The following article by Elizabeth Paulhus and Rebekah Karelis appeared originally March 17 in West Virginia Executive magazine. It is reprinted here with permission.
Driving through downtown Wheeling, WV, it can be easy to overlook the old buildings that flank each side of Main and Market streets. Motorists are more likely to focus on traffic lights or be too busy searching for a place to park. With the decline of pedestrian walking and downtown shopping opportunities, the truth is that people just do not spend much time walking around—much less looking at—the buildings in downtown Wheeling. In many cases, people who have spent their entire lives in Wheeling may not have ever appreciated the architecture and environment of our downtown.
In October 2012, a group of young, energetic, and preservation-minded individuals came together to form the Ohio Valley Young Preservationists (OVYP). The group is passionate about Wheeling and shares the common goal of preserving the history, culture and buildings of Wheeling and the greater Ohio Valley.
As the group began discussing potential projects to undertake, one member suggested a “lovescaping” campaign that would coincide with Valentine’s Day. The All We Need Is Love campaign aimed to draw attention to historic buildings in downtown by decorating them with hearts and other Valentine-themed media. OVYP enlisted the collaboration of individuals, families, classes, college clubs and others to create decorations for an adopted building and encouraged adopters to incorporate some of the history of the building into the decorations. For example, the former Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel building was adorned with a heart that read, “Brace Yourself. I’m a Steel.” In total, eighteen buildings were festooned with hearts as part of the inaugural campaign.
Many months after the “lovescaping” was completed, OVYP received some great news. Although the goal of the campaign was simply to have people stop and look at Wheeling’s architecture, one man did more than this. After his attention was drawn to the hearts decorating the Professional Building at 1300 Market Street (one of Wheeling’s better-known gems), Glenn Elliott explored the possibility of buying and rehabilitating the structure. He is now the proud, new owner of the Professional Building, much to the excitement of OVYP.
This year, the “lovescaping” campaign was even bigger and better. Local downtown businesses joined in the decorating process. In total, thirty-two buildings were shown love this year. The Ohio Valley Young Preservationists hope that these simple messages of love might melt the heart of another potential investor and convince them to invest their love (and capital) in downtown Wheeling.
OVYP works in other ways to bring life to Wheeling; they recently partnered with the Wheeling National Heritage Area Foundation to purchase an 1837 Greek Revival Church in the downtown area. The two partners plan on rehabbing the structure and converting it into a community arts center. For more information on that project or to donate to the rehab effort, check out http://wheelingheritage.org/milestones/bluechurch/.
To learn more about OVYP and our other projects, like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OVYoungPreservationists. Or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.