Wheeling Flood Wall-Mural Project

September 29, 2015  •  1 Comment

Wheeling Flood Wall  
September 2015

 

FloodWall3FloodWall-Virginia St. sideRestored Flood Wall with dates and watermarks of all the major floods dating back to the 1760s. FloodWall4FloodWall-South Penn St. sideCompleted Flood Wall mural with all the names and dates of former businesses in the previous building dating back to 1894.

 

Floodwall Before1Gene LongGene Long stands in front of the now torn down building that features the Flood Wall. He, as the final building owner, was the first to record all the major flood dates.

The Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation (WNHAC) led a preservation initiative that ultimately led to saving the “The Flood Wall” on Wheeling Island. This mural project started in November 2014, took a hiatus for winter and a very rainy spring, and was finally completed in July 2015.    The wall was actually part of a building located at the corner of Virginia and South Penn Streets.  Gene Long, of the Gene Long Family Center (the last business standing in said building), recorded every major flood to hit Wheeling Island by painting the date and high water marks on his exterior wall.   

 

The flood marks were painted in 1979, so most of the text was chipped, faded, and mainly unreadable.  I was hired to restore the text and add the names and dates of all the former businesses that resided in that structure from the 1890s to the 1990s.  On one wall, I was simply restoring an original painting back to its former state (as well as adding additional text acknowledging all the key partners) while on the adjacent wall I had free reign to design logos of seven of the former businesses.  It was next to impossible to locate actual images of the signs or logos, since they were family owned shops and/or very old, so I used the dates of each establishment to lead me in creating something fitting for each time frame. While the research and design of this project was inspiring and thought-provoking, the true experience laid in the hands-on painting of the Flood Wall murals.

FloodWallFloodWall-South Penn St. sideCompleted Logos mural. Note the new informational placard installed by WNHAC that engages viewers with Wheeling Island's history.

“Thank you for doing that!”
“You’re doing a great job!” 
“Honk! Honk!” - from a car with a thumbs up out the window
Those were just some of the affirmative and excited shouts and sounds of people driving by as I painted.  Some residents would even park, get out of their cars and walk over to me just to regale me with memories they had of eating Kirk’s Ice Cream at the counter or delivering pharmaceuticals for McAllister’s Pharmacy.  Others would recall times from the actual floods, or the floods that their dads or grandads endured.  I felt truly honored.  Here I stood, a transplant from Rhode Island, just completing a commissioned job- but that didn’t matter to them.  The day-to-day people, for whom this project truly impacts, were sincerely appreciative that a piece of living history was saved (and enhanced) for them.  

I am grateful to have been included in this project and wish to extend kudos to WNHAC for making this vision a reality.  This wall will now be part of a larger project- a small park with edible plants and seating areas.  This green space will be a welcomed oasis on an otherwise busy intersection in a residential area.  From the above photo you can see that WNHAC has already installed a historical informational plaque so visitors- old and new- can delve deeper into the history of Wheeling Island.  And of course, talk about its floods.

Floodwall Before2Flood Wall buildingThe Gene Long building before deconstruction and reconstruction of the Flood Wall & park. Note the Flood Wall on the far right corner. FloodWall2Flood Wall-as it stands todaySame view of the area with the reconstructed Flood Wall standing alongside the park with edible plants (in progress)

 


Comments

Brian Coddington(non-registered)
Thank you for making the corner I grew up on look so much better.
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