Diane Mufson: Morris Building fire revives many memories
My husband, Maury, and I were getting ready to have coffee on our balcony Sunday morning when we spied columns of thick black smoke from the downtown area. We knew there was a major fire and hoped that all involved would be safe.
We didn't yet know what a magnificent job the Huntington Fire Department and the nearby fire departments would do in making sure everyone in and near the Morris Building was safe and extinguishing the fire. The entire community owes them our sincere gratitude.
Later, when the fire was totally out, I had to visit the Morris Building and snap a few photos. After all, that's where I spent the majority of my professional workdays.
It all started in 1985 when we returned to Huntington after Maury's one-year sabbatical in Sweden. I wasn't planning to resume my previous job, and so I began looking for work possibilities.
It turned out that two friends, Natalie Schneiderman and Sheri Hanshaw, were also deciding what to do with their professional lives. Sitting in my living room one afternoon, we decided a group psychological practice would be right; we named it Affiliates in Psychology and Therapy.
As the other two women were gainfully employed and I wasn't, it was my job to find office space. Looking for decent office space in Huntington in 1985 was a challenge. I will not list the many unsuitable buildings I visited, but suffice it to say that the offerings were very slim.
The Morris Building appeared as a shining star in the possibilities of downtown office space. We arranged to lease a small office on the 5th floor from the Stark family. Our attorney, Bob Levy, had his offices on the second floor of the Morris Building with the wonderful curved windows providing an elegant touch.
Our office received a coat of paint and new carpeting and we moved in July 1985 with the minimum amount of furniture and a typewriter -- yes, a typewriter. We occasionally needed a copy machine and arranged to use the one belonging to an insurance firm on the fourth floor. Sheri moved away from this area the following year.
Our psychology practice grew; we added staff, a word processor and our own copy machine. By 1992, it was clear we needed a bigger office, but couldn't find a suitable one. Floyd Stark suggested we might want to remodel an absolutely unused portion of the 3rd floor in the Morris Building. I'm not sure the last time someone was in that area, other than to note that "Kilroy was here" graffiti adorned some of the walls.
Our new office, No. 301, included computers and a fax machine and was home to our practice for almost two decades. During that time we had the privilege to work with thousands of clients and numerous organizations. Natalie retired from the practice in 2000, and I stayed on to work for the psychologists we had hired previously.
By 2010, the new owners of the practice, now called Associates in Psychology and Therapy, decided they wanted to own their own building and bought an office condo in the East Hills Professional Building.
A quarter of a century of memories returned as I looked at the Morris Building after the fire. Here's hoping that the building, which was once grand and had a ballroom on the seventh floor, can be saved and especially that Drew and Megan Hetzer's wonderful new restaurants will continue to be part of Huntington's fun and memories.
Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is email@example.com. Her website is www.dianewmufson.com
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