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Newspaper's building has stood test of time

Jul. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- On May 21, 1923, Joseph Harvey Long celebrated his 60th birthday by turning the ceremonial first shovel of dirt for a new newspaper building that he vowed would be the most modern and most complete in the state.

Ninety years later, Long's landmark building has stood the test of time. While much remodeled and expanded over the years, it's still home to The Herald-Dispatch.

A Pennsylvania native who had learned the printing trade in Wheeling, Long arrived in Huntington in 1893 with a meager bankroll and a big dream. On his arrival, Long purchased a fledgling newspaper, the Herald, paying $100 down and pledging to pay the balance of $1,700. He published the Herald for only 18 months before selling it and purchasing another newspaper, the Advertiser.

Floyd S. Chapman, a future several-term mayor of Huntington, was the city editor of the Advertiser but later became editor of the Herald. In 1904, he left to begin his own newspaper, the Dispatch. In 1909, the Herald and the Dispatch merged to become The Herald-Dispatch.

That set the stage for a battle royal between the city's two rival newspapers, as Long's afternoon Advertiser slugged it out with the morning The Herald-Dispatch. Each was determined to enlist more readers than the other.

At that time, the Advertiser was published in a small building located on the future 4th Avenue site of the Keith-Albee Theater. But that was about to change.

The Fifth Avenue Baptist Church was then located on the northwest corner of 5th Avenue and 10th Street but the growing congregation needed a bigger building. In 1916, Long paid the Baptists $93,000 for their old church and they set about erecting their present church at 5th Avenue and 12th Street.

Long had the church building demolished and hired two of the city's best-known architects, the father-son team of Robert Lum Day and Sidney Logan Day, to design the new building he envisioned.

Robert Day was born in Georgia in 1853. The Days were Unionists who refused to support the Confederacy. As a result, the family lost their jewelry business during the Civil War. Leaving the South, Robert worked as a surveyor for his uncle, Martin Lum, who was chief construction engineer for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Settling in Huntington, Day went to work for the Ensign Manufacturing Co. In 1900 he began a contracting business, to which he added work as an architect. Some of his work included the Catlettsburg (Ky.) City Hall and the west wing of the Cabell County Courthouse. He and his wife, Mary Martha Johnson, had two children -- a daughter, Florence, who died in infancy and a son, Sidney. He retired in 1924 and died four years later.

Sidney Day was born in Huntington in 1887, graduated from Marshall College in 1906 and began working with his father. To further his education he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in 1912 with a bachelor's degree in architecture. He returned to Huntington in 1913 and rejoined his father's business. After his father retired, he continued working as an architect. His work included many churches, businesses and residences in Huntington. Among them were the Foster Memorial Home, the Beverly Hills and Highlawn Presbyterian churches, the Hite-Saunders and Emmons schools, as well as the Advertiser building. He died in 1968.

(The papers of the two architects, including the original plans for the newspaper building, are housed in Special Collections at the Marshall Library. They were donated to Marshall by Sidney Day's daughter, Mary Toneson, and his granddaughter, Barabara Toneson.)

C. Harrison Smith, a prominent local contractor, was hired to erect the newspaper building. A Pennsylvania native, he graduated from Marshall College and in 1914 entered the contracting business in Huntington. His many projects included an addition to Simms School and a dormitory at Huntington State Hospital.

In a page one article on the groundbreaking for its new building, the Advertiser reported the structure would be "three stories above the ground and two below" and would be built from reinforced concrete faced with pressed brick, terra cotta and stone. The article put the cost of the building at $100,000, with another $100,000 to be spent on "modern printing equipment, furniture, mechanical equipment and other features." The building, the article said, would measure 65 feet wide on 5th Avenue and extend for 80 feet along 10th Street.

"The Advertiser hopes to have the building completed by September," the article said. That was to prove wishful thinking. Rather than taking four months, it would require nearly a year to complete the building and ready it for occupancy.

The article indicated that Long and the two architects had made "frequent trips to large cities" to inspect modern newspaper buildings that had been constructed.

The building's design placed its entrance on 5th Avenue. The printing press was located in the basement, part of which extended out beneath the sidewalk in front of the building. A sub-basement was designed for the storage of newsprint. The other floors contained a variety of spaces, including a large room where the reporters and editors would work.

On July 8, the Advertiser published a half dozen photographs of the excavation dug for the new building -- "a tedious, laborious preliminary" -- and reported the contractor shortly would begin pouring the basement walls. At the same time, the newspaper offered a new completion date -- Jan. 1, 1924.

The building was back in the news on Aug. 19, with the Advertiser reporting that concrete had been poured for the first floor. When completed, the article promised, the building "will present one of the most magnificent spectacles in this section of the country. Not only will it be the most modern newspaper plant in West Virginia, but it will also be one of the most architecturally beautiful buildings in this and adjacent states."

The Aug. 27 newspaper reported that work had started on the second floor. An Oct. 2 layout of photographs indicated that work was proceeding on the third floor. A Dec. 2 story reported that work on the exterior was all but complete and plans were being made to move into the building "during the last days of February."

February came and went. So did March and April. Finally, on May 5, a page-one headline announced: "Moving Day for The Advertiser." With it a photograph showed a typesetting Linotype machine being lowered from the second story of the newspaper's old building. The paper installed a new press and new stereotyping equipment in its new building but everything else was moved from the paper's old quarters -- in the space of but a few hours, from Saturday midnight to Monday morning.

Tom Jobe of the Independent Transfer Co., which moved the Advertiser, said he wanted to buy the first two papers that came off the new press Monday afternoon and backed up his request with a $10 check. That was $5 each for two 5-cent papers. His request was granted.

As the press rolled on the Advertiser's first edition in its new home, throngs of curious onlookers crowded the 10th Street sidewalk where they could view the busy press through the building's big plate glass windows.

The Advertiser's new, modern building was the talk of the town. And so, not to be outdone, Dave Gideon, publisher of The Herald-Dispatch, immediately built his paper a handsome new building at 914 5th Ave., next door to the old Cabell County Public Library and just a few doors from the Advertiser. (The building now houses the Farrell, Farrell and Farrell law offices.)

The battle between the two rival newspapers raged for months and might have gone on longer, but peace negotiations were going on behind the scenes. On Aug. 8, 1927, the newspapers' two publishers announced they had reached an agreement to pool their resources. A new firm, the Huntington Publishing Co., was formed with Long as chairman of the board and Gideon as president.

The Herald-Dispatch abandoned its building and moved into the Advertiser's. The business and mechanical operations of the two papers were combined, although their news staffs remained separate. For the next decades, the old building's press published The Advertiser each afternoon, The Herald-Dispatch each morning and a combined edition, The Herald-Advertiser, on Sundays.

In 1957, the newspaper company purchased a new Wood Metropolitan press and installed it in the basement of a new addition constructed at the rear of the building. (Sadly, passersby no longer could look in and see the press whirling away.) As of 2013, the press, thought to be the last of its kind ever made, is still used every day.

In 1971, the local owners of the Huntington Publishing Co. newspapers sold them to Hawaii's Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Only months later, the Gannett Co., one of the nation's largest newspaper chains, purchased both the Honolulu newspaper and the Huntington papers. Gannett invested millions of dollars to modernize the Huntington papers, including the 1974 construction of another addition to the building, one that extended it to the rear alley.

In 1979, The Advertiser became one of many afternoon newspapers to discontinue publication, a victim of changing tastes on the part of readers who now much prefer morning newspapers. At the same time, the Sunday Herald-Advertiser nameplate was retired and The Herald-Dispatch became a seven-day-a-week publication. After The Advertiser folded, many of its longtime staffers moved to The Herald-Dispatch.

In 2007, Gannett sold The Herald-Dispatch to another national chain, GateHouse Media. A month later, GateHouse in turn sold the newspaper to Champion Industries, a commercial printer, business forms manufacturer, and office products and furniture supplier headed by local businessman Marshall Reynolds.

In 2009, the Herald-Dispatch celebrated its 100th anniversary in a building that was conceived and built by its great rival, Joseph Harvey Long for his Advertiser.

James E. Casto was a reporter, editor and columnist at The Herald-Dispatch for more than 40 years before he retired in 2004.