Blennerhassett Hotel to showcase its historic significance
PARKERSBURG — The new owners want to promote the Blennerhassett Hotel’s rich history to the Parkersburg area community.
Beginning Tuesday, free public tours of the Blennerhassett Hotel, 320 Market St., will be given at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Those interested are asked to call the hotel’s front desk in advance at 304-422-3131.
Hotel guests will be given first priority on these tours.
Tours will begin in the hotel’s library and last about 45 minutes, said Adam Dotson, hospitality services coordinator and tour guide.
“The hidden stairwell” is one of the features of the hotel tour.
The Blennerhassett Hotel also is looking for photographs of the hotel’s interior, postcards, glassware, china, menus and invitations from before the 1985-86 renovation, Dotson said. The hotel plans to display these items.
One of the hotel’s two showcases contains photographs and posters from May 1960 when John F. Kennedy stayed at the Blennerhassett Hotel during his campaign for president. The display case has letters from Kennedy to the hotel’s owner at the time, Robert Huck, thanking him for the hospitality shown by the Blennerhassett’s staff.
The other display case has photographs and information from February 2008 when Sen. Hillary Clinton, running for president the first time, stayed overnight at the Blennerhassett Hotel. Clinton, who would lose the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama in 2008, gave a speech at Belpre High School.
“The owners of the Blennerhassett Hotel are proud of its history. They want to preserve and share the hotel’s history with the public,” said Seth Barbarow, marketing and media specialist at the Blennerhassett Hotel. “The hotel means a lot to the area.”
Local businessmen Wayne Waldeck and Lee Rector became the owners of the Blennerhassett Hotel on Oct. 1.
The Blennerhassett Hotel opened its doors on May 6, 1889. The hotel was designed and built by William Nelson Chancellor, businessman and a mayor of Parkersburg.
Dotson, who researched the hotel’s history for over a year, said Chancellor built the Blennerhassett Hotel for the wealthy of the time. The hotel was one of the first properties in Parkersburg to have electricity, Dotson said.
The Blennerhassett Hotel is the last remaining hotel of the 11 original hotels in Parkersburg, Dotson noted.
The Blennerhassett Hotel is the oldest operating hotel in West Virginia remaining in its original building, Waldeck said.
The Blennerhassett Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America.
Some of the points of interest that Dotson mentioned are:
* The chandeliers hanging above the Blennerhassett coffee bar are circa 1925 and came from the Loew’s Theatre in New York City.
* The ballroom chandeliers are circa 1920 and came from a New York City department store.
* Mirrors in the hotel’s promenade came from a New York City department store and the frames are over 100 years old.
* Paneling in the library is Longleaf white pine that came from an abandoned barn near Savannah, Ga. The barn was built in the 1870s.
These antiques and historical items were brought to the hotel during the 1985-86 renovations, Dotson said.
* A Pier Mirror, circa 1870, in a hallway leading into the promenade was donated to the hotel this summer. The mirror came from a home in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District.
The only remaining interior feature of the hotel since its construction in 1889 are the double doors to the Charleston III Ballroom, Dotson said.
The double doors on the Charleston I and II ballrooms are reproductions.
The Charleston III double doors were in the original part of the hotel and were moved to the ballroom in the 1985-86 renovation and building addition.
The Kaltenecker Building on Market Street was incorporated into the original Blennerhassett Hotel in 1985 and ’86.
The hotel has undergone three major renovations: in 1944-45, 1985-86 and 2002-06.
The Blennerhassett Hotel has survived a fire in 1979, which closed the hotel for several years, and floods over the years.
The restaurant was on the second floor and the kitchen on the fifth floor when the Blennerhassett Hotel was built. The original part of the hotel, which has been added on to, had 50 guest rooms. The hotel now has 86 guest rooms.
When the Blennerhassett Hotel opened in 1889, the First National Bank of Parkersburg was located in what is now the hotel’s library and Blennerhassett coffee bar, Dotson said.
The British Longcase Clock, built in 1835, is being restored and will be returned to the hotel’s lobby early next year.
Paul LaPann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org