Editor’s note: This is the 94th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks. To read more articles from this series, go to www.herald-dispatch.com. Click on “News,” then “Lost Huntington” series.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — In 1924-25, Huntington’s Union Bank & Trust Co. built itself a handsome 15-story building at 4th Avenue and 9th Street – and four years later went bust, a victim of the Great Depression. The bank building was then renamed the West Virginia Building, as it was the tallest building in the state.
In 1937, the building’s former first-floor bank lobby was remodeled to house a Walgreen Drug Store, a store that would prove to be a fixture in downtown Huntington for the next 24 years.
The Walgreen Drug Co. was founded by Charles R. Walgreen Sr. who opened a store in Chicago in 1901. By 1913, Walgreens had opened four more stores. By 1919, the chain had grown to 20 stores. Its later growth was truly phenomenal. By 1930, it had 397 stores and would go on to become the nation’s largest drug store chain.
The Walgreens on 9th Street was an immediate hit with Huntingtonians, who not only patronized the busy prescription counter but enjoyed what many said was the biggest and best soda fountain in town.
Some customers remember being waited on by Virginia Ruth Egnor, who worked at the Walgreens as a cashier, waitress, sandwich maker and soda jerk. Leaving Huntington for New York City and changing her name to Dagmar, she would go on to fame as a blonde bombshell on early television.
In September 1961, word came from the company’s Chicago headquarters that it would not be renewing its lease for the ground floor of the West Virginia Building. No explanation for the decision was offered.
The Thrift Drug Co. Immediately leased the prime corner location being vacated by Walgreens and even bought its inventory and fixtures. But soon Thrift Drug was also gone. In the years since, the space has housed a number of different businesses. Its current tenants are Village Collection, a women’s apparel shop, and Prime on 4th, a restaurant.