Southeast corner of Main and 14th Streets
The Artisan Center, still in its formative stage, is an early action project of the Wheeling National Heritage Area Plan.
It was most appropriate to use these buildings which were constructed for and used by Henry K. List. He was both a businessman and financier, quiet in his habits and modest in tastes, who contributed “hundreds of thousand of dollars” to charities.
Henry Kilborne list was born in Wheeling on October 20, 1821. His father had come to this country with his parents from England about 1806.
At the age of twenty-three, H.K. List married Sarah Jane Shaw. Three years later, in 1847, he became a senior partner in a wholesale grocery business. In 1856 a “fine residence in North Wheeling’ with tall double windows and a widow’s walk on the roof was being built for the List family. It was there that their two-year-old son, who was named for his father, died of scarlet fever in 1860.
To have larger space for the burgeoning wholesale grocery business, it was necessary to establish new headquarters. Ground was broken on March 5, 1867, for H.K. List’s building on the corner of Quincy (now 14th) and Main Streets. The main building was to be forty-four feet on Main Street with an additional twenty-two feet for a “south store room.”
In the cold month of February, 1868, when sleighs were on the streets and there were fires around the hydrants, the thirty-thousand-dollar Henry K. List building opened for the firm of List, Morrison and Co. A year later, the firm became Henry K. List & Co. In 1871 that firm was sold and H. K. List was no longer a partner. He soon began business selling wool and pig iron at 1404 Main Street, the “south store room.”
In 1880 Henry K. List was the second wealthiest person in Wheeling, as shown in the personal property assessment report. Items included were furniture, cash on hand or in deposit, securities, horses and vehicles, clocks, watches, and pianos. That year he funded the purchase of a steeple for the church where the family were members. He was also elected president of the Children’s Home, a position he held until his death.
A wholesale notions and toys firms had moved into the third List Building at 1406-1408 Main Street by that same year of 1880. Mr. list was still at 1404, and wholesale grocers were located in the corner building at 1400 and 1402 Main. The three structures, as they still appear today, can be identified by counting the windows on the third story. The corner building has six windows; the second, three; and there are six on the most southerly structure. The foundry plaques at the base of the pilasters between 1404 and 1406 clearly illustrate the statehood of West Virginia. One is marked “VA” while the other is inscribed W.VA.”
Mr. List had been one of the principals in a “private partnership” bank. By 1885 he and his son, Ambrose S. List, had secured the controlling interest in another bank, The City Bank of Wheeling. Henry K. List served as its president and his son was Vice-President. Through Mr. List’s efforts, a new bank building was constructed. This 1891 six-story structure was described as the finest office building in the city.
Henry K. List died in 1900. His wife and four of their eleven children were alive at the time. The governor of West Virginia said of him: “No man in Wheeling will be more generally missed and his death will therefore be universally deplored. He had no enemies and all who knew him were his friends. Along with the thousands of our people I feel that my best friend is gone.”
Through the years of ownership and occupants have changed in the List Buildings. Many people remember the site as “Gee Electric” because that well-known firm was in business there for almost seventy-five years.
H. K. List has left a visible legacy of extraordinary buildings: a beautiful home at 827 Main Street, the richly detailed home (c.1893) at 823 and 821 Main Street he had built for his daughter and son, the bank of Fox Island granite at 1300 Market Street, and this complex with the splendid, Wheeling-mad, cast-iron columns.