When it came to expressing his love and his faith in the future of his hometown, John B. Christie put his money where is mouth is. Through Liberty Holding Group, a commercial real estate company he founded and owned, Christie probably owned, developed and managed more commercial properties and businesses in Ashland than any other individual.
His holdings included the Skytower, the historic Ben Williamson Supply building, the former Star’s Fashion World building, the Putnam Agency building that was once the home of Third National Bank (now PNC), and many other structures. While there are many vacancies in those buildings, Christie displayed a knack for renovating old, historic buildings and luring businesses to locate in them. While still far from being a vibrant business center, downtown Ashland would be much worse off to day than it is if not for the impact of John Christie. Like his wife, Alison, is, John Christie was an excellent salesperson and a strong advocate for Ashland.
John Christie’s death Wednesday at 56 is a shocker to us and a real loss to this community. We expected him to be promoting and marketing this community for many more years.
In 2000, John Christie surprised many people by running for mayor of Ashland, challenging incumbent Rudy Dunnigan and two other candidates, including City Commissioner Paul Reeves, the eventual winner. While the then recently enacted payroll tax was the major issue in that year’s city elections, Christie ran on his strong belief in Ashland’s future and his substantial investment in the city, particularly in the central business district. At the time, Christie was young (44), articulate and had a demonstrated love affair with Ashland that dated back to his early childhood days when he swept floors at Ben Williamson Supply Co. which was owned by his father, Wylie Christie, and that John Christie would grow up to own and operate.
In many ways, Christie had much to offer city government, but there was one major problem that may well have prevented him from being elected: He did not live in the city. While he listed one of his downtown buildings as his residency on his filing papers, most people knew he lived in Bellefonte. Christie never again sought public office, but he remained active in this community and was one of its best promoters.
Christie always had confidence in this community and had high expectations for it. When he was running for mayor, he told the Independent’s editorial board of his efforts to lure the main offices of a major airline to Ashland and expressed confidence that he would succeed. He even have had a drawing of the old Ben Williamson Supply’s building with the airline’s logo. Frankly, we had our doubts. We could not imagine why an airline would move to a community that was not near a major airport, but Christie’s confidence was not deterred. Of course, the airline never moved to Ashland, which is just as well since it no longer exists.
Although like all successful people he had his detractors, John Christie was friendly, outgoing and generally well-liked. No one had more confidence in Ashland than he did. He will be greatly missed.