25 Greatest things to happen in Huntington in the last 25 years

By James E. Casto

Our 25th anniversary here at Huntington Quarterly finds us in a retrospective mood, looking back at what’s unfolded in our city since we published our debut issue back in 1989.

Yes, Huntington has suffered some setbacks in the years since. But, on balance, the simple truth is the good news far outweighs the bad. If you doubt that, take a few minutes and look over this list, compiled from suggestions by our staff and a cross-section of helpful readers.

The following events, offered in no particular order, add up to a portrait of a progressive community that’s made a number of laudable strides in the past quarter century:

Out with the Old, In with the New

Marshall University opens its long-dreamed-of new stadium. In the Sept. 7, 1991, opening game, an overflow crowd of 31,116 is on hand to see the Thundering Herd prevail in the contest’s final seconds, defeating the University of New Hampshire 24-23.

Breathing New Life into Downtown

Pullman Square opens in 2004, providing new shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities in downtown Huntington.

Rise From the Ashes Complete

Marshall wins the 1992 and 1996 NCAA 1-AA football championships and then moves up to the Mid-American Conference and Division 1-A competition.

A Growing Home for the Herd

The Marshall campus expands dramatically with a number of new facilities, including the John Deaver Drinko Library, the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center, the Foundation Hall, the Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Complex and more.

Changing the Game

Marshall undertakes a $20 million campaign to fund new athletic facilities, including an indoor practice facility, sports medicine translational research center, Hall of Fame atrium, soccer stadium and student-athlete academic center.

Going Above and Beyond

The late Joan and Jim Edwards set a new standard for generosity by donating a total of more than $65 million to Marshall, Cabell Huntington Hospital, the Huntington Museum of Art and other recipients.

Mayor Makes History

In 1993, Jean Dean makes history when she becomes the first woman to be elected as Huntington’s mayor.

Quality Care for the Region

St. Mary’s Medical Center, Cabell Huntington Hospital, Marshall Health and the Huntington Internal Medicine Group (HIMG) invest millions of dollars in new health care facilities and services, cementing Huntington’s role as a regional medical center.

The Golden Era of Marshall Football

In 1996, Marshall hires Bob Pruett as head football coach. With Pruett at the helm, Marshall experiences a golden era of football success, fielding three Heisman Trophy candidates in five years – Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich.

Preserving a Masterpiece

In 2003, the Hyman family donates the Keith-Albee Theatre to Marshall University and a private effort is launched to restore the historic theater.

Movie Madness Hits Huntington

Huntington goes Hollywood in 2006 as filming begins on We Are Marshall. Local citizens rub elbows with Matthew McConaughey and other stars as extras in the film. The movie premieres at the Keith-Albee and goes into nationwide release.

The Food Revolution

Jamie Oliver brings his “Food Revolution” to town, helping spawn a local movement to encourage Huntingtonians to lead healthier lives. The result: improved school lunches, Huntington’s Kitchen, Kids in Motion, the Wild Ramp, new 5K races, new bike lanes and more.

Downtown Gets a Makeover

Dr. Joseph Touma and other property owners renovate century-old buildings on the south side of Third Avenue, and Marshall transforms the avenue’s old Stone & Thomas/Anderson-Newcomb department store into a new Visual Arts Center.

Create Huntington

Create Huntington is established in 1996. A grassroots support network, it empowers people to effect positive change. The group’s goal: a community that’s more successful and inviting, innovative and thriving.

Back on Track

Heritage Station is revitalized with a bevy of new businesses including the region’s Convention & Visitors Bureau as well as numerous civic activities.

Hometown Customer Service

Amazon.com opens at Kinetic Park in 2011.

Downtown Fine Dining

Hungry diners have a tasty crop of new restaurants to choose from, including Savannah’s, 21 at the Frederick, Le Bistro, Prime on 4th, La Famiglia and more.

Bridging the Gap

In 1994, the Robert C. Byrd Bridge, the city’s first four-lane bridge across the Ohio River, is dedicated, and downtown’s old Sixth Street Bridge is dynamited into history.

Major Manufacturing

In 1996, Toyota breaks ground for a new motor and transmission manufacturing plant in nearby Putnam County. Today, the plant employs more than 1,300 local workers.

A PATH for Paul

Work begins on the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health (PATH), a growing pedestrian and bicycle trail system providing free, healthy recreational opportunities for the public. The system honors Ambrose, a Huntington native and promising young physician who was a victim in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Education for Excellence

Marshall opens its new School of Pharmacy, admitting 80 students to the inaugural class in 2012.

Fly the Affordable Skies

In 2006, Allegiant Air, an airline known for its low-cost, nonstop jet service, begins serving Tri-State Airport.

Keeping Ritter Radiant

Additions at Ritter Park include a handsome fountain at the park’s 10th Street entrance and a much-needed dog park.

Retiring in Style

The luxurious Woodlands Retirement Community opens in 1996.

New Beginnings

The former Marshall Community College gets a new name – Mountwest Community & Technical College – and a new building. In 2012, the school moves into the former Arch Coal building on Fifth Street hill.

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