The former Gene Long Community Center's days on Wheeling Island may be numbered, but one former neighborhood resident is determined to salvage its most distinguishing feature.
Since it was built in 1868, the building has been many things, including a drug store, grocery store and neighborhood gathering place.
But for many, what comes to mind when they think of the bright pink and blue edifice is the record of Ohio River crest levels from more than 200 years of floods painted on the building's walls by its late namesake, whose family turned it over to the city prior to his death in 2011.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Although the former Gene Long Community Center on Wheeling Island is expected to be on the ground by this weekend, a former neighborhood resident hopes to salvage the building’s “flood wall.”
The building is expected to be on the ground by Friday or Saturday, according to Bruce Edge, owner of Edgco Inc., the company hired by Wheeling City Council to raze the dilapidated structure.
Christina Henry, who grew up in the Wheeling Island neighborhood and still lives in the city, said she drove past the building this week and was saddened to see the preparations being made to tear it down.
The "flood wall," she said, always has held a special place in her heart, and while the building may be beyond saving, she doesn't want to see the object of those childhood memories wind up in a local landfill.
"I used to see this thing every day and I just loved it ...," Henry said. "Maybe one day we could build a monument out of it. ... So much of Wheeling's history has already been demolished or destroyed. At least the city could save this."
Whatever is left at buildings slated for demolition - including the remnants of the structure itself - generally become the property of the demolition contractor. Edge said he may be open to trying to salvage the bricks from the flood wall, depending on how much time and effort is involved.
There's no guarantee the bricks will be recognizable after the walls come down, he said, but it's possible they could be reassembled "like a puzzle."
"I'm game for anything. ... We'll see if we could work something out," he said.
Henry said she has created an email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, and invites anyone interested in helping salvage the flood wall to contact her.