Huntington is a city in the U.S. state of West Virginia. A major river port, the city is in Cabell and Wayne counties at the confluence of the Guyandotte River and the Ohio River. The first permanent settlement, Holderby's Landing, was founded in 1775 in what was then the Colony of Virginia. The City of Huntington was founded as the western terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1871.
As of the 2010 census, the metropolitan area is the largest in West Virginia. It spans 7 counties across 3 states, with a population of 365,419. Huntington is the largest city in the MSA and the second largest city in West Virginia, with a population of 49,138 at the 2010 census. The Huntington-Charleston TV market is the 64th-largest in the nation.
The city is the home of Marshall University as well as the Huntington Museum of Art; the Big Sandy Superstore Arena; the Huntington District-U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the Collis P. Huntington Historical Society and Railroad Museum; Camden Park, one of the world's oldest amusement parks; the headquarters of the CSX Transportation-Huntington Division, the largest division in the CSX network; and the Port of Huntington-Tristate, the largest river port in the United States.
The largest employers are Marshall University, Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center, CSX Transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Amazon, DirecTV, and the City of Huntington.
The first permanent settlement in modern-day Huntington was founded in 1775 as "Holderby's Landing." The modern City of Huntington was founded by Collis P. Huntington and Delos W. Emmons as the western terminus for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) on a tract of land west of the mouth of the Guyandotte River, between the Ohio River and Four Pole Creek. Collis P. Huntington was one of the "Big Four" of western railroading who built the Central Pacific Railroad as part of the first U.S. transcontinental railroad (along with Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker).
Huntington was created as a hub for the C&O, which, once completed in 1873, fulfilled a long-held dream of the Virginias to have a rail link from the James River at Richmond, Virginia to the Ohio River Valley. The new railroad facilities adjacent to the Ohio River resulted in expansion of the former small town of Guyandotte into part of a large new city called Huntington. The C&O Railroad expanded east to Newport News (and coal piers), and west to eventually reach Cincinnati and Chicago in later years. After merging with several other railroads, C&O is now known as CSX Transportation.
The city was incorporated in 1871 just west of the earlier city of Guyandotte. Guyandotte, which became a neighborhood of Huntington in 1891, was founded in 1799 on land that was originally part of the French and Indian War veteran's Savage Grant. Meriwether Lewis passed the Guyandotte and Big Sandy River peninsula on or about Sept. 20, 1803, on his way down the Ohio River before meeting up with William Clark in Clarksville, Ind.
Huntington’s "boom" period occurred from the founding in 1871 until the Great Flood of 1937, which claimed 5 lives, caused millions of dollars in damage, left tens of thousands homeless, and led to the creation of Huntington’s floodwalls in 1938. Of the 40,000 people living in the flooded areas of Huntington, 25,000 were made refugees as fresh water and fuel was scarce. 11,000 people applied for Red Cross aid during the flood and the relief period.
Beginning in the late 1980s, the city shifted its economic base to education, tourism, and services, largely based on healthcare/medicine and biotechnology. Although Huntington successfully shifted the focus of its economy and remains a viable city, the population has never rebounded to its industrial-era highs. While 86,353 people lived in the city proper in 1950, a combination of suburbanization and economic turbulence caused a sharp decrease in population to just 51,475 in 2000.
Huntington has seen a major revival since the opening of the Pullman Square Town Center on the vacant lot formerly known as the "Superblock" in 2005, the filming of the Warner Bros. motion picture We Are Marshall in 2006, and the filming of ABC’s Food Revolution in 2010. During the late 2000s recession, Huntington remained economically strong, adding jobs when most cities were losing them, and becoming one of the few cities in the United States to see housing property values rise. As of the most recent census in 2010, the population is on the rise for the first time in 6 decades. The modern Huntington Metro Area spans 7 counties across 3 states and is the largest in West Virginia with a population of more than 360,000. The largest employers are Marshall University, Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center, Amazon, DirecTV, and the City of Huntington.
Shortly after Pullman Square was constructed, the city began work on upgrading the streetscape on Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street. Ninth Street was formerly known as the Ninth Street Plaza and was closed to vehicle traffic for years, which effectively killed most businesses there. Once anchored by Pullman Square on the north end, the old plaza was removed in 2006 and Ninth Street has once again become attractive to businesses. Fourth Avenue, known as the "Old Main Corridor," continues to be upgraded yearly with new lighting, artistic and pedestrian-friendly design concepts, and bicycle lanes.
The Huntington Mall, the largest mall in the state, opened a few years after the Arena in 1981. When the mall was built, the only other businesses around it were two bars and an Exxon gas station. Since the mall's opening, several retailers have built around the mall, including four hotels and several restaurants, as well as a Walmart Supercenter, the first Best Buy in West Virginia, and the first Sheetz gas station/convenience store in southern West Virginia. The Huntington Mall has a yearly economic impact of close to $400 million.
At the time of Huntington's founding, Holderby's Landing was already the home of Marshall College State Normal School (now Marshall University). The university was founded in 1837 as a private subscription school by residents of Guyandotte and the surrounding area. The landmark Old Main, which now serves as the primary administrative building for the university, was built on land known as Maple Grove, at the time the home of the Mount Hebron Church in what was then the state of Virginia. John Laidley, a local attorney, hosted the meeting which led to the founding of Marshall Academy, which was named after Laidley's friend, the eminent John Marshall who had served as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States from January 1801 to July 1835.
On March 30, 1838, the institution was formally dedicated by the Virginia General Assembly as Marshall Academy. In 1858, the Virginia General Assembly changed the name to Marshall College. On June 20, 1863, Cabell County, Virginia, was one of the 50 counties separated from Virginia at the height of the American Civil War to form the State of West Virginia, and the college fell within the new state. In 1867, the West Virginia Legislature rededicated the institution as a teacher training facility and renamed it State Normal School of Marshall College. This began the history of the college as a state-supported post-secondary institution.
The university is composed of eight undergraduate colleges and schools: the College of Liberal Arts (COLA), the College of Fine Arts (COFA), the College of Education and Human Services (COEHS), the College of Information Technology and Engineering (CITE), the Elizabeth McDowell Lewis College of Business (LCOB), the College of Science (COS), the College of Health Professions (COHP), and the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SOJMC), and four graduate colleges, the general Graduate College, the Graduate School of Education and Professional Development, the School of Pharmacy, and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, a regional center for cancer research which has a national reputation for its programs in rural health care delivery. On July 1, 2013, the College of Education and the Graduate School of Education and Professional Development will merge into a single College of Educaton operating both the undergraduate and graduate levels and the College of Fine Arts and School of Journalism and Mass Communications will merge into a single college, which has yet to be named.
Marshall's sports teams are known as the "Thundering Herd." The home field for the football program is James F. Edwards Field at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Basketball is played at the Cam Henderson Center. Soccer will be played at Veterans Memorial Soccer Stadium (under construction), and the baseball teams are awaiting a new stadium. The school colors are kelly green and white. Marshall participates in NCAA Division I (FBS for football) as a member of Conference USA. The name Thundering Herd came from a Zane Grey novel released in 1925, and a silent movie of the same two years later. Marshall teams were originally known as the Indians, and the green-white colors came in 1903, replacing black and blue. The Herald-Dispatch sports editor Carl "Duke" Ridgley tagged the team with the Thundering Herd name, but many other nicknames were suggested over the next thirty years, including Boogercats, Big Green, Green Gobblers, Rams, Judges and others. In 1965, students, alums and faculty settled on Thundering Herd in a vote, and Big Green was given to the athletic department's fund-raising wing. Sports at the school include women's softball, swimming & diving, tennis, volleyball, and track & field; men's football, baseball; and teams for both genders in basketball cross country, golf, and soccer. Marshall also fields club teams, not affiliated with the MU Athletic Department, in rugby union for both women and men, men's and women's lacrosse, and an equestrian team that competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.
Southern Airways Flight 932
On Nov. 14, 1970, a chartered Southern Airways McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 jet transporting 75 Marshall University football players, coaches, staff, and supporters crashed just short of the Tri-State Airport in adjoining Ceredo, West Virginia. Everyone on board was killed.
The story was dramatized in the Warner Bros. motion picture We Are Marshall, starring Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox. The film was released locally on Dec. 12, 2006, and nationally on Dec. 22, 2006. The movie depicts the aftermath of the aviation disaster for the families and university.