Monday, November 21, 2011

Wheeling, WV: Eminent Domain and Historic Building Demolition Craze

"City leaders are wrong to lead with an erasure, trying to rub out former greatness and pawn it off as a victory for today." - Jerome Poynton, resident of East Wheeling.

City leaders in Wheeling are making efforts to demolish a significant number of historic buildings in the East Wheeling Historic District.  Earlier this year, I documented the large section of the East Wheeling neighborhood that city leaders seek to acquire by eminent domain. The intention is to bulldoze and replace the once elegant Civil War-era Victorian architecture with a ball park. There is currently a lawsuit filed by home owners in the neighborhood who wish to keep their homes, but the city still intends to raze these and the other homes in the area.  You can see the pictures I took of the area the mayor wants to completely tear down here: Large Section of East Wheeling Historic District to be Demolished.

A large block of Civil War-era Victorian housing to be demolished in the East Wheeling Historic District.

Read more about the eminent domain case in East Wheeling here:
 In addition to the neighborhood clearance in East Wheeling, a large section of the 1100 block of Main and Market in Center Wheeling will also be demolished.  Read more here:

The former Fort Henry Club, a 19th century landmark in downtown Wheeling, is also endangered. The club recently closed and the building is in the hands of the Episcopal Church next door, who seek to demolish the building if not sold within six months. Read more here:

See the real estate listing for the Fort Henry Club here.

Demolition has also started at a Wheeling landmark, the Mount de Chantal, built in 1865:

Historic Mount de Chantal, Wheeling, WV (now being demolished)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

McKeesport: "Long-Abandoned Ruins of the Dreams You Left Behind"

McKeesport was once a major, bustling city, with a population of over 50,000 people. It was the second largest city in Allegheny County, behind Pittsburgh. Downtown McKeesport was full of people during the day, from office workers and steel-workers to shoppers. McKeesport boasted several fine department stores, movie palaces, restaurants, and nightlife. The residential areas included streets with many fine mansions. The city was hit hard by surburbanization in the 1960s, when Eastland Mall opened and retail began trickling out. In 1976, several downtown landmarks and city blocks burned to the ground. By the 1980s, the collapse of the steel industry put the final nail in McKeesport's coffin. The city today is a hollow shell of what it once was. The population stands at 19,731, a far cry from its glory days. There are abandoned buildings all around, many with historic character and significance. Many more have fallen down and burned over the decades, leaving great empty parcels of urban prairie. Still, there are some gorgeous buildings left, like some of the ones I have photographed below.

Evans Street

"East Park"

Evans Street

Carnegie Library of McKeesport - Library Avenue. Built 1902.

Olive Street

McKeesport skyline, from Port Vue.

View of Downtown McKeesport.

Victorian overlooking Downtown McKeesport from Port Vue.

Shaw Avenue - Millionaire's Row

A pair of abandoned Victorians on Shaw Avenue.

Downtown McKeesport

City Hall and YMCA

Fifth Avenue

"Masonic Temple"

A McKeesport landmark, built 1866.

The faded "Penn-McKee Hotel" was once McKeesport's grand hotel. It is now vacant and shuttered.

There were originally many examples of Italianate architecture in McKeesport's old neighborhoods near downtown, but most have fallen down or are vacant shells.

Abandoned church. Yes, it's a Brownstone!

Evans Street

"Shotgun" houses on Scott Street.

"Shotgun" Houses on Scott Street Rear (alley)

Abandoned mansion near Colfax and Park Street.

Madison Street

Corner of Jenny Lind Street and Scott Street

Park Street

Park Street

Park Street

Olive Street