There is not a single building in the town of Logan that is not historically connected to the annals of times past where the names of many civic, business, and political leaders strived and even thrived in what was an ever-growing city full of vigor and vision — most of which occurred in the first 30 years of the 20th century.
Although few people really have given it much thought because history never looks like history when you are living through it, the fact is that there are numerous structures in Logan which are over 100 years old. Those buildings, like others which are not quite as aged, all were a part of a past where each brick in every property has outlasted the person(s) who had the vision to develop the real estate.
Just as time has taken its toll on the former proprietors who chose to invest their time and money into the improvements that once glorified downtown Logan, so it is that the buildings they saw fit to sponsor appear almost sadly weeping, as they await any possible rejuvenation that could come their way.
Some concrete dinosaurs, such as the former Midelburg Theatre building — often referred to as the former Sayer Brothers building — gave way to the forces of nature and began collapsing onto Dingess Street before forced demolition in 2019 left a grassy reminder of a small piece of land that once was a barn lot for the Buskirk family prior to the acclaimed movie theatre opening in 1917. There are those persons still alive today that can attest to the grandeur that once existed there when it was a movie theatre.
The names associated with many of the establishments that were erected largely over what once was an Indian burial ground in much of downtown Logan — particularly Dingess, Stratton, Cole, and Main Streets — are of historical significance because of their roles in local history. For instance, renowned former Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin, a man hated by some and loved by others for his role in the so-called “Battle of Blair Mountain” and many other matters, is one person whose name can be found on the transactions of many Logan properties, in some cases even before he first became sheriff in 1912.
Certainly, there are structures in Logan that have either burned, been removed for some other reason, or perhaps still stand, although some properties are far from ever being rejuvenated — their former owners and heirs long gone, and many times the taxes left unpaid, the premises eventually being sold for that reason. However, with rubberized roofs being utilized on such flat-roofed structures as the former five-story White and Browning building on Stratton Street, the life of such heritage-filled concrete monuments of yesteryear have been given an extension to their very existence.
From the first bus terminal building built in Logan that opened in 1928 on the corner of Dingess and Main Street, where decades of history has unfolded even in the barber shop that still exists there, to the once-spectacular Aracoma Hotel that was gutted by fire in 2010, there is much historical significance to every property within Logan, and even beyond.
One such property that was auctioned off just yesterday is that of the five-story building some older folks just refer to as the “old bank building,” it being the former home of what was the National Bank of Logan located on the corner of Hudgins and Stratton streets.
Without delving into the long and storied banking industry of Logan County, I find it interesting that the location prior to the five-story building becoming in 1953 the new home of The National Bank of Logan — which had opened in 1934 just across the street following all banks in the county closing and millions of dollars being lost to stockholders and depositors during the stock market crash of 1929. The former National Bank building still stands directly across Hudgins Street and is serving as the current location of Logan Audiology, owned and operated by Dr. Vernon Mullins.
Like all of Logan, there is much to be said about the buildings and the secrets they hold. However, unlike most other surrounding properties, the five-story building that was just auctioned was more of a “rose between the thorns” in that it once was the most modern building in Logan. What most people do not realize is that it was the first “Macy’s” — so to speak — of its time period.
It was 1928 when O.J. Morrison’s Department store purchased the property for $8,000 from Guyan Supply Company. Construction of the building that features some marble walls and a beautiful mezzanine that is the highlight of the structure began shortly thereafter and it remains warmed by steam heat, but the building lacks central air conditioning. An elevator continues to operate, although emergency stairwells exist.
O.J. Morrison’s was a popular franchise particularly during the 1940-1950 era, although O.J. Morrison actually opened his first store in 1890 and later expanded to other areas of West Virginia and Ohio. The multimillion-dollar corporation was very successful and family-run until 1985. The Logan location, however, was purchased in 1953 by the stockholders of Logan Realty Company, which really was the National Bank of Logan stockholders.
As a department store, O.J. Morrison’s offered clothing, shoes and other household items, and like G.C. Murphy’s department store (better known as the Dime Store), which operated next door, had found success in small and medium-sized towns that had previously been served only by stores owned by various mining companies or related businesses. By 1980, there were 448 G.C. Murphy locations across the nation.
In 1985, the company was acquired by Ames Department Stores Inc., which renamed some stores as “Murphy Marts” and sold its holdings in 1989 to McCrory’s. That chain filed for bankruptcy in 1992. By 1997, all G.C. Murphy’s stores were closed. Many fond memories of childhood visits to the “Dime Store” still resonate amongst the many Loganites who came with parents to shop in Logan prior to the store’s closing.
Although there are currently several office spaces available for lease or rent in the former Morrison’s building, at one time every floor was leased by doctors, lawyers and business people. For example, in 1932 when Logan Memorial Park at McConnell had become the county’s most popular cemetery, those persons desiring to purchase a grave plot in that new cemetery, which promised perpetual care, would do so by visiting Room 405 of the Morrison Building to view a map and choose a grave plot.
The property that was the subject of auction yesterday has changed hands numerous times beginning in 1897, and it was once the subject of a chancery lawsuit that preceded the location of what was described as the Ghiz Brothers Fruit Store.
In 1995 Montera Development Inc. purchased the property from what was then Bank One for $280,000. Six years later, following bankruptcy by Montera, Thomas and Jackie Tomblin bought the building, which today is listed as being owned by the same family doing business as T&T Investments.
The Logan County Assessor’s land books show the 2020 taxes on the property as being $4,236.60 for that tax year. The property is shown to be appraised at $231,492.
Although at the time of this writing it is not known who will purchase the city landmark or what plans may lie ahead for the long standing edifice, it is interesting to recognize that in 1927 when Sam Ghiz paid $43,000 for the real estate the value in today’s dollars is equivalent to $624,287.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.