Photos

1950s car dealership sign uncovered in Charleston

Charleston Gazette photo by F. Brian Ferguson A historic sign for McMillion Chevrolet was uncovered during renovations along Virginia Street West.
Charleston Gazette photo by F. Brian Ferguson
A historic sign for McMillion Chevrolet was uncovered during renovations along Virginia Street West.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Workers renovating the facade of the Goodwill office building on Virginia Street West in Charleston found something they weren’t expecting recently. They discovered the building had once housed one of the city’s more well-known car dealerships.

John Taylor, director of mission services for Goodwill Industries of Kanawha Valley Inc., said workers found a hand-painted sign for McMillion Chevrolet emblazoned across the entire facade of the Goodwill Industries building at 209 Virginia St. W.

“There were four layers of stuff on that facade,” Taylor said.

Goodwill is turning the old building into a career center to provide training and help for local residents to get jobs. The $1.5 million renovation project, paid for almost entirely through community donations and sales at the Goodwill retail outlet next door, is expected to be finished next month.

Taylor said officials for Goodwill decided they wanted to take the building back to its original appearance on the front, restoring the building’s original brick facade. “We wanted to keep the integrity of that building, and we wanted to keep the history, but also make it modern,” he said. Officials decided to put in new windows, but keep the old brick.

But first they had to go through four layers of stucco, slate and brick. When they finally got to the original building front, they were surprised to find the McMillion Chevrolet sign.

 In the 1920s and later, the building served as a streetcar barn, then as a bus barn for the Charleston Transit Company. Taylor said Goodwill has owned the building for decades, using it for offices and as a storefront before a new Goodwill retail store was built next door.

“Our Goodwill has been in the area for 50 years,” Taylor said. “We knew about the car barn and stuff, but we didn’t know about the dealership.”

Local photographer Jerry Waters, who has collected information on Charleston history for his website,mywvhome.com, said McMillion Motors sold Essex automobiles at a dealership on the corner of Virginia Street West and Delaware Avenue in 1928. The company went on to become a major Chevrolet dealership…

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