Editor's note: This is the 18th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON - When lumberman Robert Shore built his Florentine Hotel in 1887, its location on the southeast corner of 4th Avenue and 9th Street was considered "too far out of the business section." Most of the city's businesses were located on 2nd Avenue with only a few buildings on 3rd Avenue and even fewer on 4th Avenue. Nevertheless, Shore's hotel prospered.
The hotel began small, with only a handful of rooms but a large addition was quickly constructed. The addition transformed the small hotel into one of the grandest in West Virginia. In an advertisement in the 1891-92 edition of the "Huntington City Directory," the Florentine boasted of being "The Only First Class Hotel In The City."
The vintage postcard reproduced here wasn't mailed and so carries no dated postmark. But given the presence of two carriages at the curb and the absence of any automobiles it seems likely the card shows the hotel as it looked shortly after construction of the addition.
The Florentine dining room was a popular eatery and the bar was a favorite watering hole for the young city's political set. It's said that much of the city's political history was written in the Florentine bar.
But unable to compete with the new modern hotels that opened in the city, the old hotel saw its business steadily decline. As a 1933 story in the Sunday Herald-Advertiser put it: "The Florentine lagged in the race of progress and saw business drift elsewhere. During its recent history the hotel became a place to which guests were attracted chiefly by the low price of rooms. Age began to gnaw at the structure. Repairs became more and more expensive."
That hotel closed that year and most of the structure fell to the wrecking ball. Replacing it was a modern building with retail spaces on the first floor and offices above. A section of the hotel fronting on 4th Avenue was left standing and, renamed the Jones Hotel, survived until the 1980s before finally being demolished.