Huntington's Historic Preservation Impressive to Bloom Judges

Updated 40 weeks ago by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter

Huntington's Historic Preservation Impressive to Bloom Judges
America in Bloom judges have come to Huntington. After their first half day touring parts of downtown, Barbara Vincentsen, one of the two judges, commented that “we have seen no liter since we have been here”, attesting to the conclusion that the city has been “incredibly swept up”.

Floral displays, city planning and volunteer efforts represent portions of the judging criteria, including historic preservation.

Vincentsen, who owns a medium sized award winning architectural firm in Westfield, N.J., complemented the historic district downtown.

“I’m glad you were able to save these buildings before the rest were taken down [by] the urban revitalization blight”. She added that the fruits of the past ten years of endeavors are now visible. “I know how long [historic preservation] has been actively going forward”.

Two projects particularly attracted her attention.

Huntington's Historic Preservation Impressive to Bloom Judges
Photo by Jeff Hedgecock

The New Jersey American in Bloom judge called the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center both “amazing” and “astonishing”. She explained that the “fact that so much has been well preserved is "unusual”, as this “does not happen often”.

Heritage Station impressed her also. She predicted the interior  “re-purposing” will allow it to “survive and do well”, adding that it is “nicely positioned” across from the steam engine and floodwall. Vincentsen called the exterior ramps and shops “fantastic”.

Judge Bruce Riggs called the Keith Albee in two words, “very cool”. Explaining that he has not seen an atmospheric theatre which has the blue sky and stars lighting on the ceiling, he hopes that the venue is soon restored to its original grandeur.

“When people recognize the value of an older building and rehabilitate it, the saving of that building is good for the environment. Its value increases. Neighborhood buildings increase because they are sisters. The more downtown that is renovate and fixed up … everybody benefits”.

Nearly echoing the value of Huntington’s downtown as representing bygone eras, Riggs said that “people come down and see what it used to be like when everything was in their heyday.”

Huntington's Historic Preservation Impressive to Bloom Judges

During the luncheon, County Commission President Nancy Cartmill provided a brief history of the Cabell County Courthouse, of which judges passed.

Constructed in 1899-1901 for $100,000, the West Wing was added in 1924 and the East Wing in 1940. Describing it as “a focal part of town”, she told the judge’s about the interior dome and rotunda.

“We apply for a lot of grants”, Cartmill said, noting that the commissioners try to undertake a major restoration of the beaux arts structure annually.

The current sidewalk replacement project cost about $200,000.  She displayed a recently published book on courthouses in West Virginia, which includes the Cabell County location.

Huntington's Historic Preservation Impressive to Bloom Judges

Following the luncheon, Roger Smith, Huntington Municipal Development Authority chairman, presented Huntington in Bloom with a $10,000 donation. He stated that the downtown “transitioning” has now “gelled” and the working together of labor , business and the municipality has been “gratifying”.

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