Editor's note: This is the 191st in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON - The first home of Huntington's Union Bank and Trust Co. was a modest frame building built on the northeast corner of 4th Avenue and 9th Street. Its first building may have been small, but the bank had a big dream.
In 1923, the Union Bank installed a veteran Huntington banker, Robert L. Archer, as president, luring him from the old First National Bank. Starting as a bookkeeper in 1890, Archer had successfully served First National as a teller, assistant cashier, cashier and vice president before resigning to join the Union Bank.
Shortly thereafter, the bank moved to make its dream a reality when it hired the Huntington architectural firm of Meanor & Handloser to design for it an impressive new home - a 15-story building that for many years was the tallest building in West Virginia. Today it remains the tallest in Huntington.
The bank's old frame building was quickly demolished, and workers began constructing the towering new structure on the corner site. Meanwhile, the bank established temporary quarters at the Farr Hotel across 4th Avenue from the busy construction site.
In a series of newspaper ads, the bank kept the public posted on the construction of its new home. "The First Lap Is Completed," advised an ad published Aug. 30, 1924. "You will miss the rat-tat-tat of the air hammers, and can put aside your fear of red-hot rivets hurtling through the air. The steel construction work on our new building is a finished job."
The new Union Bank and Trust Building welcomed its first customers in 1925, but the bank's stay there would prove to be brief. Like many other of the nation's banks, it was forced into receivership by the Great Depression.
In 1937, the building's first-floor bank lobby was leased by the Walgreen chain, which remodeled it to house a drug store. The building itself was purchased by a group of Huntington businessman and renamed, becoming the West Virginia Building.