A Higher Level of Shopping
The Wheeling Artisan Center provides a one-of-a-kind shopping experience against a backdrop of history and industry.
In the heart of downtown Wheeling, at the corner of Main and 14th Streets, is one of the state’s most unique repurposed industrial buildings, a place filled with history that also houses perhaps the Northern Panhandle’s most interesting place to shop—the Wheeling Artisan Center.
When you first enter the Wheeling Artisan Center, be prepared to stop and stare. A stunning, 80-foot-tall atrium gives you a glimpse of the city through a large skylight, as well as an intriguing view of the many levels of the building that contains a 250-seat, acclaimed restaurant; a gift shop full of local and regional handmade goods; history exhibits; and an art gallery and event venue.
Decades ago—even a century before—the building provided close encounters with Wheeling’s most celebrated industrial figures. The structure was built in 1867 for Henry K. List, a Wheeling businessman known in the late-1800s for his business savvy and philanthropy, who wanted to expand his grocery store. Other businesses have lived in the building since, including Gee Electric Company for 75 years. Now, the center provides a shopping and dining experience that celebrates the area’s industrial birthright.
The Artisan Center was established in 1996 by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation as a way to further preserve and celebrate the area’s heritage. As you approach the cast-iron columns at the center’s entrance you get the feeling that something great is happening inside. But the building’s history isn’t the only thing that makes it interesting—it’s also the presence of new and exciting art in the heart of the city. “It’s a great way for visitors to come into the town of Wheeling—and also into the state of West Virginia,” says Olivia Litman, marketing director for the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The center offers so much. There’s a restaurant on the first floor, a unique gift shop on the second floor, and the third floor can be used for meetings, weddings, art exhibits—it can be used for so many things.”
Though aspects of the Wheeling Artisan Center are modern, its roots have not been forgotten. Much of the second floor is dedicated to those former industrial years. The center’s “Made in Wheeling” exhibits, open and free to the public, invite visitors to understand the history and experience the materials and the process involved in each creation. As part of the exhibit, time cards track each stop with a stamp to represent a given industry, such as brewing, glass, housewares, iron and steel, organized labor, textiles, and tobacco.
On the bottom level of the complex is River City, a restaurant and meeting place decked out with classic wood furnishings, pool tables, and televisions. Up two levels and across the skybridge is The Loft, an area that shows off local and regional artwork and crafts and serves as a reception space for weddings and other events.
As part gift shop and part historical exhibition, you can find glass, pottery, jewelry, clothing, prints, photographs, quilts, toys, food products, and more at the Wheeling Artistan Center—all of which is crafted in the United States, mostly from West Virginia and the surrounding states. The products reveal a little bit of everything about the Mountain State, whether through the tradition of Blenko Glass and Fenton Art Glass or the photographs of people and architecture of days gone by. The Emporium’s books and food are a customer favorite, too. Shoppers won’t find the items on shelves at the artisan center in any big box store. “They’re all made here in West Virginia or very close by,” Litman says. “People love it. People who come from out of town, and people who actually live here do, too. When it comes to Christmas time or birthdays, they come here looking for something special and unique that they’re not going to be able to find at a lot of places.”
Wheeling Artisan Center, 1400 Main Street, Wheeling, WV 26003; 304.232.1810