HUNTINGTON — A landmark "skyscraper" in downtown Huntington, the Coal Exchange Building at the intersection of 4th Avenue and 11th Street, is set to be sold by auction at noon on Thursday, Aug. 8.

"The owner of this building is retiring from the property owning and property managing business and wants to auction it off as the quickest way to close on a sale of the Coal Exchange Building and the two-story building next to it," said Joe Pyle, owner of Joe R. Pyle Complete Auction & Realty Company, which has offices in St. Albans and Shinnston, West Virginia.

The Coal Exchange Building, which is 14 stories high, has 140,000 square feet, while the smaller building next to it offers over 10,000 square feet, according to Pyle.

The buildings will be auctioned off together as one unit, Pyle added. The auction will be at the Coal Exchange Building.

"The buildings have great bones, and the inside will need renovated, but with the location downtown, close to Pullman Square and Marshall University it will be a great deal for any investor," Pyle said.

The owner of the building is a firm named Coal Exchange Building LLC - Huntington.

"Our clients are Mouwafak and Hanan Ghannam," Pyle said.

The Coal Exchange Building is the third-tallest building in downtown Huntington at 160 feet. The West Virginia Building at 910 4th Ave. is the tallest building downtown at 228.02 feet, followed by the St. James Building at 9445 4th Ave. at 161 feet.

The West Virginia Building has enjoyed success as a residential building, and Pyle says he envisions similar success for the Coal Exchange Building.

"It's offers a great opportunity for retail in the store fronts on the ground floors of the buildings and maybe offices or loft-style apartments in the upper floors," he said. "Downtown living continues to be a growing trend and a tall building, like the Coal Exchange Building, would be the perfect fit for the right investor."

While it's not on the National Register of Historic Places, the high-rise Coal Exchange Building in downtown Huntington is considered historic by locals. The building's tall concrete-and-steel centerpiece began life in the mid-1920s.

"Elaborately designed, with marble floors and walls in its lobby, it boasted offices that were larger and finer than any others in the city at that time," said Jim Casto, retired associate editor for The Herald-Dispatch, who has written about the building's history. "Not surprisingly, the building rapidly filled with tenants — doctors, lawyers and, of course, coal companies."

The Coal Exchange Bank occupied the ground floor, but the Great Depression resulted in its closure and forced bankruptcy on the building's owners, too. The property ended up being sold at auction at the Cabell County Courthouse in about 1933, and it is thought that that's when it was chosen by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway for its engineering department and other offices. Later, Kaiser Drug Store occupied the ground floor and most recently it was home to Glenn's Sporting Goods before it moved to 1040 3rd Ave. It also at one time housed many other companies, including Knuckle Sandwich, Kindred Communications radio, the Herd Insider, Greater Huntington Theater Corp., Jenkins Fenstermaker Law Firm, the Marshall University Research Corp., among others.

Pyle said that even though the building is not on the National Registry of Historic Places, it still could possibly qualify for state and federal historic tax credits.

"Those credits go by the age of the building and not if it's listed on the registry, but we don't guarantee tax credits," he said.

Today, the Coal Exchange building is vacant, Pyle said.

"Pre-auction registration and inspection begins at 10 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 8, and we will start taking bids at noon on site," he said.

For additional information, visit online at joerpyleauctions.com or call them at 304-592-6000.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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