from Eyewitness News Online
March 31, 1983 - The Diamond Announces Closing
By Heath Harrison
March 14, 2013
Built at the height of the Roaring Twenties, The Diamond department store was one of the best-known retail establishments in West Virginia for 56 years.
The store's long history began in 1927, when it was opened on the corner of Capitol and Washington streets by merchants Wehrle B. Geary and A. W. Cox. The business quickly thrived in its location, and eventually expanded to offer seven floors of retail space.
The store was connected by 10 escalators, the first ever in the state. Their installation was announced in a two-page newspaper ad at the time as the store's "Christmas gift" to the people of West Virginia.
The largest department store in the state for decades, The Diamond was known for its wide inventory, including clothing, wigs, home furnishings, toys, craft and art supplies, fine jewelry, china and appliances.
The store also offered a portrait studio, a Hickory Farms location, a lunch counter and a fifth floor cafeteria. It's elaborate window displays are well-remembered by shoppers, particularly the corner toy window during the Christmas shopping season.
At its peak, the Diamond also maintained a branch location in Vienna, W.Va.
The store was purchased by Associated Dry Goods in 1956, who kept ownership until 1983. Facing competition from the soon-to-open Charleston Town Center, which would move the city’s shopping traffic away from Capitol Street, the store was liquidated and closed.
Following the store’s closing, the Diamond briefly became home to a Burlington Coat Factory location, before going vacant. The building was eventually purchased by the state and now houses West Virginia government offices.
This week’s video, courtesy of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History archives, begins with silent footage of Capitol Street during its retail prime, before moving inside to give us a look at the Diamond’s interiors (with partial narration). The clip wraps up with WCHS footage from March 31, 1983, as employees react to the announcement that the store would close in six weeks, bringing an end to a longtime Charleston institution.
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