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James Lewis Caldwell Memorial

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.

HUNTINGTON -- Prominent businessman J.L. Caldwell (1846-1923) built Huntington's first streetcar line and was president of the First National Bank for nearly 40 years. In 1926, the Huntington Board of Park Commissioners granted Caldwell's family permission to erect in Ritter Park a marble fountain honoring him. The fountain is said to have cost $20,000 - quite a sum of money in that day.

The family located the memorial on the hill known as Gobbler's Knob, near the current park amphitheater. Over time the memorial's isolated location made it a tempting target for vandals, who carved their names and initials into its tall marble columns. Thieves carried off the floodlights that had been installed to illuminate it at night. At some point, the fountain itself, which had featured a constant stream of water, stopped working.

In 1939, one of Caldwell's daughters, Ida Caldwell McFaddin of Beaumont, Texas, complained that on a return visit to Huntington she had been "shocked and hurt" to see the monument's sad state. She asked the Park Board to either repair it or tear it down. Her request set off a years-long tug of war between the strong-willed McFaddin and the members of the Park Board, who apparently hoped that at some point she would simply go away. Instead, she continued to pepper the board with angry complaints. Finally, in 1945, the board directed that the once-grand memorial be dismantled.

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