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File photo/The Herald-Dispatch An ornamental stone wall and a marble fountain greeted guests at the entrance to the Club Pompeii, the centerpiece of the Holiday Inn Downtown when it opened in 1975.

Editor’s note: This is the 131st in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.

HUNTINGTON — When the 11-story Holiday Inn Downtown opened its doors in 1975, the centerpiece of the long-awaited hotel was the Club Pompeii. Some people described the supper club as “elegant,” while others shook their heads and called it “hopelessly tacky.” But whatever you wanted to call it, it was certainly the talk of the town.

Internationally known singing star Della Reese headlined an opening night concert Sept. 29 at the club, designed to capture the look of the ancient Roman city which provided the club its name.

Just outside the club’s entrance stood a replica Roman chariot that was used in the famed 1963 movie “Cleopatra.” Inside, the club’s decor featured bubbling fountains, marble statues custom carved in Naples and colorful murals depicting the people of Pompeii at play. The club’s diners were served by toga-clad waitresses, the wine list was a gold-clad scroll, and the champagne buckets were red-plumed Roman military helmets.

But what really had the town buzzing was the make-believe volcano that dominated the room. Modeled on Italy’s famed Mount Vesuvius, it “erupted” every 30 minutes. There would be a thunder-like roar, a cloud of smoke and then flashing red and orange lights that simulated the flow of lava down the volcano’s sides. Huntington had never seen anything like it, that’s for sure.

Opening the new hotel was a big gamble for Harold and Dodi Frankel. They invested everything they had — and everything they could borrow — in it. Ultimately, it was a gamble they lost.

In the decades since, the downtown hotel has changed hands and names more than once. But people still talk about the Club Pompeii — and that phony volcano.

Were you at the Club Pompeii?

Maybe you remember the volcano erupting as you celebrated a wedding anniversary, or posing by the fountains on a special birthday. If you have photos from Club Pompeii, we’d love to see them.

Send your photos to news@herald-dispatch.com.

Make sure to identify each person in your photos, and you can include a little information about what was going on when the photo was taken, if you like.

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