The Dunglen Hotel was one of the two hotels located in Thurmond, WV. Thomas Gaylord McKell was given 12,500 acres in Fayette County, WV when he married Miss Jean Dun of Chillicothe, OH by her father as a wedding present. Here he erected the Dunglen Hotel at the turn of the century, 1901. The hotel stood across the river from the railroad in Thurmond, and its location attracted local residents as well as travelers.
Backstory and Context
Virginia native and Confederate, Captain William Dabney Thurmond, owned the 73 acres that came to be known as the town of Thurmond. With the completion of the C&O railway in 1875, the town saw an increase in local population and incoming travelers. Thurmond grew with houses for local miners, the Dunglen and Thurmond hotels for travels, National Bank of Thurmond, the Armour Meat Company, the New River Banking and Trust Company, C&P telephone, a local newspaper, a repair shop and other local businesses.
The Dunglen Hotel had a reputation for gambling, liquor sales, dancing, and even rumored to allow prostitutes. A rate of $2.50 a night would reserve you a room at this hotel the locals called the “Little Monte Carlo”. There were 100 guest rooms spread out over three floors; a large dining room and lobby; showrooms, sample rooms and storage areas below the lobby; and of course, gambling rooms filled with a multitude of games. Thurmond, WV has been called “Dodge City of the East”, largely due to Dunglen’s bar that never closed. According to Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest poker game of 14 years is said to have taken place at the Dunglen Hotel. On August 11, 1904, McKell added a bank to the hotel, The New River Banking and Trust Co..
In 1901, Captain William Thurmond outlawed liquor in the town of Thurmond, wanting to run the town more by his own strict moral beliefs. The Dunglen bar never closed, however, due to McKell quickly extending the boundaries of his community to include the hotel. Upon McKell’s death, his son William McKell took possession of the hotel. When he passed away in the mid-1930’s, leaving no immediate heirs, the McKell’s land went to cousins. Since that time, much of the land has been purchased by various companies.
On July 23, 1930, the Dunglen hotel caught on fire. The fire was believed to have originated from defective wiring (or by arsonists), and the hotel was never rebuilt. Currently, where the Dunglen hotel used to stand, is but a small grocery store and a baseball diamond. The fall of the hotel hurt Thurmond’s already faltering economy. Thurmond is now home to only a handful of people, and part of the Interpretive Center operated by the National Park Service. The Thurmond Historic District continues to be beautiful restored and maintained.