Unique facade

PARKERSBURG – The years have not been kind to the Oeldorf Building at 809 Market St., the former home of Wetherell’s Jewelers.

A leaking roof led to damages to the top two floors of the four-story building when the jewelry store closed in 2011 after 144 years in business, but the years following have seen damage turn to destruction, said Bob Enoch, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society.

“The building has a unique and beautiful facade,” Enoch said. “It was once a very attractive building, and we (the Historical and Preservation Society) are hoping it can be rehabilitated.”

Once a building known for its remarkable facade and the sidewalk clock out front, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in Wood County on Dec. 10, 1982.

The building is owned by Adie Boniface Ugim, who was unable to be reached for comment.

The original owner of the building is unclear, according to Wood County records.

Frank S. Smith, who may have been the original owner, gave the property to Hermen O. Smith on Oct. 1, 1915, according to documents on file at the Wood County Records Office.

Hermen O. Smith consolidated the property with two 4 foot-wide parcels from the Parkersburg Baptist Church, one purchased on Dec. 29, 1904, and the other on March 22, 1907. He left the property to his wife, Grace B. Smith, in his will, dated Jan. 9, 1926.

Grace Smith declared the land would become the property of Union Trust and Deposit Co. in her will, dated Nov. 8, 1955. Union Trust and Deposit became United National Bank, which took control of the property in 1972.

On Dec. 9, 1985, the building was sold to Ernest. E and Lois M. Whitehead, the records said. Ugim purchased the property in 2013, records said.

The structure, known as the Oeldorf Building and Wetherell’s Jewelers, was built in 1906, according to the corner stone on the property. The building consisted of two bay windows, patterned after an unspecified Baltimore storefront, below three floors of decorative facade with elements of Classical Revival style.

According to its application with the National Historic Register, the building was noticed for its combination of brick and stone trim and was in excellent condition during the 1982 inspection for the National Historic Register, the application said.

A variety of motifs originally adorned the building, with Greek-style rings hanging as decoration from the third and fourth floors, once decorated in tin. Swags accented the area above the third floor, while columns decorated the spaces between windows on each floor. A string of lion heads graced the top-most area of the building.

On the sidewalk, the Wetherell’s Jewelers clock stood proudly for more than a century, proclaiming the time to those on the street. The back of the building contained iron fire escapes, decorated with designs and swirling patterns.

Being on the National Historic Register does not insure the property will be kept up, according to a statement from the National Historic Society. It is the owner’s responsibility to maintain the property once it has been added to the register, and additional inspections are not performed by the society, the statement said.

Since the jewelry store closed in 2011, the building’s state has declined rapidly, Enoch said. A faded sign still hangs on the storefront, inviting passers-by to “Walk with us into the past,” and proclaims the building to be location 22 in the collection of a now-forgotten historical tour.

Enoch said he, and others, were invited to tour the building before it was shut down.

The roof of the building had been leaking badly for several years, Enoch said. The owner at the time, Whitehead, had attempted to repair the roof, and to protect it with tarps and buckets, but had been unsuccessful in his attempts, Enoch said.

The upper floors had been used to store written records, which had become ruined from the leaks as well, he said.

The once-famous storefront was sold separately from the building after Ugim purchased the building, Enoch said. It was dismantled and removed, along with the store’s historic shelving, after being sold to a museum in Missouri, Enoch said. He could not recall the name of the museum, but said they had purchased the storefront to use in a historic recreation.

The first floor of the building is now boarded with plywood which was made on Sept 14, 2013.

The platform where the clock once stood remains, although the clock itself is now located five blocks to the west, having been donated to the City of Parkersburg upon the jewelry store’s closing in 2011. It now stands in Government Square, Enoch said.

More windows are boarded up than remain open, with one on the front of the building missing its glass, its tattered blind left to flap in the wind around the glass shards.

The tin has long since fallen from the decorative Greek rings on the third and fourth floors, leaving only concrete behind. Along the roof, the once-proud lions are now accented by rust lines.

On the back side of the building, the iron fire escapes are rusted over, with support beams laying across the walkways. Empty prescription bottles litter the below-ground area near the first floor windows, and the back door hangs open to the elements, guarded by rusted-over bars.

Broken windows plague the back of the building as well, forming a backdrop of destruction that stands out sharply from the crisp white designs of the American Red Cross vehicles parked in the lot below the building.

Enoch expressed concern that the building may be beyond rescue, describing it as “in very bad condition.”