Charles Dickens Predicted the Ohio Valley’s Future
When he wrote his famous first line, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ Well, for two cities separated by a river, connected by a bridge, the truth regarding how Charles Dickens predicted the Ohio Valley’s future couldn’t have been more true.
For one city, it is the best of times. For the other, it is the worst of times.
For one, it’s the age of wisdom. For the other, the age of foolishness.
For one, it’s the epoch of belief. For its neighbor, it’s the epoch of incredulity.
On the east side of the Ohio, it’s the season of Light. On the west side of the Ohio, it’s the season of darkness.
To the east, the spring of hope. To the west, the winter of despair.
One city has everything before them. The other, nothing before.
One side is headed direct to Heaven. The other is headed in the opposite direction.
Weirton, West Virginia, the Best of Times. Steubenville, Ohio, the Worst of Times
Despite a previous article hyping up Steubenville, and Weirton, to an extent, regarding its pros in its cost of living, easy startups for online entrepreneurs, and breathtaking scenery, one city has a dark side, the other, a light side.
Two towns, separated by the Ohio River in the Upper Ohio Valley. A land George Washington himself once surveyed, reaching an island in the middle of the Ohio now known as Browns Island, the site of a coke plant explosion in the 1980’s.
Two towns where my own family has a rich history, whose counties are derived from famous historical figures like John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson. Two towns which thrived once upon a time, when the steel industry reached its peak, only to fall together into near-disrepair.
One city has since recovered and is on the fast track to becoming a hot shopping center in the not-so-distant future. Eighteen new businesses in one year, an increasingly diverse population. One town is charging toward the future.
The other? Lucky to see the light of day again after losing yet another round of businesses…but they did gain a Taco Bell! Other than that, I can’t say what other businesses are coming in because, well, it’s a sad story.
Weirton, West Virginia is now classified as one of the (small) cities to watch.
Steubenville, Ohio is still losing population at a rapid pace.
Once upon a time, the two cities couldn’t have been more alike, both falling together.
Today, they couldn’t be more different.
The Old Steel Industry
Located just twenty-five and thirty-five minutes outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, these two Rust Belt cities make up your stereotypical Appalachia.
Twangy dialects, blue collar-heavy workers, and high school sports-crazed, complete with hills, valleys, and forests, Hollywood has done a fine job when depicting the area in films, one of the more recent films being Super Eight, filmed in Weirton itself.
When people think of Appalachia, they often think of oil rigs, steel mills, power plants, farmlands, and coal mines.
A writer documenting the area?
Well, the reputation is changing in Weirton, from depressed former steel mill town whose heyday resides in the memories of the Baby Boomer generation to one with a future bright enough to make anyone whose goal was once to leave the area do a double-take and think twice.
As for Steubenville?
If it wasn’t for high school football, which reached international news outlets for all the wrong reasons back in 2012, you can Google it, I’m not going to talk about it. But either way, Steubenville High School Football is the lone entity keeping the city going, as they’ve won three State Championships since 2006.
Other than football, what else is there?
The Fort Steuben Mall is almost finished.
As mentioned numerous times, the steel mills are gone.
Downtown has seen better days, where old murals remained from a time since lost.
People are closing shops, unable to afford rising rent costs or are no longer able to make a profit.
Political corruption ran rampant in the 1990’s, with the police force involved, and rumors state this is still ongoing. Again, I’m not talking about it in this article, but you can do your own Google search. The city was sued for millions, that’s all I’m going to say.
And longtime residents continue to flee, something ongoing since the 1970’s.
As for Weirton?
Some say it started with the strip mall last year. Others say it started years ago with the building of Weirton Medical Center, but the long-term plan took time. Well, if that’s the case it’s starting, just starting, to pay its dividends.
Even more interesting, as far east as Robinson Township, Pennsylvania, one finds advertisements leading to Weirton. Robinson is a good twenty minutes east, and billboards headed west hype Weirton like none other. From its restaurants, to WMC, to other new and local business, Weirton has become a city on the rise.
It lies in the hope of many that Steubenville can one day follow Weirton’s blueprint.
Time will tell, but as of now, it remains bleak.