Wheeling commemorates 150th with banners

WHEELING – The city of Wheeling hopes to make West Virginia’s sesquicentennial a banner year with its latest project.

On Friday, city workers could be seen throughout the city hanging banners in time for West Virginia’s 150th birthday celebration, to be held downtown this week. The 22 banners will be rotated throughout the summer, with most featuring the work of local artists, according to Allison O’Konski, marketing and community relations director for the city.

Most of the banners are hung from utility poles and measure 30 inches by 60 inches.

But the largest of the banners hangs on the 1500 block of Market Street on the wall outside the former Kirk’s Photo Center facing West Virginia Independence Hall. It is a reproduction of the painting “The Second Wheeling Convention” by Mark Missman.

That banner, placed Friday, depicts the significance of June 20, 1861, which was the date when representatives of Virginia’s western counties signed a document declaring their independence from Virginia and indicating their support of the Union. That document is on display within Independence Hall.

“The date June 20 represents two dates of significance in West Virginia history,” said Travis Henline, manager of West Virginia Independence Hall.

While those counties declared their independence on June 20, 1861, it was on June 20, 1863, that West Virginia officially became a state, he said.

The banners cost about $4,000 in total and represent one project being paid for with $130,000 in funds resulting from state grants and private donations received by the city for Wheeling’s 150th birthday bash, according to O’Konski.

The Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission hired the following local artists to work on the banners, she added: Liz Neumann, Patricia Croft, Ann Hazlett Foreman, Robert Sako, Janet Rodriguez and Bob Villamagna.

Villamagna’s art focuses on the annual Heritage Music BluesFest in Wheeling and will be hung later in the summer, O’Konski said.

“The commission is to be commended for such a creative project,” said Wheeling historian Margaret Brennan.