Cumberland Times-News

June 18, 2013

Historic bell to toll for West Virginia's 150th anniversary


Associated Press

— WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — A bell that rang on June 20, 1863, to herald the news of West Virginia achieving statehood will ring again to mark the state’s 150th anniversary.

The bell hangs inside the 165-year-old Second Presbyterian Church in Wheeling. It will join a chorus of bells that will be tolled across the state on Thursday to commemorate West Virginia’s sesquicentennial.

For the building’s owner, the Near Earth Object Foundation, the ringing of the old church’s bell will both celebrate the past and mark a new beginning for the old church.

The foundation is preparing to repair the building’s roof, a section of which collapsed in 2011.

Preservation Alliance of West Virginia added the building to its 2013 list of endangered properties.

“The building’s such a wonderful historical feature in Wheeling. ... When (the bell) rings on Thursday, it will be really cool,” Libby Strong told The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register (http://bit.ly/1aofJxZ ). Strong’s husband, Richard, is president, of the foundation.

Strong said the foundcation has received a $47,000 matching grant from the State Historic Preservation Office to repair the roof, which is expected to cost at least $90,000.

The foundation plans to restore the building as closely as possible to its original condition. The long-term goal is to create a space for stargazing, watching a play and other education al activities.

“Wheeling’s got such great architecture. ... To be able to blend the past with the future is really an important thing,” Strong said.

Preservation Alliance of West Virginia said the church was built using slave labor. Later, it became a center for the abolition movement in Wheeling.

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Information from: The Intelligencer, http://www.theintelligencer.net