An Early History of Wheeling
May 31, 2019

ONE Wheeling Town Center is part of Wheeling’s newest walkable downtown, situated at the heart of its deep and storied history. As a thriving hub where people can live, eat and play, Wheeling Town Center carries on the vitality of that history.

Wheeling’s northwestern location to Chicago has always kept the city in the public eye. While the official story is that Wheeling got its name from a town in Virginia, local folklore still muses that the city took its name from the sound of wagon wheels coming through town. In the early 1800s, people traveling from Chicago to Wisconsin Territory took the stagecoach route Des Plaines Valley Road now known as Milwaukee Avenue, or Illinois Route 21. The continuous stream of wagons meant that travellers needed places to stop, rest and eat.

The Birth of Restaurant Row

To meet this need, Joseph Filkins built a tavern and hotel in 1837 on the corner of Dundee Road and Milwaukee Avenue, not too far from where ONE now stands. Filkins’ building served as both a coach stop and the first post office in Wheeling.

Following in the 1840s, a second hotel, a blacksmith shop, a hardware store and a school catered to the needs of the expanding population in the surrounding area. With more stagecoaches stopping and more people staying, inns, restaurants and taverns opened along Milwaukee Avenue. This centralized row of businesses and restaurants earned the name Restaurant Row, which has stuck to this day.

Locals, Travelers and Vacationers

During this time, Wheeling was surrounded by German farming community. The area had fertile soil and the burgeoning transportation network meant that farmers thrived. Crops were shipped out of Wheeling, and the city was most popular for its landscaping nurseries.

Meanwhile, travelers continued to come through and support business growth. In the 1880s, Chicagoans also began to flock to the area as a vacation spot. Wheeling’s close proximity to the Des Plaines River and the increasing popularity of the bicycle prompted bike races between Chicago and Wheeling with 100+ participants.

The lively history of Wheeling carried on, as more businesses attracted more people and the community grew stronger. Manufacturing and commerce brought a new vibrancy in the 1900s  but more on that another time.

Quirky historical events, like Rattlesnake Hunts that only recently ended in 2011, have marked the town as a unique place to live. True to its historical roots, Wheeling remains a great place to go for a bike ride, grab a delicious bite and make a home. ONE is happy to carry on that legacy in Wheeling’s new Wheeling Town Center.