Wheeling is the county seat of Ohio County, although a portion of the city actually extends into Marshall County. The city of 29,000 is located in the far northern part of West Virginia, putting it in the Pittsburgh Tri-State Area. It holds special historical significance as the site of the 1861 Wheeling Convention, which led to the establishment of West Virginia as separate from the state of Virginia. Wheeling served as the first of West Virginia's several capitals before the state finally settled on Charleston.
Like several other West Virginia cities, Wheeling is losing population. Recent estimates place the population of Wheeling at approximately 29,000, a noticeable decrease from the 2000 estimate of 31,500.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Wheeling has been home to several large firms that have historically provided the city with its economic underpinnings. However, several of those have failed or been bought out in recent years. The most notable example is Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, which has since become part of a Russian steel-manufacturing conglomerate. Marsh Wheeling, the nation's oldest existing cigar company, operated in Wheeling from 1840 until closing in 2001. The department store chain Stone & Thomas was headquartered in the city until 1998.
Today, Wheeling's economy benefits from the presence of the Wheeling Island Casino-Hotel-Racetrack, as well as from other forms of tourism associated with events like Jamboree in the Hills. WesBanco, a bank holding company, is based in the city, as is the global operations center of Orrick, Herrington Sutcliffe, a prominent international law firm.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Most of the population in Wheeling is urban. Neighborhoods and districts of Wheeling accommodate around 15,600 houses, of which more than 13,600 are occupied. Of the occupied houses, more than 8,500 are owner-occupied while renters occupy around 5,000 houses.
Some of Wheeling's notable neighborhoods and districts include:
- Centre Market Square Historic District: An architecturally intact late 19th century neighborhood, this district is composed of several 1853 and 1891 market house structures. The neighborhood has strong ties to the German community that originally settled the area.
- Chapline Street Row Historic District: Located within the boundaries of the Centre Market Square Historic District, this small district comprises eight houses that are all examples of late 19th century Victorian architecture.
- East Wheeling Historic District: This large district incorporates residential, religious, and commercial structures from the 1830s through the mid-20th century.
- Highland Park Historic District: Initially developed in 1899, this streetcar suburb features residential architecture designed by local architects that mainly date from 1899-1911.
- North Wheeling Historic District: One of the Wheeling's most well-established neighborhoods, this district features the Victorian homes of successful 19th century industrialists and businessmen.
- Wheeling Jesuit University, which was originally known as Wheeling College, is a private co-educational Catholic university founded in 1954. Today, it has an annual enrollment of about 1,200 undergraduates and is home to two NASA-operated facilities.
- West Virginia Northern Community College, or "Northern" as it's generally known, operates its main campus in Wheeling in what was formerly the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Terminal. Other branch campuses exist throughout the state.
At the time it was built in 1849, Wheeling Suspension Bridge was the largest bridge of its kind in the world. The bridge was designed by Charles Ellet Jr., an engineer who also assisted in the construction of the Niagra Falls Suspension Bridge. Other attractions in Wheeling include:
- Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum: Wheeling's most kid-friendly institution is housed in a restored Victorian building that once served as a schoolhouse. The restoration was so well done that it won the Grand Victorian Award in 2000. Here, visitors can see thousands of classic toys, ranging from dolls to toy soldiers to rocking horses, all of which may be viewed either casually or by way of a guided tour.
- Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack: Previously known as Wheeling Downs, this multi-purpose establishment offers a full range of gaming amenities, including slot machines, poker, blackjack, roulette, and off-track betting. Visitors can also catch a boxing match, stage show, or a greyhound race on the on-site racetrack. The facility is located on Wheeling Island in the Ohio River.
- Capitol Music Hall: Though not currently in operation due to safety concerns, Wheeling's treasured Capitol Music Hall remains one of the city's most notable landmarks. The building opened in 1928 with a nearly 2,500-seat auditorium. It gained quick notoriety by way of It's Wheeling Steel, a popular radio program recorded on the premises that included musical performances by the city's steel workers. It was also home to the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra and has played host to a number of well-known performers of country music and related genres.
- Ogglebay Resort & Conference Center: This year-round, 1,700-acre resort sports a main lodge, private cottages, and facilities for business conferences and conventions. Attractions include a 30-acre zoo, a 72-hole golf course designed by both Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones; skiing, horseback riding, tennis, fishing, pedal boating and the Winter Festival of Lights, billed as America's most extensive light show.
- Victoria Vaudeville Theater: Considered by some to be the nation's top variety show, Victoria Vaudeville's productions feature classic country and bluegrass tunes from the 1940s and 1950s as well as a "Memories of Elvis" finale.
- In the years since it began in 1977, Jamboree in the Hills has evolved into one of the nation's foremost country music extravaganzas, playing host to some two-dozen acts a year, with prominent guests including Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Held in the third week of July, the festival attracts about 100,000 visitors during its four-day run and continues to bring in many of the nation's most popular country music stars.
- The riverside amphitheater at Wheeling Heritage Port has become one of the city's most important local centers of culture and music. The site is home to a program of regular events like Toe-Tappin' Tuesdays as well as the occasional chili cook-off, film festivals, and other attractions, all of which are open to the public.