The Wheeling CVB Dives Deeper into Downtown Investments

The Wheeling CVB Dives Deeper into Downtown Investments

By: Jeremy Morris

Earlier this year, the Wheeling CVB announced its purchase of the former Wheeling Inn property, a long-time hotel, and lounge adjacent to the Wheeling Suspension Bridge. The announcement marks another significant financial investment the CVB has made into Wheeling’s downtown.


Considered by many an eyesore, the once brilliant example of mid-20th-century motel architecture has seen better days. And the CVB’s purchase is being championed as an excellent opportunity to reclaim part of Wheeling’s story.


“Honestly, it is sacred ground,” says Wheeling Historian Margaret Brennan, “We know the earliest European settlers were buried in that area.” And before that time, we know that the Ohio River and Wheeling Creek confluence served many purposes for Native Peoples. The remains from the frontier anglo-cemetery were eventually moved south of Wheeling Creek to make way for the development of Wheeling as more than a frontier outpost.


Strategic Economic Leadership


Frank O’Brien Wheeling-Ohio County CVB Executive Director, acknowledges hospitality is a competitive industry, “But it is strong partnerships among the players that build better tourism products.” O’Brien and his staff have become astute at inserting themselves in the pole position of large partnerships that steer the community in new directions.


In 2009, after a lengthy planning process, the Wheeling CVB stepped forward to purchase The Capitol Theatre and save the historical structure from vacancy and neglect. With millions now invested in the fabled entertainment venue, the city once again hosts touring BroadwayWheeling Symphony, and national touring concerts. The theatre even transforms into a church every Sunday.


Triangle of Hospitality and Entertainment


The former Wheeling Inn property has been a hotspot for hospitality since the early days of Wheeling. Boarding houses and restaurants have always established themselves near the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, as it marked a noteworthy jumping-off point during our nation’s Westward Expansion.


For much of the 20th Century, the intersection of 10th Street and Main was the pinnacle of entertainment in the city (and perhaps West Virginia). The Capitol Theatre, Bridge Tavern, and the Wheeling Inn property were a triangle of economic activity. Patrons visiting from around the world would eat, drink and revel at the restaurants before ducking into the theatre for a legendary Wheeling Jamboree show. Much of the after-performance revelry continued into the wee hours every weekend.


A New Gateway for Downtown


Plans for the site remain in the imagination and strategizing phase. However, demolition of the Inn will commence once other construction projects in that block of downtown are complete later this Spring. In recent years there has been considerable investment in the northern end of downtown.


The Bridge Tavern has seen a rehabilitation that opened its upper floors for downtown living, while the Tavern has new ownership with a slightly different feel. Additionally, a 46-unit apartment building is under construction next door to the Tavern. And other properties in the vicinity are under rehabilitation or on the market for purchase.


The redevelopment of the Inn property will provide a dramatic gateway into downtown with picturesque views of the National Historic Landmark, Wheeling Suspension Bridge, and Ohio River.


The Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau is a 501(C)6 non-profit organization entirely funded by the WV hotel occupancy tax and is an accredited member of the West Virginia Association of CVBs. The mission of the Wheeling-Ohio County CVB is “to enhance and develop tourism in Wheeling/Ohio County by marketing the area as a premier leisure and business travel destination, and to drive economic success and positively impact the quality of life in Wheeling/Ohio County.”