Fall & Winter
Homesteading is an alternative lifestyle that involves growing, raising, and producing all of your own food. It can be a rewarding and sustainable way to live.
The process of homesteading can be challenging and often requires a lot of self-sufficiency, but it’s also a great opportunity to develop your inner resilience.
WHEELING — For culinary entrepreneur Jared Stone, South Wheeling was and still is all about the house. It started in 2014. He was fresh out of college and he and a friend were bicycling the neighborhood to admire the Victorian architecture in what has since been designated a National Historic District.
As they wheeled past one alluring-but-effectively-abandoned home on Jacob Street, the friend joked, “Does this one speak to you?” Stone didn’t fully realize it at the moment, but the bike trip was a shopping trip and the 1880s home somehow wound up in his cart.
“A lot of people’s first homes are a bachelor pad or renting something with a friend, not a big, beautiful Victorian,” Stone said of his then 20-something peers’ reaction. Most of them told him he was “nuts.”
Nuts or not, Stone said he was all in when he realized the mammoth property — abandoned to the point it was devoid of niceties such as electricity and plumbing — could be his for $23,500.
“I moved right in. I got an old Army cot and a lantern and this was in November,” the now 33 year-old Stone recalled of his even younger self. “I’d go by my mom’s to eat and warm up once in a while.”
Getting beyond that camp-out existence took a while and generated a lot of gratitude for everyday pleasures, he said of those early days. “It was almost a year before I could take my first hot shower. I remember my first meal cooked on a stove.”
He hired experts to do some of the work. Other things, he taught himself by watching do-it-yourself videos on YouTube. Stone said he did more of the latter than he’d intended given a shortage of contractors. “A lot of times, you’re kind of stuck doing it yourself, whether you wanted to or not.”
With the home’s interior restored — and wife, Emilia, and son, Clark, 2, now also living in the posh comfort of full-on period furnishings — Stone said he continues to tweak the property. The task of the day is finding a painting contractor willing to take on the woodwork under the roofline.
Stone — who co-owns the house-adjacent Foundry cocktail bar with mom, Rebecca Stone, in addition to working as a behavioral management specialist for The Village Network — grew up on the family farm in Triadelphia. He noted a learning curve related to his South Wheeling digs.
“When I first moved here, it took a while just to get used to the sound of people outside my house,” Stone said of the auto and foot traffic that seems to continually stream down Jacob Street.
As much as he misses the quiet, he is delighted when he needs to shop. Stores like Jebbia’s, Lowe’s and a Family Dollar are handy. Friends are also more willing to drop by, he noted of living less than a mile from downtown.
Plus, there’s all that history. Stone has become an expert on the neighborhood and his own property. Most colorfully, it turns out an early occupant of the house was convicted for bank robbery, according to research done by Jeanne Finstein for a Friends of Wheeling tour.
Originally called Ritchietown, South Wheeling was more typically home to industry and the families of the men who worked in such, Stone said. The 3000 block of Jacob Street, where his home and The Foundry are located, was functionally the neighborhood’s downtown. The former Cooey-Bentz Co. department store was an anchor.
“Every day, about mid-day, I hear a whistle blowing,” Stone said of Swisher International cigar manufacturer, which operates in the former Bloch Bros. Tobacco Co. building. “It may be a steam whistle, maybe for a lunch break. It’s easy to imagine men with their little tin lunch pails.”
Living in South Wheeling as a single guy was one thing. Living there as a husband and dad is another, Stone said of feeling a need to bring some sparkle to the overall neighborhood.
Such thinking is what drove him and his mother, Rebecca Stone, to open The Foundry in summer of 2022 in a commercial, Victorian-era building next door to his home. The upscale cocktail bar — think espresso martinis and pineapple-coconut margaritas made from fresh fruit — draws a mix of locals and road-trippers seeking craft drinks, he said.
“It’s humbling to realize some people are driving three or four hours just to come here,” he said.
He suspects part of the allure is the authenticity of the neighborhood and the historically respectful restoration of that building — which Finstein’s research revealed has a long history of being a bar in addition to stints as a restaurant, a deli, a beauty salon and a finance company.
The family worked particularly hard to bring back a tin ceiling that Stone discovered above a drop ceiling. “So many people come in and video that,” Rebecca Stone noted of the restoration.
Whatever the draw, the family is now so at home in South Wheeling they are spreading roots up and down the 3000 block. Stone’s sister lives in another historic home, located on the other side of The Foundry, that Rebecca Stone owns.
As the family set to work on the properties, Stone said he noticed his abundance of “good neighbors” were also painting their houses and generally upping the curb appeal. Recently, other businesses began to arrive.
The Bloom Lash & Beauty Lounge recently opened up across the street. And — in a potential real-world complement to tidy, reduced-rent apartments that have already popped up here and there around the neighborhood — he is hearing talk of luxury apartments or condos going in just down the street.
“It just takes one person to break the ice. I believe that’s the same anywhere, not just in South Wheeling,” Stone said. “The whole block’s just kind of blossoming around us.”
Could a full bloom be close? He suspects it will happen as comparatively low purchase prices make the neighborhood ripe for younger would-be homeowners and first-time entrepreneurs like he was not long ago.
“It gives them a door in,” he said. “If you’re willing to be a little adventurous, there’s a lot of opportunity.”
Neighborhood enthusiasts such as Ginger Kabala and Debbie Griffin are thrilled to see young residents and entrepreneurs like the Stones settle into South Wheeling.
Kabala is a longtime South Wheeling resident and heads up the 17-year-old South Wheeling Preservation Alliance with other neighborhood notables such as Marist Brother John Byrd and Donna Freter. The group recently produced a neighborhood history in book form.
Griffin is president of the emerging group Ritchietown Renaissance, Inc. and is a historic preservation specialist for the Wheeling office of Heritage Architectural Associates.
Both women agreed with Stone that South Wheeling is teeming with residential, commercial and warehouse facilities that are ripe for redevelopment and repurposing. “Our commercial buildings could be incubator spaces for new business start-ups (or) artisan lofts,” Kabala said, noting the Heritage Trail runs the length of the neighborhood and interstate access is nearby.
The groups work in tandem and will co-sponsor a Wheeling/South Wheeling trivia night at The Foundry on April 20. Details are to be announced.