Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Depot, Huntington West Virginia
Huntington began after the Civil War, born of the necessity of obtaining a western terminus for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. Between October 1870 and July of 1871, Colis P. Huntington purchased most of the land west of the Guyandotte River. He then formed the Central Land Co. and hired a Boston architect to lay out his city. The city of Huntington began as a railroad town and remains such to this day.
In the empire-building days of 1890 progressive Huntingtonians built a north and south railroad between Guyandotte and Kenova, the Huntington and Big Sandy Railroad. A few years later this operation was taken over by the Ohio River Railroad which by September 1901 was incorporated into the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad system, the oldest railroad system in the United States operating under its original charter. The location of the B & 0 depot was superior to that of the C & O for it rested squarely in the center of the business district, and hence came to play an important part as the focal point of Huntington.
The passenger station was completed in 1887 and represents the railroad architecture of that period. As with other buildings in the Huntington area, the freight building shows the growth of the city. The first section was completed in 1890 with a 98-foot extension added in 1897. By 1911, 75 more feet were added with the final 200 feet being completed in 1916.
This section, bordered to the north by Second Avenue, to the south by 2½ Alley, to the west by Eleventh Street and to the east by Twelfth Street was earlier a beehive of activity. Almost all of the automobiles which came to the Huntington area were unloaded here. The twenty-three bays of the freight house were active each day. The passenger terminal had a lunchroom with many trains arriving and departing each day. Students attending Marshall University arrived and departed, businessmen arrived and departed, some came to transfer to the C & O and others arrived from the C & O for more distant places. Activity was the byword of the station twenty-four hours a day. So much so that the Greyhound Bus Lines sought out the location and in 1945 built a frame addition to the west end of the building to house its Huntington depot. This addition still stands although it was discontinued as the bus terminal in 1952.
The depot was so prominent that Teddy Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding and Dwight D. Eisenhower saw fit to address the public from the rear of their campaign trains prior to their election. It was truly the heart of the city.
Today it stands vacant. The freight terminal is used for short-term storage, the yard as a parking lot and the passenger station with its lower floor windows boarded up--vacant. The entire area awaits the bulldozer unleashed by Urban Renewal. Yet it is one of a vanishing breed of old-fashioned depots, especially one in a dyed-in-the-wool railroad town.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Depot lies between Second Avenue on the north and 2½ Alley on the south. It covers the entire area between Eleventh and Twelfth Streets. The Second Avenue side is 440 feet long while the sides are 140 feet. There are two buildings on this plot. At the corner of Second Avenue and Eleventh Street is the former passenger station, Between Second Avenue and the station are two sets of railroad tracks. These have been abandoned as has the passenger station. The area between the station and the tracks is paved with brick and has become overgrown with weeds, The building itself is constructed of brick and has a slate roof with two chimneys. The main passenger section is of two stories while the baggage section to the east is of single-story construction. In the front of the building on the Second Avenue side, the major section is divided by a bay that rises from the basement to the roof. There are three windows in this bay with three windows on each of the flat sides which extend from it. On both sides of the bay, between the first and second floors, there is a tin-covered roof which extends outward a short distance. On the west end of the building, there is a single-floor wooden frame addition. The addition covers the entire west end. It was constructed as a Greyhound Bus Depot in 1945 and abandoned in 1952. This structure has asbestos siding and wooden trim. The east end of the building is a blank wall. The rear of this building is quite cut up. Again there is a projection in the middle of the building but this projection is square with only a door and window on the first floor and a single window on the second floor. Both of these face to the rear with no opening on either side. The square area does not exceed the eaves of the second floor. On both sides of this bisecting area are two single-story arms. Both have two windows facing the back and each has one on the end. The east portion ends with the main passenger structure leaving room for a rear exit to the baggage area. This baggage area has a large rear door with windows on each side. All of the windows on the first floor, as well as the doors, have been boarded up. The windows on the second floor are exposed and many of them have been broken. There is a basement but no attic in the building.
Directly to the rear of the passenger station is the former freight house. It is aligned with the west side of the passenger building along the 2½ Alley. It began as a two-story building which now has two rooms on each floor. In 1897 it was extended 98 feet, extended an additional 75 feet in 1911, and the final 200 feet were added in 1916. The interior floor with the exception of the original two-story section and the final 200-foot section is made up of wood blocks; the rest is concrete.
The entire building is of brick with a slate roof. The roof overhangs the loading dock which extends from the front of the building which in turn faces the rear of the passenger station. Along both the north and south sides and directly opposite each other are chain-driven overhead steel doors. In all, there are twenty-three stalls in the freight house along with three heavy-duty scales. The east end of the building comprises a large door on the first floor and two windows, for light, above. From this east end of the building stretches a loading platform with a drive up (or down) ramp.
Other than the buildings, the plot is blacktopped for parking and movement. There are two sets of tracks which are located in the middle of the plot and this area is now overgrown with weeds.