The Blennerhassett Hotel
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Opening in 1889 during the "Gaslight Era," this hotel became the center of Parkersburg society during and after the region's oil and gas boom. The hotel, nearby island, and several other places in the city were named in honor of the famous Blennerhassett family. The family were local power brokers who captured the nation's attention after their association with then Vice President Aaron Burr and his attempt to capture the American West. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and a full restoration took place in 1986.
Backstory and Context
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Money from the oil and natural gas industry led to an economic boom in Parkersburg and surrounding areas in the late 1800s. Responding to the demand for a luxury hotel, the Blennerhassett Hotel was designed and built by a local businessman named William Chancellor. It took six years to construct, and it was originally leased to George Campbell and opened on May 6th, 1889. The hotel was quickly became a local landmark. It had about 50 guest rooms stationed around a central staircase. There were restrooms on each of the four guest floors and the kitchen was located on the fifth floor. It had two parlors and a restaurant which could seat up to 80 guests at a time. Plumbing, gas, electric, windows, and even furniture were locally sourced. The hotel's current game room once housed the First National Bank of Parkersburg, one of the first businesses in the area equipped with electricity.
The hotel was built to captivate the gaslight era. The builders brought together different architectural styles by combining Victorian, Queen Anne and some Romanesque Revival design elements. A Parkersburg businessman named Johan Kaltenecker, built the Kaltenecker building next door. The outside of the building was designed to match the hotel. In 1985-1986, a renovation brought both buildings together, and the Kaltenecker building is now the hotel dining area.
While the hotel was originally going to be called "The Argyle," the hotel ended up being named after Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett. In 1789, this couple settled on an island in the Ohio River and constructed a mansion. The island, now called Blennerhassett Island, became well known because of Mr. Blennerhassett's association with Vice President Aaron Burr. Because of their involvement with Burr's attempt to gain control of the region Southwest of the area, the Blennerhassett’s fled the island and traveled down the Ohio River to escape possible conspiracy charges.
The hotel has been updated at various points throughout the 20th century and remains a popular place for accommodating guests to the area. From 1944 to 1945, William Chancellor's grandson, Nelson C. Burwell, operated the hotel. Three major renovations happened during the his time. In 1979, there were around 30 elderly residents living at the hotel. On May 9th, 1979, their was a fire that badly damaged the building. It was extinguished right before it hit the 5th floor. In the 1980s, a group of Pennsylvania-based investors decided to pay for renovations to the building. The hotel underwent a complete restoration in 1986. In November of 2002 the hotel underwent another renovation costing over 10 million dollars. The hotel now has 89 guest rooms and a patio outside. The building is currently listed on the National register of Historic Places and is still operating as a hotel.
"The Blennerhassett Hotel." Historic Hotels of America. Web. 1 June 2015. . Jehan, Bill. Hotel Blennerhassett. Blennerhassett Family Tree. Accessed April 25, 2017. http://www.blennerhassettfamilytree.com/Blennerhassett-Hotel%2C-Parkersburg%2C-WV.php.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Blennerhassett Hotel. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/wood/82001768.pdf.