Established in 1837 on a bucolic site two miles west of Guyandotte and named Marshall Academy to honor Chief Justice John Marshall, this institution came under control of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 1850. In 1858 the Virginia General Assembly approved a change of name and status, and, when West Virginia was created five years later, Marshall and Bethany were the only two colleges in the new state. In 1867 Marshall became a state normal school. Construction was begun on “Old Main” in 1869, two years before Huntington was incorporated. The rural campus was soon surrounded by the rapidly growing city, and Huntington's residents soon came to regard Marshall as “our college.” Until 1915, the greatly enlarged Old Main housed almost the entire institution. The 1930s witnessed a major building program, commencing with the Georgian Revival Morrow Library. The college president declared that the library's “compelling character has doubtless fixed the architectural plan of the institution for all time,” and the dedicatory program emphatically announced that “all permanent buildings of the future shall be of this type of architecture.” This remained true, more or less, for several decades, but hardly for all time.
Marshall College became Marshall University in 1961, and the physical plant was soon expanded to keep up with increased enrollment. Buildings erected during the self-proclaimed “decade of progress” (1974–1984), designed by the Huntington firm of Dean and Dean, showed little allegiance to the Georgian style, and more recent construction has shown none at all. Even Morrow has been altered, and whereas red brick remained the material of choice longer than the Georgian Revival style did, recent construction has now supplanted that material as well. Marshall now enrolls 12,500 students and, with a 1,250-person staff, is Huntington's largest employer.