Living in Historic Homes a Labor of Love

WHEELING — Living in one of the historic homes in the area isn’t an easy task, but it is one that those who do say is well worth it.

“It’s a lot of work and love, but you end up falling in love with these old houses,” said Flora Droze, who lives in North Wheeling. “It’s not everyone’s house you can walk into and see workmanship like this, the artistry of the house pulls you in.”

Droze has been a Wheeling resident for most of her life but now lives in a house near the North Wheeling Historic District, built in the 1920s in the modern style but with many marks of historic craftsmanship plainly evident in the home’s construction. The dining room has a set of three bay windows overlooking the side yard, while opposite, the mantle is inset with wood carvings depicting a rustic cabin and river, above the fireplace.

“Looking at this craftsmanship, it’s so intricate. It must have taken a while to make,” Droze said.

Behind the walls, the home still has the original woodwork, now approaching 100 years old. Caring for such a house isn’t easy, as  Droze said she has sunk a small fortune into maintenance, which still hasn’t been finished, and keeping the house up consumes much of her time.

“It’s crumbling apart, as old houses do,” she laughed.

Recently, local architect Victor Greco spoke at the Betty Woods “Snookie” Nutting Lecture Series on some of the architecture of the Woodsdale neighborhoods, identified some of the challenges in maintaining historic homes, saying that the work involved may be a serious investment of time and money, one not recommended for the beginner handyman.

“Maintenance is difficult and can be overwhelming,” Greco said. “It’s funny, because old wood lasts, and it’s the new wood that tends to rot a lot faster. … The roofs lead to 70 percent of the rest of the building’s problems. That’s a problem in any building’s architecture.”

Greco, himself a resident of Woodsdale, lamented the way some homes in the neighborhood are renovated. While identified as a highly historically accurate neighborhood by the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office, Woodsdale has not been designated a formal historic area due to backlash from residents.

“Nobody likes being told what they can and can’t do, but fortunately in this particular neighborhood, there has been a lot of protection just by choice,” Greco said. “We feel like if (guidelines) were in place, it would really help improve property values. Every now and then you’ll have a house pop up and the columns aren’t in scale … it may not be the right scale, or the right materials, but the elements are still there.”


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