When I was in school, history was one of my least favorite classes. I always felt it was so boring to have to memorize names and dates of explorers, inventors, wars
etc. Why was learning to recite the Gettysburg address in front of the whole class so important? It all seemed so unnecessary. The only thing that did pique my interest was the study of prehistoric times. I became intrigued by the study of Neanderthals and the gigantic dinosaurs that used to roam the Earth so many years ago. And the pyramids of Egypt! Who doesn't enjoy a good mummy story? I remember sitting at my grandmother's kitchen table painstakingly building tiny replicas of the great pyramids of Egypt with some spilt salt declaring that I was going to be an archeologist when I grew up. I envisioned myself in khaki shorts, work boots, long hair in a braided ponytail, driving my jeep around in some hot exotic land to a "dig" to find mummies and treasures. But of course I did not fulfill that dream (cliché that it was) since I've spent most of my adult life behind a desk in a law office. This apathy for history obviously continued into my young adulthood. When I got married I was fortunate enough to join my husband, Jerry, for a year in Aschaffenburg, German where he was serving his tour of duty in the U.S. States Army. Aschaffenburg, Germany is a town that has been around since the Stone Age (no I didn't find any dinosaur bones there) and was home to a beautiful
castle, the Schloss Johannisburg. The castle (as we called it) was erected on the same site of a much older medieval castle from the 14th Century and a "keep" from the earlier Gothic castle was preserved and added as a fifth tower when this structure was built between 1605 and 1614. The castle still stands today even though it was nearly destroyed during the last days of World War II and it took them over 20 years to rebuild and renovate it to its present beauty. However, I didn't know any of this when I was living there and could really see first-hand, explore and appreciate Schloss Johannisburg because when I was a young newlywed I still didn't give a hoot about history. Sigh...opportunity of a lifetime and I was too young and naïve to care! Jerry and I loved to spend time at the castle, either alone or with friends, because we thought it was a really "neat" place and enjoyed the atmosphere of the grounds that overlooked the picturesque Main River. It wasn't until years later, actually within the last 10 years, that I was curious enough to look it up on the internet and read about its history.
I'm not sure when I changed but now I cannot get enough of history. The History Channel is one of my absolute "must have" channels. I find myself looking at the old buildings around Wheeling and longing to know what was in them years ago. And I'm fortunate to live in a city that has a deep rich history and organizations that have struggled to protect and preserve the historical structures in Wheeling for years. For the past two years I have been working on a project to collect pictures of old structures and scenes of Wheeling from its early beginnings as a hub of industry. I find it so interesting to see farming landscapes in areas of Wheeling that are now populated with homes and businesses. In the same respect it has been a sad experience for me to compare pictures of the downtown areas in the 1800's and early 1900's filled with buggies and/or vehicles, so busy and
productive as opposed to our present day downtown area now so empty, store fronts closed and the buildings so neglected and decayed that they must be torn down. And, sadly a lot of that history has deteriorated and met the wrecking ball anyway. The first time I saw a picture of the majestic City County Building that was built in 1876 and torn down in 1956 and replaced by our present "modern" City County Building it broke my heart. I wondered...why couldn't this building have been preserved? Fortunately, I work for people who do believe in protecting the historical significance of their property and preserving its beauty. Our St. Clairsville office, located at 106 East Main Street, was built in 1895 and still retains its grace and
charm from that era and the woodwork in that office is breathtaking. Our Wheeling office, located at 1358 National Road, was built around 1891. The firm has worked hard to restore the building and retrofit it for modern business purposes while still staying true to the charm of the original structure. I'm happy to share that I can really appreciate that fact now as I never did before! I would love to have a picture of the house during the 1800's. I did find a picture of National Road around the general vicinity of the office dated 1888
. I know that change is an inevitable product of progress. And I am a great advocate of progress and moving forward into the future. My concern that many of our manmade structures built today are not made to last. As I gaze at the picture of the beautiful Castle Schloss Johannisburg as it still sits today so majestically on the banks of the Main River in Aschaffensburg, Germany and realize that it has literally been there since the 1600s, it provides a stark contrast to our society where buildings are torn down in less than 100 years. We have to question why, with our skills and technology, can we not do just a little better in preserving some of the structures that we build today?