Editor's note: This is the 284th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON — Banker and businessman J.L. Caldwell (1846-1923) was a force to be reckoned with in early Huntington.
When rail tycoon Collis P. Huntington arrived on the scene and founded his new town of Huntington, Caldwell moved quickly to take advantage of the opportunities this presented. In 1884, he and several partners organized the First National Bank of Huntington. Caldwell became the bank's president, a post he would continue to hold until his death nearly 40 years later.
He was one of the first to see the possibilities of the rich coalfields of southern West Virginia and worked tirelessly to tap that vast natural wealth. He built Huntington's first street railway and its accompanying electric lighting system. And he largely financed construction of the luxurious Hotel Frederick.
In 1887, he erected the Caldwell Building at 4th Avenue and 9th Street, one of Huntington's earliest business buildings. Over the years, the building would house various tenants, with Lawrence Drugs being perhaps the best known.
In the 1950s, the building was one of several downtown that were covered with metal skins in an effort to look "modern." In the 1990s, great-granddaughter Liza Caldwell presided over the removal of the Caldwell building's metal skin and its restoration to a vintage appearance.