The Harpers Ferry Park Association and National Park Bookshop are housed in the historic John G. Wilson Building, also known as the Stagecoach Inn, on Shenandoah Street. Constructed in 1826, the Wilson Building originally housed stores and residences. During the 1830s, it was used as a hotel, and then later housed workers from the Harpers Ferry U.S. Armory. It underwent a restoration in the 1960s and was included in the creation of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Today the John G. Wilson building houses a bookshop and offices for the Harpers Ferry Park Association, a non-profit organization that supports the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and the National Park Service. Their bookshop sells a variety of products, with the proceeds going to support educational and interpretive programs in the park.
During the first half
of the nineteenth century, a significant amount of land at Harpers Ferry was
government-owned property, primarily for the armory. In 1825, a local merchant
named John G. Wilson began constructing a two-and-a-half-story commercial
building at Shenandoah Street on government land. While he had requested
permission for the construction, he began building before receiving any form of
approval. Space was made for the building by blasting away a rocky portion of
the hill; some of this rock was then used to make the foundation. Construction
was completed in 1826 and Wilson made the second-floor his residence; the first
floor was rented out to Maslin & Co., a dry goods and grocery store. At
some point, Major James Stephenson and his wife Ann C. Stephenson acquired the
building and began operating a hotel on the upper floors in April 1830.
Major Stephenson died
in 1833, and in 1837 Ann Stephenson transferred the Wilson Building to the U.S.
government. The government used the upper floors to house workers from the
armory, while continuing to rent out the first floor to businesses. Among the
occupants was the Superintendent’s Clerk Henry Ward, who lived there from 1844
to 1846. John G. Wilson also returned to the building during the 1840s to
operate a post office on the first floor. It is believed that Ann McGraw ran a
boarding house from the building in the late 1850s. It has also been claimed
that soldiers inhabited the Wilson Building during the Civil War.
Following the Civil War,
the U.S. government opted not to rebuild the armory, and instead began selling
off their land in Harpers Ferry. Joseph D. Holmes purchased the Wilson Building
in an 1869 auction, but would later relinquish ownership back to the government
in 1879. It was then purchased by Joshua Cavalier in 1880. The Wilson building
was reported to house a general store in 1894, and in the early 1900s it
functioned as apartments. In 1913, the Cavalier family sold the building to
William and Mary Ellen Doran, who would use the building as a pool hall, lunch
room, and tailor shop. In 1952, the State of West Virginia acquired the Wilson
Building from the Doran family and transferred it to the National Park Service
the following year. Following this the building underwent extensive renovations
in the 1950s and 1960s.