Baltimore & Ohio Station, Wheeling, West Virginia, USA
Posted by: sherpes
N 40° 03.798 W 080° 43.296
17T E 523742 N 4434820
Quick Description: imposing building, now used as a community college
Location: West Virginia, United States
Date Posted: 9/12/2008 11:15:53 AM
Waymark Code: WM4NKZ
Celebrating its 100th year anniversary on Sept 3, 2008, the building was the terminus of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, which reached Wheeling in 1853.
Arrival of the first passenger train was celebrated by thousands and marked by an extravagant dinner for 1,000 people. The Suspension Bridge, which was opened in 1849, was illuminated with 1,010 lights. The first passenger station was located on the banks of the Ohio River near the mouth of Big Wheeling Creek.
During the Civil War, the B&O Railroad was of immense strategic value and, in Wheeling, the railroad was important to the transportation of soldiers and supplies since the Ohio River was closed downstream from 1861-63.
As the volume of both passenger and freight traffic grew, a larger facility was required. Construction on the Americanized French Renaissance building, now the home of West Virginia Northern Community College, began in 1906. A major river flood in 1907 delayed progress on the project, and the building was not completed until 1908. A ceremonial train, carrying railroad and city officials, crossed the new 17th Street viaduct on Jan. 25, 1908, but the Wheeling Intelligencer on Sept. 2 reported ''The B&O's Magnificent Present to Wheeling'' was opened that evening for inspection. The doors ''were opened for business'' on Sept. 3, 1908, according to the September 1908 edition of the B&O Railroad's ''Book of the Royal Blue.''
The newly opened facility was state-of-the-art. In fact, it was well ahead of the times, with its own internal telephone system, steam heat, indoor plumbing and electric elevators. Electricity for the station was generated - utilizing steam - across Chapline Street in a building on the site near the current Ohio County Library. A description of the interior of the building included in ''Book of the Royal Blue'' takes note of an elegant, two-story lobby featuring a colored glass dome in the ceiling's center that was lighted by skylights from the fourth floor roof. Marble floors and marble wainscot, brass and wrought iron chandeliers and sconces, scarlet walls, oak trim and cast iron stairwells further enhanced the decor.
Because the immediate area surrounding the building was frequently flooded, the train tracks were located on an elevated trestle adjacent to the south-side second floor of the building. Passengers purchased tickets in the lobby and then exited the back of the building, ascending to the upper deck to board the trains. Troop trains departed continuously from this location during World Wars I and II.
Passenger service from the Wheeling station ceased in 1962. The building was sold to a private owner in the late 1960s, and many local residents recall visiting the Blue Caboose, a popular bar located on the fourth floor of the building during that period. In 1975, the state decided to purchase the building for the rapidly growing community college, opening the facility for educational purposes in 1976.
During the past 32 years, several renovations have enhanced the facility, including the addition of the plaza on 16th Street and, more recently, the plaza on the back of the building after the train viaduct was removed. With each successive remodeling process, including a new historically accurate roof and new windows, this beautiful building has become an increasingly important part of the historic adaptive-restoration efforts ongoing in the downtown Wheeling area.
The college's Alumni Association has devoted the past 25 years to preserving the history of the building and the impact of the B&O railroad on the immediate area. With the latest renovations, space has been provided to allow several items from the alumni's collection to remain on permanent display.
Stories compiled by ROBERT DeFRANCIS WVNCC Dean of Community Relations And JOAN WEISKIRCHER Secretary/ Treasurer, WVNCC Alumn
POSTED: August 24, 2008 on The Intelligenceer, Wheeling News-Register website.
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