Historic Preservation / Rehabilitation

West Virginia Independence Hall

Originally built in 1859 in Wheeling, WV, the Wheeling Custom House is considered to be the “Birthplace of West Virginia.” The 22,000 square foot building, now appropriately renamed West Virginia Independence Hall, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1988. The building is now a museum and visitors center. It is in its 159th year; we are proud to say, that with our contribution, Independence Hall is prepared for the next 150 years.

The WV Division of Culture & History engaged the professional architectural and engineering services of McKinley Architecture and Engineering to conduct on site analysis and to document and confirm as much of the existing conditions as possible (short of destructive investigation) in preparation for restoration activities. The roofing, windows, exterior and interior surfaces were studied to determine an appropriate level of restoration suitable to period construction practices and consistent with the Owners budget and on-site staff recommendations.

The project scope was to and has maintained the historic character of the interior and exterior. This stone building was restored inside and out using careful research and coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office.

A combination of water intrusion conditions existed at the beginning of the historic preservation / restoration; the building had a failed roofing system, failed box guttering, broken stone, broken stone cornice, missing mortar and deteriorated wooden windows. Restoration work of the building addressed all of these issues, and more.

Of particular concern was the face of the stone material; over time the stone face had deteriorated due to weathering and ground water absorption, which permitted water penetration at the surface of all the façades. Restoration scope in the early phase included pointing and stone cornice replacement, and the next phase included resurfacing of some of the stone using 2 inch thick slabs pinned to the existing backup stone.

The failed roofing system was removed and replaced with 5,000 SF of new standing seam metal roof and a new custom metal guttering and downspout system; emblematic of the period of 1859 when the original structure was completed.

All of the 44 double-hung wood windows have been fully restored and re-glazed.

There was also interior restorations and repairs. Sections of the original wood flooring were carefully removed and replaced. The interior plastering was restored, eliminating or concealing previously botched attempts, and included ceiling crown moldings, new ceiling surfaces and custom decorative moldings, flt work and plaster returns at the window jambs. 

Historic paint colors were applied on all newly plastered surfaces in the building. Interior painting provided for color matching and new faux graining on the woodwork, windows and historic metal shutters – all intended to capture the original historic character of the rooms.

Two rooms on the second floor were completely restored since the existing spaces were nearly destroyed by deterioration.

In addition to the aesthetic improvements in this project, a new HVAC system, fully automatic sprinkler system, fie alarm detection system, electrical, and plumbing were designed to be completely concealed within the existing walls and ceilings.

McKinley Architecture and Engineering was presented with the 2011 Heritage Tourism Award from the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, for our achievements in preserving Independence Hall.

Project Details
Historic Preservation / Rehabilitation
Wheeling, West Virginia
22,000 SF
Project Architect
Christina Schessler
  • Designated as a Historic Landmark in 1988
  • 2011 Heritage Tourism Award from the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia

The reason we were fortunate to have McKinley Architecture and Engineering: the historic fiber of that building was just as important to them as it was to us.

Randall Reid-Smith, Commissioner, West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and Living

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