Established in 1852, the McLure Hotel has been one of the cornerstones of the Wheeling community and has provided accommodations for visiting dignitaries, politicians, celebrities and entertainers. During the Civil War, General William Rosecrans maintained his headquarters here. Presidents from John F. Kennedy to Truman and Woodrow Wilson have stayed here, as has celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe. The hotel may be most famous for a political speech delivered during the early period of the Cold War. On February 9, 1950, in the McLure's Colonnade Room, United States Senator Joseph McCarthy delivered what would become his most famous speech. After claiming to have the names of numerous Communists inside the State Department, McCarthy became one of the leaders of a movement many today compare to a modern day witch hunt.
Backstory and Context
Today, the term "McCarthyism" refers to a time period when accusation replaced evidence-a dark period in American politics known as the Second Red Scare. Although his tactics were eventually debunked, for several years, McCarthy and other Republican leaders harassed political opponents by accusing them of being Communists. McCarthy's tactics also led to the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover using numerous illegal tactics to intimidate civil rights activists and others who criticized the government.
As it became clear that McCarthy had no such list or evidence, the Senator eventually faced his own Congressional inquiry over the charges. He never produced a list of names but continued his vague and sweeping tactics of accusation without evidence, using the power of the Senate to hold a number of highly publicized congressional hearings between 1950 and 1954. While investigating the US Army for potential members of the Communist Party, McCarthy's tactics were exposed. The Senator later succumbed to alcoholism. The anti-Communist paranoia that characterized the Second Red Scare declined during the 1960s, leading some Americans to challenge the idea that people should face trial simply because their political ideas were unpopular at the time.
The original McLure Hotel was constructed at Market and Monroe (now 12th) Streets in downtown Wheeling in 1851, and opened on March 4, 1852. During the Civil War, the McLure hosted several generals including Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and served as a headquarters for Union General Willam Rosecrans. The McLure Hotel originally had 315 rooms, 65 bathrooms and 50 showers, with a watering trough and hitching posts for horses and carriages. Since there were no paved roads at the time of McLure's opening, the first floor was always covered in mud from the coming and going of customers, and because of this the lobby was located on the second floor. The McLure accommodated many generals of the Civil War, and there is a rumor that West Virginia's founding fathers ventured to the McLure for refreshment when they needed a break from dealing with the issues of statehood.
Hotel proprietor and Wheeling native E.M. Statler, who founded the Statler chain of hotels, started his career as a bellboy at the McClure. As Statler worked his way up to manager, he allowed the hotel to become more accommodating to politicians and celebrities. At least 11 Presidents have been guests at the McLure, including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. In the late 1970s, the original McLure Hotel structure was completely renovated to make way for a multi-million dollar project that gave the McLure its modern look.