The Hotel Huntington (1910-1976)
Backstory and Context
The Ninth Street portion of downtown Huntington was once home to several of the city’s earliest hotels. As a center for rail and river commerce, Huntington attracted many business travelers and other visitors from its founding in 1871. While the city’s first hotels were likely modest wooden lodging houses, several larger and pricier hotels had opened for business by the 1890s. One such hotel was the Adelphia, built in 1893 at the southeast corner of Ninth Street and Sixth Avenue. The elegant hotel did not last long at that location, however, as it was destroyed in a massive fire on July 2, 1901. After the fire, the Adelphia’s owners chose not to rebuild the hotel at the same location, and instead relocated it a block away at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street.
The original site of the Adelphia Hotel remained vacant for several years, until it was announced that a new hotel, the Hotel Huntington, would begin construction there in 1910. The property was leased by Albert E. Kelly, a veteran of the hotel business, who would also serve as the longtime manager of the Huntington. When it opened for business on June 9, 1913, the Hotel Huntington was an impressive and elegant place. The four-story hotel featured a fine restaurant, a large ballroom, and its own barbershop. A distinctive glass-enclosed balcony was later constructed over its front entrance. The Huntington had many other attractive amenities, according to the Official Hotel Red Book and Directory:
“All rooms equipped with every convenience; cleanliness throughout our slogan. A recently added annex, fireproof; the spacious lobby is located on the principal gateway street of the city, being equipped with comfortable upholstered furniture, making an ideal lounging place. A good handshake greets your arrival. You are made to feel as comfortable as though in your own home. You regret the time to arrive when you must go. Our Dining Room facing the main street with a la carte and table d’hote service at reasonable rates attended by courteous white girls.”
At the time, the Hotel Huntington offered rooms at $1.50 to $1.75 per night, with bath privilege, or $2.25-$3.00 per night for a room with a private bath.
When the hotel was built, Huntington was in the midst of a period of economic growth, during which new businesses flourished and the city’s population grew rapidly. The Hotel Huntington benefited from this economic boom, finding no shortage of customers despite the construction of new hotels nearby. In 1921, a six-story fireproof annex was added to the Hotel Huntington. The basement and ground floor of the annex were used for the Huntington Sanitary Market, while the hotel had control of its upper floors. The Huntington proved popular among travelers who came to the city on business, and frequently lodged the members of visiting sports teams. During World War II, it hosted over 200,000 soldiers who came to Huntington for physicals at the Vanity Fair auditorium on Fourth Avenue. In 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy kept a room in the Hotel Huntington during his presidential campaign in West Virginia. Although Kennedy was headquartered at the Hotel Prichard across the street, the room at the Huntington reportedly offered the future president a bit more peace and quiet when he needed it.
Despite its elegant amenities and unique guests, the Hotel Huntington could not remain the newest and grandest hotel in town. Many other hotels were built during Huntington’s early twentieth-century boom period, including the Fifth Avenue Hotel in 1910, the Hotel Farr in 1918, and the Hotel Prichard in 1925. Indeed, when the thirteen-story, 300-room Prichard opened just across Ninth Street from the Huntington, A.E. Kelly managed it as well. Although these hotels came to eclipse the Huntington’s popularity, they had begun to struggle financially alongside it by the latter half of the twentieth century. Beginning in the 1960s, Huntington entered an economic decline that caused the city to lose nearly one third of its residents. As downtown businesses shut their doors, Huntington’s historic hotels struggled as well, and many had shut down or were near closing by the 1970s. The Hotel Huntington was no exception: after years of declining patronage, the aging hotel closed in 1973 and was demolished in 1976. Today, the Huntington C&O Credit Union occupies the hotel’s former site.
Casto, James E. Lost Huntington: The Hotel Huntington, Huntington Herald-Dispatch. June 16th 2014. Accessed May 25th 2020. https://www.herald-dispatch.com/special/lost_huntington/lost-huntington-the-hotel-huntington/article_1b285b3d-4df1-5806-b5f4-4915383be59f.html.
Casto, James E. Huntington Hotels of Yesteryear, Huntington Quarterly. Winter 2014. Accessed May 25th 2020. https://huntingtonquarterly.com/2018/09/27/issue-84-hotels-of-yesteryear/.
The Official Hotel Red Book and Directory. New York, NY. Official Hotel Red Book and Directory Co. , 1920.