The Men Who Built Wheeling
-by Kate Quinn, 2009
The Men Who Built Wheeling
He began practicing architecture in 1904 and worked in both Chicago and Pittsburgh before setting up offices in Cleveland, Youngstown, and Wheeling. He designed several of the Shaker Heights (Cleveland) city schools and scores of high schools in Ohio and West Virginia.
Among the beautiful buildings he contributed to his hometown were the Capitol Music Hall, Ohio Valley General Hosptial and nurses’residence, Windsor Hotel, Riley Law Building, Bennett Square (formerly the Georgian Center and Ohio County Public Library), Wheeling Clinic, Stifel Fine Arts Center, and many more. One of the finest examples of Bates’ work is the Central Union Building at the corner of 12th and Main streets.
Bates liked open spaces and this is apparent in the many schools, factories, banks, churches and residences that he designed. He specialized in designing fireproof buildings made with reinforced concrete. Bates designed the Capitol Theatre in 1926.
The theater is designed in the Beaux Arts style popular at the turn of the century and characterized by arched windows, classical details, bas-relief panels, garlands, cartouche, and balustrades, many of which are demonstrated in this grand edifice.
When the Capitol Theatre opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1928 at a cost of $1 million, it was called “a marvel of harmonious beauty”. The building was constructed to support a planned eight-story hotel that was never built because of the depression.
At the age of 51, Bates suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in the ambulance on his way to the Cleveland Clinic just three days prior to his 21st wedding anniversary. He had three sons and lived at Hawthorne Court, Woodsdale.
He then spent six years studying under the famed Boston architect John Sturgis before traveling abroad to further his education. Returning to Wheeling in 1892, Franzheim opened his own office, but often collaborated with other well-known architects including Charles Bates, Millard Giesey, and Frederick Faris.
In 1901, Franzheim designed the Court Theater and acted as its manager for five years, taking time off from his architectural firm to do so. His love of theater prompted him to write, direct and act in several plays. He founded the “Players Club” in Wheeling and was noted for his meticulous dress, often arriving at his office in formal morning attire and changing to a black jacket in the afternoon.
Many of his designs were for apartment buildings including the Virginia, El Villa and Howard apartments.
The people of Wheeling see and use his structures every day, as he constructed the Ohio Valley General Hospital, the Rogers Hotel, the Hazel-Atlas building, the entrance gates of Wheeling Park and the White Palace. Franzheim also designed many local residences including Uplands, the home of John Schenk now know as Altenheim, and worked on renovations of the Oglebay Mansion.
One of his more beautiful structures is Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church, which is typical of the Richardson Romanesque style that Franzheim had learned in Boston. The Trinity Church of Boston is an example of this style, which includes French, Spanish and Italian elements, cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling and rows of columns with rounded arches in between. The red, terra cotta tiles of Vance Church reflect the Spanish influence on this style of architecture.
The only self-taught architect in this series, Millard Giesey, was born in Wheeling in 1856 and attended the old Center School. He worked for the firm of Beltz-Flading, which dealt in building materials and eventually became a successful contracting concern. Giesey became superintendent of that firm and on his own time, studied architecture. Six years later he formed a partnership with Frederick Faris and E. B. Franzheim with whom he formulated the plans for the Schmulbach Building formerly the Wheeling Steel Building, which at the time was the tallest building in the state.
Giesey also designed the Warwood firehouse, the Central Parish School, the Alpha Sigma Phi house at Bethany College, St. Stanislaus Church, St. Stephens Reformed Church and St. Johns Reformed Church. The West Virginia Building he designed with Faris for the World’s Fair at St. Louis in 1904 won much acclaim. The firm also built the addition to the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville.
He died at the age of 76 and was survived by his son, the Rev. Earle M. Giesey, who was the chaplain of the Moundsville Penitentiary. Millard Giesey had four brothers who were carpenters.
One of his most prominent residential designs which survives today at 94 Fourteenth St is the L.S. Good house, now occupied by Good Mansion Wines. Built in 1905, the house was designed with the help of the owner Lee Good, who reportedly walked to Wheeling from Texas after arriving from Germany. Good’s successful dry goods and home furnishings business gave him a distinct knowledge of interior design. The house is a Neo-Classical, three-story townhouse with an imposing façade. The porch bears Ionic columns and beveled glass set in zinc surrounds the two front doors and fills their center panels. The interior is sumptuous with maple and oak paneling fireplaces featuring Wheeling tiles, a grand staircase lit by exquisite stained glass on each landing, and a spectacular built-in buffet in the dining room With 22 stained glass windows, the interior light is ethereal.
The last in this series of Wheeling architects is Frederick Faris, who was born in St. Clairsville in 1870. His father was the noted artist J.A. Faris. He attended public schools in Wheeling and had no formal training for his profession. After working in the office of Edward Wells, another Wheeling architect and builder, Faris formed a partnership with Joseph Leiner. Six years after joining with Millard Giesey in 1902, historian Gibson Cranmer said that Faris had been “personally interested in and designed…most of the prominent buildings and residences in the city” The 1915 issue of Ohio Architect magazine was devoted to his work.
Using many different architectural styles, Faris provided Wheeling with a plethora of beautiful buildings. Among the prominent Wheeling edifices by this architect that are still standing are the Wheeling Steel Building, now the Severstal Building; the YWCA; Madison School on Wheeling Island; the Main Street Bank, formerly Wagner Wholesale Grocery; the Laconia Building, formerly the German Bank; Triadelphia Middle School; the Scottish Rite Cathedral; the Howard Mansion and Apartments; and the YMCA.
Buildings of his design that are no longer standing include: Wheeling High School, North Wheeling Hospital, the Market Auditorium (West Virginia’s longest building at the time), and the Gothic-styled Children’s Home in Woodsdale.
He died at the age of 57 from complications of strep throat, but his work was carried on by his namesake nephew, who built the City-County Building. The elder Faris is buried at Greenwood Cemetery.
Probably the most unusual of Faris’ work is the Mount Carmel Monastery, a Mission-style edifice built in 1917 and located on Carmel Road in the Woodsdale section of Wheeling. The Discalced Carmelite Order was founded by Teresa de Ahumada who was born in Avila, Spain in 1515. She founded 32 monasteries in her native country.
To honor the memory of St. Teresa, Faris designed the monastery with a distinctive Spanish flavor. From the warm, pinkish-orange color of the exterior walls to the low-pitched clay tiled roof, the monastery reminds one of the Spanish missions of California. The nuns lived in simple cells and slept on plywood beds supported by wooden horse. The public chapel had a 39-foot ceiling, marble statuary and many stained glass windows. The monastery, which covers 2.4 acres, closed in 1975 and was converted to apartments.
A great friend of the library and frequent Lunch With Books presenter, Kate Quinn was a freelance writer, researcher, and former teacher. She was a 2009 WV History Hero recipient, Vice President of the Friends of Wheeling for many years, and a member of the Wheeling Hall of Fame Board and WV Sesquicentennial Committee. In 2018, she was one of the inaugural recipients of the OCPL Library Legend award, a distinction she received posthumously. On December 30, 2014, Kate presented "The Men Who Built Wheeling" at Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library to an audience of 88 attendees.