EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 198th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON - In the spring of 1985, you could get new eyeglasses, buy some exotic martial arts weapons or enjoy a tasty sub sandwich in the shops on the first floor of the old Jones Hotel building in the 900 block of 4th Avenue.
But the days for the shops were numbered. The building would soon be demolished.
The Jones Hotel was originally part of the historic Florentine Hotel. When it opened in 1887, the Florentine, located on the southeast corner of 4th Avenue and 9th Street, had only a handful of rooms. But the hotel immediately prospered, and a large addition was soon constructed. The addition transformed the small hotel into one of the grandest in West Virginia.
But time marches on and, as new, modern hotels were built, the Florentine saw its business steadily decline. Ultimately, the old hotel's chief appeal was the low price of its rooms.
The Florentine was closed and demolished in 1933. But a four-story section of the hotel fronting on 4th Avenue was left standing and, renamed the Jones Hotel, continued in business. For years, its guests were mostly like those who had been attracted by the cheap rooms at the Florentine.
It's unclear when the Jones Hotel closed, but the building's upstairs floors had long been vacant and used when a city inspection in April 1985 found that the building's roof, which once just leaked, had bowed under the weight of that winter's snows. The inspection also revealed the building's electrical system didn't meet city code. The city pronounced the old hotel building unsafe to occupy, and the decision was made to demolish it.
Facing eviction, the building's storefront tenants - Sturgeon's Opticians, Spears Martial Arts School and Supply and D-Subs - scrambled to find new locations. (The accompanying 1985 photo shows an awning lettered for Huntington Main Street, but it in fact had closed earlier in the year.) Soon the structure fell to the wrecking ball.
Today, the site, next door to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, is a parking lot.