Circa 1924 photograph of the WVCOH. Courtesy of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, WestVirginia University Libraries in Morgantown, West Virginia.
The location of the Huntington East Middle School was once the site of an imposing brick building that served as the West Virginia Colored Orphans' Home. Established in 1899, and rebuilt in 1923 following a fire, the West Virginia Colored Orphans' Home was an important Huntington institution created by and for African Americans to care for some of the most vulnerable members of the community during a period of racial segregation.
The Colored Orphans' Home was closed in 1956 when orphan care integrated in West Virginia, and the building served many different functions through the ensuing decades. Following demolition of the building in 2011 to make way for the new middle school, Cabell County Schools created this website to serve as a permanent public record of the Home that honors the memories of the children who once lived there and encourages appreciation of the county's rich African American history.
Huntington East Middle School. Photograph by Trent Spurlock
The creation of this website, as well as preparation of reports and an oral history, were completed in partial fulfillment of the Memorandum of Agreement Among the Board of Education of the County of Cabell, the West Virginia School Building Authority, and the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer Regarding the Demolition of the West Virginia Colored Orphans' Home and the Construction of a New Middle School at University Heights, Cabell County, West Virginia. These projects serve to mitigate the loss of the Orphans' Home, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, by providing a physical record of the building and historical account of the institution that once occupied it. These efforts also serve to illuminate a significant chapter in Cabell County's African American history, and to shed light on additional sites of historical importance to the African American community that are worthy of recognition and preservation.
Bench made from lumber salvaged at WVCOH.
Photograph by Trent Spurlock.
The website, documentation of the Orphan's Home, oral history with Ms. Delores Moody, and a survey of African American Historical Sites were completed by Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc. (CRA), a consultant to Cabell County Schools. CRA would like to thank the following individuals for their time and valuable contributions to the completion of this project: Ms. Delores Moody, Dr. Ancella R. Bickley, Dr. Cicero M. Fain III, Karen Nance, Reverend Donte Jackson, staff members of Special Collections in the Morrow Library at Marshall University, and Debbie Campbell of the KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society.In addition to this website, Cabell County Schools has developed several features within the new Huntington East Middle School that honor the memory of the residents of the Colored Orphans' Home. An interpretive sign detailing the Home's history will be placed outside the main entrance, a display containing artifacts from the Home has been installed next to the library, and benches constructed of lumber salvaged from the Home are located throughout the building. In addition, a lesson plan based on the history of the Home has been developed for the benefit of all 8th grade students in Cabell County.