As cities across the country fall into decay, as people move to the suburbs and malls take away their business, Huntington has managed to maintain a viable downtown. In fact, today the city is growing with many renovations, the development of Pullman Square and the technology center, Kinetic Park .
With Huntington being the second largest city in West Virginia, it still has an “old fashioned” appeal. The City has a diverse ethnic community from many cultural backgrounds. Our citizens believe in neighbor helping neighbor.
Our city does experience all four seasons with brilliant displays of color during spring and fall and with fairly mild temperatures during summer and winter.
Huntington is a city located in the State of West Virginia along the Ohio River. Most of the city is in Cabell County, and is the county seat of government. A small portion of the city, mainly the neighborhood of Westmoreland, is in Wayne County. As of 2007, current data shows a city population of 48,982. Huntington is a part of the Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). As of current 2005 data, the MSA’s population was 286,012. Huntington is the largest city within the MSA and the second largest city in West Virginia, behind Charleston.
The city was named for Collis P. Huntington, who founded Huntington in 1870 as the western terminus for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) on the land west of the mouth of the Guyandotte River at the Ohio River. It was created as a railroad town for the C&O, when it initially stretched from Richmond, Virginia to the Ohio River. The city houses numerous railroad shops which expanded east to Newport News (and coal piers) and west to eventually reach Cincinnati and Chicago in the years after its founding.
Huntington was incorporated in 1871, but was really a massive addition to an earlier city, Guyandotte. Guyandotte, which became a neighborhood of Huntington, was first built upon in 1799. The land that is now part of both Guyandotte and Huntington was originally part of the 28,628 acre French and Indian War veteran’s Savage Grant.
Historically, the old Federal Era town of Guyandotte has homes dating back to 1820 and a graveyard containing 18th century French and Colonial-era settlers, including surnames such as LeTulle, Holderby, and Buffington. Huntington was known as Holderby’s Landing prior to 1871 and the Buffington family held the tracts of land that became the Huntington Land Company. The Buffingtons were the only revolutionary-era Savage Grant claimants to continuously reside within the area, and later generations of Buffingtons were associated with Marshall College (later a university) were business partners of Collis P. Huntington. Albert Gallatin Jenkins, a Confederate Army General, had his plantation home in nearby Lesage, which has since become a historical landmark.
At the time of Huntington’s founding, Holderby’s Landing was already the home of Marshall College, a normal school that had been founded in 1837 as Marshall Academy. Originally, Marshall Academy was essentially a boarding school, under the control of the Southern Methodist Church, for wealthy high school students. In 1857, the school became Marshall College, which in turn became a public institution in 1867. The college later became Marshall University in 1961 and now occupies a large portion of the city to the immediate east of the downtown CBD.
In 1891, work constructing the first school building for African Americans was begun. Douglass High School was named for U.S. abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. Among the school’s early graduates in 1896 was Carter G. Woodson, who became its principal four years later. Dr. Woodson became a noted teacher, educator and historian, and was one of the first blacks to be awarded a doctorate from Harvard University. Known as the father of Afro-American History , in 1926, he founded Negro History Week, which later became Afro-American History Month. Public school desegregation resulted in the closing of Douglass High School in 1961. The building was placed on the register of historic places in 1985.
By the 1950s thanks to a successful coal and chemical industry, Huntington had grown to nearly 100,000 in population. However, due to coal losing some of its prominence as a fuel in the second half of the 20th century, the city lost much of its industrial base including several factories in industries such as glassworks, steel, and locomotive parts.
In the 21st century, Huntington is now effectively a regional medical community – the two hospitals, St. Mary’s and Cabell-Huntington, are the largest employers – and a university town, thanks to the presence of Marshall University, which has an enrollment of approximately 16,000 students.
Despite being located to the south of the area traditionally defined as the Rust belt, the city suffered from the trend of heavy de-industrialization experienced in cities of the Upper Midwest during the 1970s. This trend has been one of the factors that has resulted Huntington’s population decline over the last several decades.
In the 1970s, federal urban renewal programs destroyed part of the downtown. However, in 2005 downtown again began to prosper with construction of the Pullman Square, retail and entertainment lifestyle center. The Harris Riverfront Park promenade is now well-attended along the Ohio River downtown.