Shelter from the storm: Future CMOV needs a new roof, as do many old Wheeling buildings

Partygoers at last week's Beertastic Brew Bash, at the old Church of the Word, enjoyed themselves beneath a gaping gash in the rear wall. The church's roof is failing, causing extensive water damage.

Partygoers at last week's Beertastic Brew Bash, at the old Church of the Word, enjoyed themselves beneath a gaping gash in the rear wall. The church's roof is failing, causing extensive water damage.

By Lee Chottiner

While hundreds of people threw back cups of handcrafted beer at last week’s Beertastic Brew Bash for the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley, something loomed over the revelers — a scar.

Not a scar in the physical sense of the word, but the crooked floor-to-ceiling gash at a back corner of the old Church of the World, site of the future CMOV. It pointed up a stark fact about the historic building: Its roof is failing, and failing fast.

Last year, when the CMOV hosted the first Beertastic Brew Bash, which is intended to raise money to restore the church as an interactive museum, the wall was largely intact.

This year, though, melting snow and heavy spring rain leaked through the roof so fast that the plaster gave way, exposing the rotting lath board underneath.

It truly does look like a scar.

“We thought about hiding it” for the party, said Heather Coward Slack a member of the CMOV Board of Directors, who also restores old buildings, “then Patricia [Croft, director of the CMOV], said we should put a sign there saying, ‘we need your help.’”

That’s exactly what they did. And all night long, as partygoers sampled fine beer from seven teams of home brewers and filled their plates at the hors d’oeuvres tables, they passed the water-damaged wall.

Wheeling is filled with historic old buildings, such as the Church of the Word. Symbols of the city’s proud past, many of these edifices have sat empty for years, falling apart for lack of regular maintenance. In many cases, the first repair needed to keep these buildings intact is a roof. 

“You need to make them water tight,” Slack said, “to keep the water out, because that’s what will bring it [the building] down.”

Another historic building with a failing roof is the Blue Church in East Wheeling, which the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation is promoting as an arts and concert venue. WNHAC has a state preservation grant for the building, which is contingent upon putting the roof work out for bids by the end of the this month, said Stephanie Wright, an Americorps member who is working on the project.

The Church of the Word’s roof is a different story.

According to Slack, the CMOV obtained a preliminary estimate from Kalkreuth, which ranged from $155,900 (the best case scenario) to $252,860, which includes decking wood and sheathing.

But neither figure takes into account possible damage to the joists. In addition, Kalkreuth calculated the estimate in 2014. Slack said the cost of the job could be considerably higher when the work finally begins, which will be in Spring 2016 at the earliest.

Currently, the CMOV has raised $24,000 for repairs and restoration. It has pledges for another $80,000, which Slack expects to have by the end of the year. In addition, the museum must replace the heating/AC system and generally bring the church up to code.

“Everything has to be replaced in here because we’ll have kids in here,” Slack said. “So our fire code will be stricter — and more expensive.”

The CMOV may seek a federal preservation grant for the roof. In the meantime, the wall that has sustained the damage remains structurally sound, Slack said.

She knows what she’s talking about. The principal at Kristoffy R.E., it is her business to buy, restore and manage historic property in East Wheeling and Centre Wheeling.

Her background in building restoration, though, makes her realistic about the timeline for this project.

“We hope for an angel investor who comes in and drops $800,000 to get it rolling,” she said. “But really, the reality is it will be one of those projects that will take a while—and will be worthwhile in the end.”