House & Herrmann in Wheeling
House & Herrmann department store was founded by Baltimore native George E. House, who opened the “parent house of the firm” in Washington, D.C. in 1885 and the Wheeling store at 1300 Main Street three years later. By 1895, the store had outgrown its location and moved to the six-story Pollock Flouring Mills building at 14th and Market after a $20,000 (nearly half a million in 2015 dollars) remodel designed by Franzheim & Giesey.
Cranmer’s venerable 1902 History of Wheeling City, offered the following description:
“The first floor is devoted to furniture and other goods, such as chinaware, sewing machines, lamps and silverware. The show window on Market street is 60 feet long, and is attended to by an expert window dresser. The firm is the most extensive advertiser in the state, having numerous original and effective methods.
“In front of the door, at the northeast corner of the building, is a bulletin board, on which are given the main events of each day, the firm having private arrangements with leading newspapers for items of public interest. The second floor is devoted to clothing, shoes, hats, trunks, etc.; and the third floor to wall paper, upholstered furniture and carpets…The fourth floor contains a complete stock of bedroom suites and miscellaneous furniture. The fifth and sixth floors are used for warehouse purposes and duplicate stock, and the basement for stoves. The building is equipped with two electric light plants, the power for which is furnished by steam and natural gas is used as fuel…The store is an exceedingly attractive one, and especial feature being the number of electric lights and the amount of gold leaf in use.”
Employing 60 people, House & Herrmann was said to be a pioneer of the “installment plan,” and its slogan, prominent on the front corner of the building, was “YOUR CREDIT IS GOOD.”
On December 9, 1917, a natural gas explosion inside the House & Herrmann store triggered one of the most destructive fires in Wheeling’s history. Though a sad end for House & Herrmann, the fire inspired a positive development for the Wheeling Fire Department. The poor performance of Wheeling’s old steam pumpers finally convinced city leaders to spend money on more modern equipment for their firefighters and Wheeling’s antiquated horse-drawn steam pumpers were replaced with motorized fire trucks.
Designed by architect Charles W. Bates, the Central Union Trust Company Building was built on the site in 1925 by the R. R. Kitchen Company.
▶ 1888-1895: 1300 Main Street
▶ 1895-1917: SW Corner of 14th and Market Streets (where Central Union Building now stands)
▶ Archiving Wheeling blog post: Wheeling’s House & Herrmann Department Store Burns to the Ground After a Winter Storm
(posted Dec. 9, 2015: http://www.archivingwheeling.org/blog/house-herrmann-fire)