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Crews extinguish downtown fire

Jul. 27, 2014 @ 03:01 PM

HUNTINGTON — Huntington Fire Department crews are wrapping up the scene of the 4th Avenue fire that they battled for about four hours Sunday.

 Everyone safely got out of the building confirmed Gordon Merry, Cabell County EMS director.

ABOUT THE MORRIS BUILDING

The Morris Building, located on the southwest corner of 4th Avenue and 9th Street Plaza, was built originally as the Farr Hotel by John Farr, a Huntington coal operator and building supply dealer. Farr was instrumental in developing and incorporating Central City - which now is known as West Huntington - in 1893.

What's not generally known is that the structure was intended to have 14 floors. But old files in The Herald-Dispatch's library indicate that as construction costs soared during World War I, the building was halted at the seventh floor.

Several years later, the hotel was renamed the Governor Cabell - after William H. Cabell, governor of Virginia from 1805 to 1808, for whom also Cabell County was named. It was closed in 1965 and served for the next four years as a residential facility for the Huntington Women's Job Corps Center. During that time, it was known as Cabell Hall.

The West Virginia Grand Lodge International Order of Odd Fellows sold the building to Helen Morris, widow of the late real estate broker R. Taylor Morris, in 1972. Known for a while as the 401 Building, it was remodeled to feature offices and apartments. For several years, the building was the downtown headquarters for Foard-Harwood Shoes.

Two popular local restaurants -- Backyard Pizza and The Peddler -- are currently on the first floor

Backyard Pizza manager Oliver Bailey said he was making breakfast and heard a bang, like a transformer exploding.

Bailey ran up to the 5th, 6th and 7th floors to alert residents to get out of the building.

According to reports from the scene, the roof  collapsed on the 4th Avenue side of the building.

One firefighter suffered a leg injury around noon, but no other injuries were reported.

Fire departments battling the fire include Huntington, Barboursville, Green Valley, Ceredo and Ohio River Road. Cabell and Lavalette EMS are also on the scene.

4th Avenue between 8th and 9th streets will remain closed for at least part of the day, and officials hopes to reopen it tonight, said Hank Dial, spokesperson for the Huntington Police Department.

 Fifth Avenue is already re-opened to traffic.

  AEP was turning off the power to parts of 4th Avenue near the impacted area as of about 2 p.m., that should be a temporary situation.

 Businesses in the next block of 4th Avenue, between 9th and 10th streets were open for business Sunday afternoon, including Rio Grande and St. Mark’s across from the Keith-Albee.

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