EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 132nd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON -- The designers of Huntington's downtown urban renewal project proposed that 9th Street between 3rd and 5th avenues be closed to cars and trucks and turned into a pedestrian plaza. City Council gave its approval, and the completed plaza opened in 1976.
Each of the plaza's two blocks had a fountain. A massive sculpture - crafted from metal donated by Huntington Alloys Inc. - was placed in the fountain that faced the then-new Cabell County Public Library.
The plaza's other block had a curious-looking three-level stairway. To reach it, people walked across a small bridge placed over the fountain. As they made their way to the top of the structure, they could watch water cascade down through a system of colored of colored glass panels.
The structure's official name was "Cascades," but many folks had less complimentary names for it. "That darn stairway" was one of the more polite.
From the start, the pedestrian plaza was widely unpopular. Ninth Street merchants complained that customers couldn't get to their stores. Vagrants and panhandlers were attracted to the plaza like a magnet. Many downtown shoppers and workers began bypassing the plaza to avoid them.
The thinking behind the plaza was that it would funnel people to 3rd Avenue's Superblock, but when year after year went by with the Superblock remaining stubbornly vacant, it became clear the plaza had outlived what usefulness it ever had.
In 1996, the plaza was scrapped. Car and truck traffic was restored, the fountains were demolished, the sculpture at the library was moved to a new spot in front of the Civic Center, and a wrecking crew made quick work of leveling the stairway that went nowhere.