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Iconic sign begins restoration journey

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PASS: A worker passes a saw to another worker standing inside of the old Huntington Theater marquee as they work to remove the sign in sections Tuesday.
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LIFTText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color: A 60-foot crane lifts the front section off the marquee around 1 p.m.

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

The old Huntington Theater sign that’s stood watch over downtown since the 1940s is on a flatbed headed toward Ohio to be restored, after two cranes removed the broken marquee, piece by piece, Tuesday.

Antiqology owners Adam and Rebecca Hanson, who bought the property last year with plans to repurpose the building, said the repairs are expected to cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” after a tractor trailer hit the sign on June 11, 2018 while attempting to make a delivery.

Rebecca Hanson said they cannot give a timeline for the restoration, since damages are currently being sought in court.

“We can really only go as fast as the court system allows us to go,” Rebecca said. “Our timeline is not a short timeline at this time, unfortunately.”

Even though Rebecca said the accident has consumed a lot of their time, energy and resources, she said they felt an obligation to restore the sign to its original state since their goal as entrepreneurs in the community is to “bring Huntington back to life.”

“The building really isn’t anything without that marquee,” she said. “This is downtown Huntington. This is an icon. You see it as you’re coming down the hill. It’s a landmark. This building itself has been here since 1904… It’s part of the community.”

While they planned to make cosmetic improvements to the exterior of the building, Rebecca said the marquee was not on the list until it was hit.

“The marquee was fully functioning before,” she said. “It lit up. You could hang letters on it. It was structurally sound. The drain worked properly, and it wasn’t shifted.”

Given the uncertainty surrounding the sign, Rebecca said they aren’t ready to announce detailed plans for the building, but she said the building will house several businesses.

“It will be an attraction for downtown,” she said. “We feel like it is something that Huntington has needed for quite a while, and it is something that will draw people from other areas.”

The removal attracted a small crowd of people. Huntington County Historical Society board member Kevin Blesdoe was there to document the process on video to remember the sign and its unfortunate recent history.

He said he’s glad the building is going to get new life from a local business, but he said he wishes the attempt to rejuvenate the downtown theater scene in recent years would have been successful.

“I’m glad they’re trying to restore it as opposed to just ripping it down and throwing it away,” Blesdoe said. “I’m glad on that part, but in another way, I’m sad that we couldn’t have made the old theater work as a theater, too.”

Rebecca said she hopes the company that hit the sign will do the right thing and pay for the damages, but she said if they don’t, they might have to host fundraisers to cover the costs or change their plans.

“I hope that’s not what happens because we think the community is going to be really upset if they see that this sign isn’t here anymore,” she said. “We want to give it back to the community if we can.”

When the Hansons moved to Huntington, they’ve created a brand around the charm of Huntington, and Rebecca said downtown wouldn’t look right without the marquee.

“It’s likely that there is nobody living here that has seen the front of this building without that sign, and we bought the building largely because it’s an icon and we wanted to preserve that. We want to keep it for other people to enjoy,” she said.