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Central City Bung Company

By Jean McClelland

Central City Bung Factory

Central City Bung Company was located in present-day West Huntington between 14th and 15th streets and between Monroe and Jackson avenues. It was once the world's largest producer of bungs. Because of it, Central City became known as the "Bung Capital of the World." Photograph courtesy of the West Huntington Public Library.

On the west end of modern-day Huntington are the reminders of a once-thriving industrial community called Central City. Among the many manufacturers and thriving industries based there 100 years ago was the world's largest maker of bungs - carved wooden stoppers that were used in the barrel industry. The business was called Central City Bung Company, and in honor of its success, Central City was called the "Bung Capital of the World."

Originally located in Wirt County along the Little Kanawha River, the company suffered a devastating fire in the early 1890's. Chief stockholder John Hale was approached by some ambitious entrepreneurs from young Central City and was encouraged to move his business to the new town along the Ohio River. They offered to sell him a full city block for next to nothing in exchange for the move. The property they offered was located between 14th and 15th streets, bordered by Monroe and Jackson avenues.

An attractive incentive for Hale was the ready market available for his product due to a number of locally owned breweries. There was also a keg manufacturer, a whiskey distillery, two railroads, and river transportation available nearby, not to mention the almost limitless flow of cut hardwood timber B the raw material used to make bungs B constantly moving through the valley. It was a good deal for Hale. His renamed Central City Bung Company opened for business in 1894.

At its peak, the plant included a main woodworking building, three warehouses, a coopers' shed, and an engine room. To guard against fire, the company not only had one of the earliest sprinkler systems installed, but added its own water tower, just in case the city water failed to meet its needs.

You can read the rest of this article in the Fall 2003 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.