Editor's note: This is the 88th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON - From 1947 to 1959, the General Cigar Co. operated a plant at 1301 7th Ave., where it produced as many as 1.5 million White Owl cigars weekly.
From around 1905 to the early 1940s the six-story building had been the home of J.M. McCoach & Co., a cold storage business. The company used water from four artesian wells in the building to make as much as 120 tons of ice per day. Owner John McKay McCoach specialized in wholesaling apples, storing thousands of bushels and then distributing them throughout the South.
When General Cigar bought the building it spent $75,000 to make it suitable for cigar production. The company employed 500 workers, most of them women.
In a 1954 interview with the Huntington Advertiser, plant manager A. Jambe noted that the 1.5 million White Owl cigars produced each week would, if placed end to end, stretch for 16 miles. The plant's annual production would reach one-third of the way around the world. In the 1950s, a cigar smoker could buy a White Owl for 10 cents.
With the end of World War II, General Cigar, one of the nation's largest and best-known cigar makers, anticipated an increased demand for their product and so began a search for a suitable site for a new plant, a search that lead the company to Huntington.
General Cigar's Huntington plant operated successfully for more than a decade until 1959 when, in a surprise move, the company announced its closure. In an official statement, the company said the closing was unavoidable as rising costs had forced it to consolidate its cigar manufacturing operations.
In 1962, the building was purchased from General Cigar by Frigid Storage of Huntington. Since then, the building has housed various warehousing operations. The former Stone & Thomas department store chain used it as a warehouse for a number of years. Still standing and in use after more than 100 years, the building is now home to Watts Brothers Moving & Storage.
To read more articles from this series, go to www.herald-dispatch.com. Click on "News," then "Lost Huntington" series.