Editor's note: This is the 187th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON - Burley tobacco long was a leading cash crop in West Virginia. In the early 1900s, West Virginia growers produced as much as 14 million pounds a year and brought their harvested tobacco to Huntington to be auctioned off to the tobacco companies.
The first tobacco warehouse in Huntington was a brick building at 3rd Avenue and 7th Street. Due to low sales, it was open only one year. In 1910, local sellers bought a former stove factory on 26th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues and opened the Huntington Tobacco Warehouse Co. The site was chosen for its access to the Ohio River and the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.
In 1917, Liggett & Myers built a four-story red brick building on 27th Street, just east of the tobacco warehouse, and opened a cigarette factory. The former factory was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
In 1925, Jack L. Knight purchased the tobacco warehouse. In 1980, his son, Jack Knight Jr., leased the warehouse to Allied Realty Co,, which later purchased it and renamed it the Pride In Tobacco Market. Operating each year from Thanksgiving to mid-January, the Huntington market was a bustling place with growers in long lines of loaded pickup trucks waiting their turn to sell, as buyers, auctioneers, warehousemen and others crowded the market's two sales floors.
But West Virginia tobacco production was devastated by the elimination of the auction market system which came with the end of the federal allotment program. The tobacco companies switched to direct contracts with large U.S. and overseas tobacco producers. This meant there was no longer a demand for West Virginia production, which was mostly limited to small producers. This dramatic switch forced the Huntington market to close after the 1997 season.
Today, REO Logistics (a successor company to Allied Realty) operates a modern warehouse complex in the former tobacco market and L&M cigarette factory.
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"Lost Huntington: Volume 1" is a hardcover, full-color book of some of the city's lost landmarks. The book is likely to be of interest to anyone who enjoys history and loves Huntington.
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