Wheeling pioneer mothers statue being restored
By Scott McCloskey
WHEELING -- A Wheeling statue that stands as a "memorial to the pioneer mothers of the covered wagon days" is being restored for the first time since it was erected in 1928.
The Madonna of the Trail statue, located along National Road near the entrance to Wheeling Park, is undergoing a large-scale restoration, as time has taken a toll on the historic memorial.
Employees with Keystone Waterproofing of Greensburg, Pa., have been busy performing detailed work on the statue, including: Pressure washing, filling cracks and missing areas on the statue, applying clear water repellent and securing the surrounding retaining wall. Workers said they hope to have the project complete soon, weather permitting. The project was awarded through a bidding process to Allegheny Restoration and Building Corp. of Morgantown and subcontractor Keystone Waterproofing.
The restoration project, which is estimated to cost nearly $35,000, is being sponsored by the Wheeling Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp.
It is funded in part by the West Virginia Division of Highways' National Scenic Byway program, including a $1,000 gift from the Elizabeth Stifel Kline Fund and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
"The Wheeling chapter of the National Daughters of the American Revolution is honored to receive the largest Historic Preservation Grant available from the President General's Special Projects Grant Program to restore the Wheeling Madonna of the Trail," said Debi Smith, Wheeling chapter and state historic preservation chairwoman for NSDAR.
She said the group was able to secure $10,000 toward the project from the grant program.
"The weather and time have truly taken its toll on Wheeling's Madonna of the Trail, and we are so fortunate to have local professionals who can complete the restoration work. ... We are also fortunate to have such a strong preservation organization as the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. to support and help find funding to complete various preservation projects," said Smith.
She said she loves the fact that the reddish-grey granite dust workers are using to blend with the patchwork on the statue came from the same rock quarry in Missouri that the original materials for the statue came from. She said the Wheeling Park Commission plans to take care of the landscaping at the site.
Jeremy Morris, executive director of the WNHAC, said, "The Madonna is a Wheeling icon, and we are pleased to lead this great restoration project with the Wheeling Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution. ... It is a great example of Wheeling organizations partnering together."
He said a rededication for the statue is planned for next spring.
The Wheeling statue is one of 12 that were erected in 12 states between 1928 and `29 along what was then called National Old Trails Road, more commonly known today as National Road or U.S. 40. The Wheeling monument was dedicated on July 7, 1928.
The statues were created by sculptor August Leimbach and were meant to honor the strength and fortitude of the pioneer women who braved the uncertainties of the great journey west and helped settle the American frontier.