The History of Centre Market
in Wheeling, West Virginia
The Market House's Architect
City Council members finally agreed and the cast iron open air market house was underway. The architect was a Wheeling man by the name of Thomas Pope, who designed the Upper Market House in a Greek Revival style complete with gas lights. Many local companies came together to build the structure. The iron columns were cast and molded at the Wheeling foundry of Hamilton & Rodgers. The bell that was placed in the tower was from the old Council Chamber. The bells rang for the first time at dawn in September 1853 at the Market House.
Serving Wheeling, WV Community
for Over 100 Years
Wheeling, West Virginia, is recognized for its architectural significance, but at Centre Market Square, there is also a prevailing atmosphere of tradition. This distinctive neighborhood revolves around the two market houses, with the 1853 structure being the oldest cast-iron market house in the country. The unusual combination of commercial, residential and institutional uses has been retained for more than 100 years together with the diverse makeup of the residents.
A Flourishing Public Market
for Local Residents
The Upper Centre Market House, built in 1853, is older than the state of West Virginia. In the 1850s, Wheeling was flourishing with industrial jobs. The glass houses and iron mills employed most of the area. Upper South Wheeling, the district that became Centre Wheeling in 1951, was mostly populated by German immigrants and developing rapidly. The residents demanded a public market be built in Centre Wheeling.
Farmer’s Markets, Small Shops, Homes & Churches
Farmers from all over the local area brought their meat and produce to offer it for sale. During this time, the roads were mostly mud holes, but the Market House was on the line of the Traction, Panhandle, and City street car companies. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station, where more than 100 passenger trains stopped daily, was very close by. The two-block area expanded quickly with the construction of small shops, homes, and churches the ethnic origins of people in the district had changed as well. Lebanese, Polish, Greek, and other nationalities had joined the neighborhood.
A Thriving & Changing Market Square
The Atlas, published in the year 1889, shows only one vacant lot. Therefore, it can be assumed Centre Market Square was thriving. This is reinforced with the knowledge that the second market house was designed by a prominent Wheeling architect, Edward B. Franzheim. It was completed and occupied early in 1891. As time passed, the weather throughout the years started to wear the structures down.
Even though a few farmers still sold produce there, Market Square was changing, and poor maintenance led to the deterioration of the buildings. In the late 1960s through the 1970s, attempts to revive both buildings failed. The idea was lost until 1982 when Aetna Life, Casualty Foundation, and the city of Wheeling came together with grant money to fully restore the Market Square.
Types of Architecture & Diverse Development
The architecture of the entire area reflects the development of the district from 1850 to the present time with such styles as Greek Revival, Victorian Italianate, Gothic, Neoclassical, and Personalized Contemporary. Over two-thirds of the existing 58 buildings were originally constructed in the nineteenth century – the District is an excellent example of architectural synergism. Most of the buildings are brick with native sandstone foundations. Stone, moulded brick, moulded wood, stained glass, and metal are some of the materials incorporated as facade ornamentation. The scale is relatively low with only two five-story buildings and church towers.
A Well-Known & Appreciated Landmark
In recent years, there have been some changes to the physical appearance of the area. However, the entire district has clearly retained its identity. Today, the entire building remains open to the public as an open market, with a handful of restaurants, small eateries, a delightful deli, unique shops, a local art gallery, and the famous Coleman’s fish sandwich.
In addition, the streets on the east and west of the building currently host a number of more shops and restaurants, thereby creating a small shopping district within historic buildings. The Market Houses are owned by the city of Wheeling. While in some ways the market serves a notably different purpose as an attraction today than it did well over 100 years ago as a necessary supply destination, its purpose still lives on as an important asset to Wheeling’s commerce and a well known and appreciated landmark.