Nathan Goff Jr. hired architect Harrison Albright to design the Waldo Hotel in 1901, and when the Waldo opened in 1904 it was one of the most luxurious hotels in West Virginia. The Waldo Hotel was named after Nathan Goff Jr.’s father, whose home sits beside the hotel. The Waldo was built with the intent to entertain prominent guests in Clarksburg, and became the hub of social and political life. After serving as a hotel for many decades, the Waldo was converted into dormitories for Salem College and later, apartments. The building currently sits vacant and is uninhabitable. Debate over whether the hotel should be restored or demolished is a common topic in Clarksburg, and the building’s future is uncertain.
Backstory and Context
Major Nathan Goff Jr. was the third child of Waldo P. Goff and Harriet Louise Moore Goff. Goff was discharged from the United States military in September of 1864 and then began law school at the Cooper Institute that October. However, he left in December of the same year without graduating. The Circuit Court of Harrison County approved Goff’s admission to the bar, and Goff started practicing law in Harrison and the adjoining counties in 1865. In his first years of practice, Goff gained clients and experience thanks to his family’s popularity in the community. On November 7th, 1865, Nathan Goff Jr. married Laura E. Despard, who welcomed their first child in September of the following year.
Goff joined his father in law’s practice soon after his marriage to Laura, and attempted to gain public office in August of 1866. The Harrison County Union Republican convention chose Goff and Solomon S. Fleming as candidates for the West Virginia House of Delegates. Goff, along with the rest of the Union ticket, won on October 25, 1866, and was in Wheeling for the opening of the legislature on January 15, 1867; Goff was the youngest delegate in attendance. Goff was appointed as the United States District Attorney for West Virginia by President Andrew Johnson in November of 1868, and was reappointed in 1872, 1876, and 1880, while continuing to run his private law firm in Clarksburg.
When the Waldo Hotel opened in 1904, the ballroom on the seventh floor was illuminated by gaslights with large decorated shades, and a string orchestra played while guests waltzed. Patronesses for the First Assembly Ball were Mrs. Nathan Goff Jr., Mrs. Mord Lewis, Mrs. John J. Duncan, Mrs. Fleming Howell, Mrs. R.T. Lowndes, and Mrs. John Bassel. The Waldo would continue to hold similar events like that of opening night for prominent visitors of Clarksburg, such as John W. Davis, who lost the Democratic nomination for President of the United States after refusing to comply with the Ku Klux Klan. The grand seven-story building was built in a Romanesque Revival style reminiscent of Moorish structures in southern Spain.
The Waldo hotel dominated the small local businesses that surrounded it, such as Hursey’s Harness Shop and Dudley’s Floral. The women’s entrance to the hotel was near the corners of Fourth and Pike Streets. The Waldo was equipped with a steam-operated elevator adorned with an open wire cage that opened into the lobby. There was also a narrow stairway made of marble steps and wrought iron railing decorated with gold accents that led to the parlor on the second floor. The main entrance along Fourth Street led to the hotel’s bar, a room with 31-foot high ceilings. The hotel’s dining room along the first floor mezzanine was furnished with tables for two, benches, and large chairs where guests could sit and view the comings and goings of the hotel. The wait-staff of the Waldo wore mistletoe green uniforms with a gold monogramed “W” along with white gloves. The main lobby of the Waldo was 60 feet long, 56 feet wide, and 31 feet high. Ten marble columns adorned with ivory and gold supported the luxurious lobby. The hotel opened with a private water filtration system, an ice plant that produced 1,000 pounds of ice daily, and an electric generator.
In 1964, the hotel was sold to Salem College to be used as dormitories. The college occupied the building until 1969. Two years later, the rooms were repurposed into apartments while the ground floor hosted business offices. By the late 1990s, the Waldo no longer met fire code standards. The owner was unable to afford to bring the building up to code, so it was boarded up by the fire marshal. Since then, the Waldo Hotel’s fate has been invariably uncertain. Numerous fundraising efforts and campaigns have promised to restore the building but fallen short on funding or ability at the last minute. The current owners, Vandalia Heritage Foundation, have made some efforts to stall the building’s active deterioration. Proponents of demolishing the structure point to falling bricks and glass as evidence that the Waldo Hotel is irredeemable. Once the most luxurious building in the city, the future of the decrepit Waldo Hotel is now a topic of frequent debate and discussion among Clarksburg representatives.
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