Huntington City Hall
Huntington's City Hall was completed in 1915 and reflected the rapid growth and optimism of the city at that time. The Neoclassical building features terra-cotta details, large Corinthian columnns, and an elaborate public auditorium with ornate chandeliers, woodwork, and marble staircases. It was the third city hall built for Huntington, and replaced a structure on Fourth Avenue that also housed the police department, fire department, jail, and county courthouse. City Hall, the Cabell County Courthouse, the Post Office Building (today a federal courthouse), and the Carnegie Public Library were all built between 1899 and 1914 and formed a concentration of governmental and civic architecture in Huntington’s downtown area. City Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 as part of the Downtown Huntington Historic District.
Backstory and Context
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Huntington’s first city hall was created shortly after the city was incorporated in 1871. It was a simple, twenty-four-foot by fourteen-foot frame structure on the corner of Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue. This was merely a temporary structure; in 1886 the city council built a larger, red brick building on the 400 block of Ninth Street. In addition to the municipal government, this facility also housed Huntington’s fire department, police department, and jail. From 1887 until 1901 it also housed the Cabell County Court until a new courthouse building was constructed.
In February 1911 city leaders determined that Huntington needed a larger, more impressive city hall to signify the city’s growth and prosperity. A plot of land was purchased on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street for $44,000, an extravagant sum at the time. The new city hall would be located across the street from both the Cabell County Courthouse and the post office building (today the Sidney L. Christie Federal Building); it was also a short walk away from the Carnegie Public Library. These facilities made this area on Fifth Avenue the center of governmental and civic activity in Huntington.
Local architect Verus T. Ritter was contracted to design the new city hall. Some of his other notable works in Huntington included the Huntington High School building, Huntington National Bank Building, Central Christian Church, and Johnson Memorial Methodist Church. Construction of City Hall was completed by 1915 at a cost of around $115,000. The building was designed in the Neoclassical style, which was a common feature of public buildings at that time. The structure included brick, granite, and limestone, with some terra-cotta ornamentation and Corinthian columns. Shortly after the opening of the new city hall, the former building from 1886 was demolished.
One notable component of City Hall is a 2,500 seat auditorium located in the center of the building. The ornate facility hosts a number of community performances and events. At one point the auditorium sat disused and was used as storage space. During the 1980s proposals were floated to convert the auditorium into offices. Instead the auditorium was restored as part of a series of renovations and redecorating to City Hall undertaken by the City of Huntington Foundation in the late 1980s. The refurbishment project was directed by Jean Stephenson; in honor of her efforts, the auditorium was renamed the Jean Stephenson Auditorium in 1992.
Casto, James E. “History of City Hall.” Accessed July 2, 2019. http://www.cityofhuntington.com/city-government/history-of-city-hall.
Casto, James E. Huntington: An Illustrated History. Northridge, CA: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1985.
Casto, James E. Huntington Chronicles. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2018.
Gioulis, Michael. “Downtown Huntington Historic District (Boundary Increase and Additional Documentation).” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. 2006. Accessed July 2, 2019. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/cabell/07000240.pdf.