The Eckhart House
The Eckhart House
Welcome to the Eckhart House, an 1891 Queen Ann Victorian town home decorated in a post Eastlake style on a grand scale. The home was constructed to demonstrate the importance of the family that built it, which it did magnificently. Newspapers of the day stated that it was a home of some significance. This compliment would have warmed the heart of any of the wealthy and important of the city.
A brief introduction of Wheeling’s magnificent history is helpful to appreciate the Eckhart House, for the city grew from a small settlement of a few cabins during the Indian border wars of the 1770’s to one of the nation’s most powerful and wealthiest cities of the 1890’s. The Eckhart House represents the pinnacle of Wheeling’s progress.
Wheeling was discovered and settled by the Zane Brothers in 1769 via an overland route from the junction of the Youghogheny and the Monongahela Rivers. The settlement had a deep port on the Ohio River making transportation by boat nearly always possible. This enabled the city to grow slowly but steadily.
The early 1800’s brought peace with the Indians as well as the building of the first National Road. The road granted easy access to the west, and the calling of free land brought Americans by the hundreds of thousands. Quickly, as the nation expanded westward, Wheeling, its main supply route and gateway, grew to become a great eighteenth century city.
Its citizens utilized unrivaled technology and built a suspension bridge of magnificent proportions that opened on November 7, 1849. This structure opened commerce and transportation with the west unlike anything before.
Three years later the first railroad to reach the Ohio was completed to Wheeling. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad linked Wheeling to its Eastern sister city, Baltimore, and reestablished these two cities as the preeminent western gateway. 1861 saw the start of the Civil War and Wheeling was made the Capital of Virginia. By June 20, 1863 Wheeling was recognized as the capital of a new state, West Virginia. The city grew and prospered dramatically for the next 25 years until the capital was moved to a small central West Virginia City called Charleston where it remains today. The city and state never recovered from this loss and neither reached their full potential.
Even with its loss as capital, Wheeling grew well into the 20th Century. By the 1930’s the industry of the area began to disappear. The population of nearly 70,000 dropped and steadily declined to approximately 30,000 today with the disappearance of most of its industries.
A silver lining exists to this seemingly sad story. Wheeling is a living treasure of American history. Here is where the pipeline was open to the settling of the west. Here is where the industrial revolution took place. Here is where one can still see, in its near entirety, the Victorian Era. The city’s decline was dramatic and painful, but it preserved the nation’s history, as if it were a time capsule, and tells America’s story better than any other city.
Pictures and information were provided by the Eckhart House
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