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A formal dedication of a new five-lane bridge spanning the Guyandotte River into Logan connecting the Logan boulevard will soon be conducted — or by the time of this publication — may already have been completed. The bridge, which is certainly a nice addition to the town of Logan, replaces a span that officially opened in 1953, even though the boulevard from the bridge to the Holden Road was not finished until 1959.

When the bridge was 90 percent completed and the boulevard from Dingess Street to Stollings was finished, a dedication of the completed boulevard to the bridge was conducted Feb. 11, 1953, long before most of us were even born. Logan Mayor Litz McGuire announced a list of invited dignitaries, who in the middle of winter rode in convertible automobiles from the bridge to Stollings, and back to the bridge, where ribboncutting ceremonies were performed. Governor William Marland, who 12 years later would be found driving a taxi cab in Chicago for a living, was in attendance, as well as the mayors of Williamson, Huntington and Charleston.

I doubt if Governor Jim Justice will be on hand for the new bridge dedication, and I figure Logan Mayor Serifino Nolletti will be the only mayor at the event, but — considering the election is over with — we still might see a few other dignitaries on hand for the historic occasion.

What a tremendous difference the boulevard must have made for those travelers of yesteryear when the only way to Stollings and beyond was through the heart of Logan. Things certainly have changed with a population decline of at least 24,827 people, when 61 years ago the Logan Boulevard was opened as maybe the single best highway improvement ever in county history, prior to the newest road opening from Man to Logan.

I can understand how people might argue that the completion of the Corridor G Highway from Logan to Charleston — or even the more recent completion of a “dream come true” four-lane from Man to the Logan Boulevard — might stand out as a more outstanding accomplishment, especially for residents of the Triadelphia area, who were for many lifetimes forced to traverse one of the most dangerous roads in America, just to reach Logan and beyond.

Still, one must consider that Logan County’s population today is listed as about 36,743 residents, while the 1950 census for Logan showed there were 77,391 people living here. By 1960, there was a decline in population in Logan County to 61,570, a loss of 15,821 people due mostly to the loss of coal mining jobs. So what’s the point of all of this, you might wonder?

Consider this. For the longest time, the only way in a vehicle to get through the bustling City of Logan to many outlying locations was right through the heart of downtown Logan via Main Street. Until the boulevard completion in 1959, anyone traveling from Logan to the areas of Ethel, Blair, Sharples, Stollings, Dehue, even Charleston, or any community on the way to Man and beyond, had to traverse through bumper-to-bumper traffic, either coming or going from those locations. There are those people still alive today that can verify that at times it took an hour or more just to get from Dingess Street in Logan to Stollings, a distance of less than a mile. The completion of the 2.67-mile boulevard was the end of a project that began in November of 1948 when a contract was called for the grading and draining of properties next to the Guyandotte River.

There are two important things of historical interest that should be highlighted in regard to the work on the boulevard. First, there were many influential residents of Logan who did not want the boulevard to be constructed. Aside from downtown businesses whose properties went from Main Street to the river, there were those residential properties (most of which still exist today) that enjoyed their riverfront locations that many felt added aesthetic and financial values to their real estate. Several fine homes existed from Holland Lane through the East End of Stratton Street, with their property lines running to the low water mark of the Guyandotte.

The second thing to be pointed out is that the boulevard, along with other highway improvements in southern West Virginia underway at the time, were part of Gov. Cecil Underwood’s efforts to improve the economic conditions of southern West Virginia’s coal fields, which were faltering. Underwood’s statements over five decades ago sound eerily familiar to those heard today by government officials when it comes to coal mining.

“I do not for one minute believe — as many do these days — that our coal mining areas are without hope, without promise, without a brighter future,” said Underwood. “Who among us can ignore the fact that in our coal fields we have some of the richest untapped supplies of surplus labor in the nation?”

The boulevard, officially designated as the U.S. 119 State Route 10 bypass around Logan’s business section, was started in 1948 and was completed in 1953 from just below Stollings to Dingess Street in its first phase. The second phase of the project included the construction of bridges at the Appalachian Power Co. plant and in Deskins Addition that tied the two sections together and also connected them with routes 119 and 10 at what was known as the Triangle intersection of Logan near the former Water Street Bridge, replaced now by a bridge that was dedicated as the William J. Abraham Memorial Bridge. The boulevard also connected with both Omar and Holden roads, alleviating traffic through Mt. Gay and Eliis Addition into Logan. A new Logan State Police barracks was then constructed near the Triangle intersection because of the “quick response” location.

The total cost of the 11-year boulevard project was reported as $11 million and was considered locally as a fantastic accomplishment when Gov. Underwood and other officials gathered December 7, 1959, at Logan Memorial Fieldhouse for the dedication of the final phase of the project. A near-capacity crowd heard the governor’s address at what was described as an “impressive ceremony,” prior to the governor leading a motorcade from the fieldhouse to the Deskins Addition Bridge where the ribbon cutting took place. That bridge is now referred to as the “State Police” bridge, even though the headquarters that was near it no longer exists.

Following the formal opening of the four-lane highway, the governor led the motorcade the length of the boulevard. The grand opening in 1959 preceded a better-than-ever Christmas shopping season in downtown Logan.

Now, some 61 years later, another chapter in Logan history has been bridged.

Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.