Hawthorne Historic District
The Hawthorne Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The Hawthorne Historic District [Park Hills Subdivision No. 1] is significant for Architecture for its association with the Colonial Revival style of architecture and its association with several well known Huntington architects and builders. The period of significance spans from 1900 to 1950. The Hawthorne Historic District retains all of its original characteristics as a prosperous residential neighborhood and is significant for its contribution to the city's architectural growth and history.
Collis P. Huntington, a native of Connecticut, founded the town of Huntington in 1871 as the western terminus for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. Huntington made his fortune selling supplies to the prospectors in California's gold fields in 1849. He first became involved in railroads with three other California businessmen and they built the Central Pacific, the western link of the transcontinental railroad. In 1869, Huntington bought a controlling interest in the C&O; at that time, a very small railroad in Virginia with little rolling stock. Huntington's plan was to expand the tracks across West Virginia to the Ohio River and its existing transportation system. Huntington came to the area and scouted the town location. He hired his brother-in-law, Delos W. Emmons, to buy up the necessary land for the town. Emmons purchased 21 farms with approximately 5,000 acres total. Much of the land was reserved for the railroad, depots, right-of-ways, etc. with the remaining laid out in lots. The town plan was designed by Boston civil engineer, Rufus Cook in a geometric grid work of broad avenues and intersecting streets, all consecutively numbered for ease of directions and addresses.
Cabell County was formed in 1809 from parts of Kanawha County with Guyandotte and Barboursville its largest towns. This began to change with the founding of Huntington. Collis P. Huntington, after having the town laid out, conveyed the remaining non-railroad dedicated land to the Central Land Company of which he was president. In 1871, the West Virginia Legislature incorporated the city of Huntington. Barboursville and Guyandotte were Cabell County's first county seats but by 1887 Huntington became the county seat and a new courthouse was soon begun. The courthouse construction was delayed by the Panic of 1893 but the construction was completed by 1901 with wings added in 1923 and 1939.
The first C&O train to arrive in Huntington from Richmond, Virginia was in January 1873. The railroad issued a promotional pamphlet in 1878 and it described Huntington, less than a decade after its inception, as having "a population about 3,000, and increasing; large saw mills, planning and flour mills and furniture factory, three public schools, five churches; and fifteen miles of streets (80 feet wide), and avenues for drives, opened and graded, taxation low, and no city debt."
According to the census, by 1890 Huntington's population was 10,108, surpassing only Wheeling. Huntington remained largely a railroad town through this period with various businesses opening to serve the railroad and its workers and patrons. The Ensign Manufacturing Company was chartered in 1872 to produce freight cars, wheels and other parts for the C&O. Ely Ensign, the manager of the plant, was involved in other business ventures in Huntington in addition to being its mayor in 1896. The Ensign plant located on Third Avenue and 23rd Street was producing 4,000 rail cars a year by the mid-1890s for railroads in the states and overseas. Ensign merged with the American Car & Foundry Company in 1899 and it is currently ACF Industries.
In addition to the C&O, the Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad became a subsidiary of the C&O and it became part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1901. With the arrival of a second major railroad, the B&O, the economic growth of the city was assured. City limits were expanded to the west in 1909 and to the east in 1911, with Huntington appending the community of Guyandotte, its former rival for the county seat.
Collis P. Huntington died in August 1900 and the Central Land Company transferred its assets to the new Huntington Land Company, formed by a group of local investors.
By 1900 Huntington's population had grown to 11,923; by 1910 it was 31,161; and by 1920, it was an astonishing 50,177.
The residential areas of Huntington kept pace with its business center. In November of 1913, Charles L. Ritter and his business partner, J.S. Perry filed and recorded a deed establishing the Park Hills Subdivision No. 1 on the south side of Huntington. This subdivision includes Hawthorne Way. The subdivision was laid out and platted by W.G. Wilkins and Company, Engineers. The subdivision is located to the south of Ritter Park [see Ritter Park Historic District] and north of Ritter Hills. Ritter was a successful lumber manufacturer who arrived in Huntington in 1901 and lived in Huntington until his death in 1945. He was an active businessman and acquired an interest in the Biggs, Watts Company changing its name to the Watts-Ritter Company. He was also a director in the First Huntington National Bank. He had a large home built in Ritter Hills and Ritter Park is named for him as he donated two tracts of land consisting of 20 acres to the city for Ritter Park. This land was in addition to the original 55 acres that the city had purchased in 1908.
Ritter was born in Pennsylvania and came to West Virginia in 1889. He began a lumber business in Oakvale, moved to Welch in 1891 and in 1897 moved his business to Charleston where he operated a plant on the Elk River. Finally, in 1901 he moved to Huntington and married his wife, Mabel McClintock in 1902. Ritter and H.T. Lovett were the first to build homes on the south side of Huntington in the area now known as Ritter Hills. He and Mabel had three sons and he spent the remainder of his life in Huntington. Ritter also served as the Vice-President of The Huntington Land Company which allowed him to purchase large tracts of land including the land which currently contains the Park Hills Subdivision. Ritter died in December 1945.
Several homes on Hawthorne Way were built for some of the area's industrialists and businessmen. The Frick Home, "Hillcrest", 1423 Hawthorne Way, was built in 1928 for Omar T. Frick. Frick who along with his partner, Henry Dourif arrived from Tiffin, Ohio in 1912 and built a plant for the manufacturer of ultramarine blue dye. When the plant first began it employed 20 people but eventually it became one of the region's biggest and best-known industries. The plant is located on Fifth Avenue and is now owned by BASF, a German firm.
Omar T. Frick was born December 17, 1870 in Evansville, Indiana. He began his career as a bookkeeper for Standard Oil in Evansville. In 1894 he married Margaret B. Shelly and they had one daughter, Marcia. He became a salesman later in his career in Chicago, Illinois and later in Savannah, Georgia. In 1909 he established the Standard Ultramarine Company in Tiffin, Ohio. Ultramarine was used at the time as a laundry bluing and the process had technical problems until they were solved by Henry Dourif, a chemist from France. The partners moved the company to Huntington because of cheaper natural gas prices. The company was first called Standard Ultramarine and Color Company and it eventually grew to encompass 27 acres and employed up to 500 people.
Frick was a charter member of the Rotary Club, helped to establish the Huntington Manufacturers Club, was vice-president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, served as Director of the Union Bank & Trust Company and was president of the Huntington Community Chest. He was also one of the founders of the First Church of Christ Scientist in Huntington.
Frick and his family traveled widely including to Europe, China and Japan. His first wife died in 1945 and in 1948 he married Mrs. Howard O. Dunbar. They had a winter home in Florida and a summer home in Michigan. Frick died in 1949 at "Hillcrest."
The home located at 605 Hawthorne Way was built in 1923 for Samuel Bierne, a prominent attorney in Huntington and West Virginia, by Charles A. Moses. Bierne married Marion Moses, daughter of Charles, who was responsible for the design and construction of the house. Moses was president of the C.A. Moses Construction Company and was the supervisor of the construction of the Cabell County Courthouse in 1899.
The Staker/Angel House is the oldest known house in the district, located at 1432 Hawthorne Way. It too is Colonial Revival and was built c.1900 for Mr. M.D. Angel who owned and operated Angel's Department Store located at 918 Fourth Avenue in downtown Huntington.
The Stevens/McNeer House, 705 South Boulevard, is also Colonial Revival style built c.1920. Selden S. McNeer was admitted to the Cabell County Bar in 1919 and was a member of the firm Campbell and McNeer. He was also president of the West Virginia Bar Association.
The area to the south and east of Park Hills, Ritter Hills, also contained many elaborate and decorative homes of Huntington's most prominent businessmen making the south side of Huntington a much sought after residential district. Ritter Park, just across the creek from Hawthorne Way, also contributed to the desirability of the neighborhood. The south side of Huntington became Huntington's first suburb c.1905.
The period from 1900 to 1930 appears to have been Huntington's greatest "boom" period. New businesses were opening and flourishing and construction within the city was moving to keep pace. Lumber companies and the glass industry were established in Huntington during this period. By 1911 Huntington had fifty-nine factories with a combined employment of eight thousand workers producing every sort of product imaginable from mattresses to freight cars. By 1900, the southern coalfields had matured into a major producer both nationally and internationally and Huntington was the natural transportation center for the market in addition to the coal producer's marketing agencies.
By 1930, Huntington was West Virginia's largest city with a population of 75,572; by 1940 it was only 78,836; and by 1950 it was 86,353, a slight increase from the previous decade and the largest figure recorded for any West Virginia city. By 1960, Charleston had outpaced that figure and was the largest city in the state.
The Hawthorne Historic District contains primarily Colonial Revival style homes from c.1900 up to c.1935. The oldest home in the district is located at 1432 Hawthorne Way, c.1900. It is a two and one-half-story, side gable house with flanking one-story, flat roof wings. The style is illustrated in this house through its large projecting cornice, brick facade, roof balustrades on the wings and entrance portico, large two-story tall entrance portico and broken pediment entrance door surround. The Touma/Francis/Bierne House, 605 Hawthorne Way, is very similar to 1432 Hawthorne Way, but it is a two-story, rear facing "L". The Colonial Revival style is illustrated in this house through its large projecting cornice, decorative dormers, brick facade, large two-story entrance portico and elaborate entrance door surround with broken pediment and fluted pilasters. The Touma/Francis/Bierne House was built in 1923 with two-story, curved end additions added in 1962.
A simpler Colonial Revival style house is illustrated in the Hawthorne Historic District with 619, 624 and 625 Hawthorne Way. The first two houses are c.1935 and the last is c.1930. The first two have very rough brick facades with "sloppy" mortar joints and dormers. 624 Hawthorne Way has a log wing with a stone water table and half-logs as headers over the windows. 619 Hawthorne Way has wavy wood siding on the dormers and both houses have inconspicuous entrances. This is a later adaptation of the style mimicking the characteristics of the original Colonial houses. These houses are smaller and less elaborate than earlier Colonial Revival houses.
Edward J. Handloser was the architect responsible for the design of the Frick House, 1423 Hawthorne Way. There is one other house designed by Handloser in a very similar style in Huntington. Handloser was also responsible for many of Huntington's downtown buildings. These include the West Virginia Building, built c.1924 in Renaissance Revival style; the Central Huntington Garage, c.1925, Italianate style; and the Morris Building, c.1910, Renaissance Revival style. Meanor & Handloser also designed the C&O Railway Building and the Ohev Shalom Temple, also in Huntington. Handloser was a member of the firm of Meanor and Handloser from 1912-1944. The firm was dissolved in 1944 and Handloser continued to practice alone in Huntington.
Another wonderful example of the Colonial Revival style is the Smith House, 609 Hawthorne Way, built in 1920 and designed by architect Verus Taggart Ritter. The house is a two and one-half-story, side gable house with flanking one-story flat roof porches. It has a clay tile roof, decorative dormers, projecting cornice with modillions and dentils and a large two-story, entrance portico with two-story tall Doric columns with Ionic caps. It has a painted brick facade and a central entrance with a sunburst fanlight and 6/6 windows. It illustrates Greek Revival detailing in the entrance portico.
The architect for the Smith House was Verus T. Ritter, born in Pennsylvania May 27, 1883. He studied under his brother, Meade R. Ritter who was a principal architect in the central Pennsylvania area. Ritter began his own firm in Williamsport, PA in 1908 and was instrumental in the design and construction of the Morning Press building. Ritter's professional career in Huntington began in 1909 when his cousin, Charles Lloyd Ritter, asked for his help in the design of his mansion on Ritter Hill. V.T. Ritter went on to design the elaborate Arts and Crafts style home of the millionaire, Charles Freeman, on his 250-acre estate on McCoy Road and than began the design for the First Huntington National Bank building in 1913-1914. V.T. also designed Huntington City Hall in that same time period.
Of the eighteen primary resources within the Hawthorne Historic District, twelve are considered Colonial Revival style. The Colonial Revival style was popular from about 1870 up through the 1920s along with the Tudor Revival and other revival styles of architecture. Revival styles were often used by architects for large homes of wealthy clients in newly developed suburbs. This is the case in the Hawthorne Historic District.
The Colonial Revival style characteristics include a symmetrical facade, a classical cornice and parapet, entablature, a decorative entry with transoms and sidelights or broken pediments and fanlights, large porches or porticos and often a gable roof with dormers. All of the Colonial Revival style houses in the Hawthorne Historic District exhibit some or all of these characteristics and are representative of the style in the 1920s.
The Hawthorne Historic District also contains architectural integrity with very few modification and/or additions. Where additions and/or modifications occur, they complement the as-built style or are inconspicuous to view.
Single examples of the Tudor Revival style, Prairie style and Ranch and Craftsman Bungalow types are also represented within the Hawthorne Historic District. All but the Ranch type of architecture fall within the 1920 historic time period and are representative of the architectural styles of the era.
As seen by the above homes, styles and architects, the Hawthorne Historic District is a good extant neighborhood of Colonial Revival style homes and represents two of the major architects working in Huntington in the early 20th century. The Hawthorne Historic District also illustrates the largest concentration of Colonial Revival style homes within the City of Huntington.
The Hawthorne Historic District is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for its concentration of Colonial Revival style homes. The period of significance, 1900-1950, relates to the construction date of 1432 Hawthorne Way in 1900 and goes to 1950, when the later homes within the district were constructed.
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† Firem of Michael Gioulis, Historic Preservation Consultant, Hawthorne Historic District, Cabell Counrty, WV, nomination document, 2006, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.