street and downtown Wheeling
Density and Walkability
- New townhouse, single-family and apartment construction respects period architecture while also maintaining housing density
- North Main Street is a hub of activity for the North Wheeling neibhorhood, centrally located to several small corner markets, restaurants, taverns, parks, and schools all within a half mile; a library and a movie theater are within three quarters of a mile
- North Wheeling Special District, which includes North Main Street, allows for both commercial and residential uses
- Wheeling Heritage Trail runs parallel to the Ohio River and behind the buildings on North Main Street; trail is accessible at the intersections of Main Street and 1st, 5th, and 8th Streets and connects residents in area to the activity-filled Wheeling Heritage Port