Its beginning as a railroad terminus is immediately apparent in Huntington, the second-largest city in West Virginia. It was established on the bank of the Ohio River in 1871 by railroad baron Collis P. Huntington because it was a convenient place to move cargo to riverboats. Today the Greater Huntington Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is housed in a former railway station, Heritage Village, which is being transformed into an incubator for locally owned shops. The facility also features an authentic locomotive, a renovated Pullman railroad car and the city’s first bank, notable for once being robbed by members of the Jesse James gang.
Huntington’s newest downtown commercial development also is named for its railroad heritage. Pullman Square has shops, restaurants, and a movie theater.
The Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society operates the Huntington Railroad Museum, open on Sunday afternoons from Memorial Day through September 30 if there are volunteers available. Visitors may call 866-639-7487 to make other arrangements. The museum has a Chesapeake & Ohio Mallet Freight Locomotive No. 1308, a C&O Caboose 90665, an Operation RedBlock Caboose, two wood-frame handcars, a one-man velocipede, a CSX diesel cab, an H.K. Porter 0-4-0 saddle-tank switcher, and a Fairmont gasoline motor car, among other exhibits. The society also operates train excursions, including an annual series of fall color trips between Huntington and Hinton, through the New River Gorge.
Huntington is home to Marshall University, founded in 1837 as Marshall Academy and named for the fourth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall. Its 13,500 students and location near downtown give Huntington a lively, youthful atmosphere.
The Marshall Artists Series helped rescue a Huntington gem, the Keith-Albee Theater, 925 Fourth Avenue. The movie theater was built in 1928 in the Baroque and Renaissance styles, and its ornate features have been lovingly restored.
History also comes to life in several other Huntington attractions. Camden Park, an amusement park built in 1903 and still operating with more than 30 modern and historic rides and attractions, is open May to September. For a more sedate excursion, the Madie Carroll House, built around 1810, is on the National Register and operated by a preservation society. It is open for tours by appointment. Huntington’s Museum of Radio & Technology has displays from the 1920s to the present spread out over 10,000 square feet. The museum, located at 1640 Florence Avenue in the former Harvey Town School, is open on weekends.
The Heritage Farm Museum and Village on rural Harvey Road has several buildings, including a country store, blacksmith shop, schoolhouse, church, and a children’s museum.
Other Huntington amenities include numerous specialty shops and restaurants, including a restaurant on an authentic sternwheeler. The Mark Twain Riverboat has a season of weekend dinner cruises.
One of Huntington’s premier attractions is the Huntington Museum of Art, 2033 McCoy Road. Located on a 52-acre site in a building designed by Walter Gropius, the museum brings traveling exhibits from around the world to Huntington and shows its own fine collection of art. The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays.
For more information about Huntington, contact the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at www.wvvisit.org.
Written by Jennifer Bundy
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