Mt. Wood Castle, aka Wheeling Castle
Mt. Wood Castle, also known as Wheeling Castle, is located across the street from the historic Mt. Wood Cemetery. Though it is now a popular site for vandalism, the site was intended to be the extravagant home of a local doctor. The unfinished structure was owned by the disgraced doctor, Andrew J. Harness. Construction of the castle was abandoned after his 1925 arrest for selling substances like cocaine and morphine in violation of the 1914 Harrison Act. The Mt. Wood Cemetery is the oldest surviving cemetery in Wheeling and was established in 1848. The cemetery was falling into disrepair and like the castle was often vandalized until a volunteer effort began to restore the grounds in 2013.
Mt. Wood Cemetery
The view of the Ohio River from Mt. Wood Cemetery
Mt. Wood Castle, now covered in graffiti
Article from the Mt. Sterling Advocate on Harness's arrest.
Article from March 21, 1919 in The Fairmont West Virginian about Harness's move to Wheeling.
Photograph of the Mt. Wood Overlook covered in graffiti.
Backstory and Context
The Mt. Wood Castle and Cemetery were largely forgotten by locals until 2012 when preservation efforts began to revitalize the site. In the decades prior, the area was used primarily for illicit behaviors. The misremembered history of the castle led to the popular belief that a man had been building it for his lover and left it unfinished when she suddenly died. Though this story is still popular among locals, the truth is less romantic.
Dr. Andrew J. Harness was born to a poor Tennessee family in 1883 and worked his way from labor within area coal mines to attending medical school. Harness moved with his wife, Aubelle "Mabel" Souleyret, to Wheeling, WV in 1916. Harness bought the Mt. Wood property in July 1921 and appears to have started construction on the castle sometime between this purchase and the project’s abandonment in 1925. In November of that year, Harness was forced to quit construction as he was indicted for illegal sales of morphine and cocaine. He was subsequently sentenced to eighteen months of federal prison in Atlanta and received an early release in 1927. Following his release, the Harness family relocated to the Chelyan and Cabin Creek area of West Virginia before ultimately settling in Miami, Florida. Harness passed away on January 30, 1946 after a battle with throat cancer. After Harness’s arrest, the foundation of the unfinished castle was left largely untouched until cleanup efforts began in 2012.
Mt. Wood Cemetery, the oldest surviving cemetery in Wheeling, is located across the street from Harness’s abandoned castle. First formally established in 1848, the cemetery was the leasing burial site for the city into the 20th century. The 14 acres of the cemetery include nearly 2,000 graves and 10 mausoleums. Echoes of the cemetery’s roots in the Romantic Movement are evident in the spacious layout and beautiful view of the Ohio River. As citizens increasingly interned family members in other cemeteries, fewer funds were available for the maintenance of this cemetery which fell victim to natural decline and vandalism. Eventually, maintenance was taken over by the city of Wheeling after severe damage to gravestones and mausoleums. Efforts at preservation of the cemetery began in 2013 after several citizens and local organizations became concerned about the condition of the cemetery.
Heitz, Miranda. "The House That Harness Built." Archiving Wheeling. September 13, 2016. Accessed June 1, 2023. http://www.archivingwheeling.org/blog/mt-wood-castle-overlook-wheeling
Roxby, Joe. "History & Mystery Of Wheeling Castle Revealed". Weelunk. February 12, 2016. Accessed February 09, 2019. https://weelunk.com/history-mystery-of-wheeling-castle-revealed/.
"Mt. Wood Cemetery and Overlook". Wheeling Heritage. Accessed February 09, 2019. https://wheelingheritage.org/project/mt-wood-cemetery-overlook/.