Editor's note: This is the 71st in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
The city of Huntington's first school was a four-room brick building built at 720 4th Ave. in 1872, one year after the city's birth. Four more rooms were added to the building in 1882, but ultimately the growing student body prompted construction of a new larger school.
The first school building had been named for the Buffington family, members of which played a prominent role in the region's early history. When a new school was built on the corner of 5th Avenue and 6th Street, it was named Buffington Elementary. (The Board of Education then gave the original 4th Avenue building to the city, which used it to house Huntington's first hospital.)
The city's first school building had been severely plain, but the new school that opened in 1897 was an imposing, Victorian-like design. Old records show that in 1896 the school's principal was Miss Sallie Peyton, who was paid a less than princely salary of $60 a month.
Buffington once served more than 300 students. Its alumni include television game show host Peter Marshall and The Herald-Dispatch sports columnist Chuck Landon. By the 1960s, the school's enrollment had declined to little more than 200 and by 1975 it had dropped even lower, to 115. Citing the declining enrollment and the rising cost of upkeep for the aging building, the school board ordered Buffington closed.
On the final school day at Buffington, a veteran teacher told a Herald-Dispatch reporter that despite the building's peeling paint and cracked plaster, it seemed to have a soul; and leaving it was almost like a death in the family.
In 1976, the former school was sold at public auction, with Huntington Lodge 64 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) submitting the winning high bid of $181,000. In 1996, the John W. Clark Oil Co. purchased the building, demolishing it to make way for construction of a service station/convenience store.
For more Lost Huntington stories, visit www.Herald-Dispatch.com. Click on News then Lost Huntington series.