Clio Logo

The Hotel Kanawha was established in 1903 and was a premier hotel in Charleston, WV until 1965. When West Virginia was a battleground state during the Democratic primaries of the 1960 presidential election, the Hotel Kanawha was campaign headquarters for President John F. Kennedy. The Arcade Building was established in 1895 by a former state governor, and was demolished during the efforts to restore the Hotel Kanawha. Despite its historical significance and tremendous efforts to restore the Hotel Kanawha, the building was demolished and a bank now stands in its place. There were many fights to save the hotel, but the project was too expensive and there were multiple problems with loans.


  • Senator John F. Kennedy's victory speech at the Kanawha Hotel, May 11, 1960
  • 1945 postcard of the Kanawha Hotel
  • Construction of the Hotel Kanawha
  • Demolition of the hotel in the early 2000s.
  • Aerial view of both the Arcade and the Hotel Kanawha. The Arcade was to be demolished and replaced with a parking lot for the restored hotel.
  • The exterior of the Arcade. A survey of the building was conducted by Paul D. Marshall in 1984.

The Charleston Arcade Building was established in 1895 by John T. Cotton and E.W. Wilson, who was the seventh governor of West Virginia. Cotton was a local businessman and pharmacist who had established numerous businesses along Capitol Street prior to the Arcade, including the Cotton Opera House. Wilson married Cotton's daughter, Henrietta, in 1874 prior to his term as governor which began in 1884. The Arcade was an open two-story structure with a iron framed glass atrium. Some of the popular businesses remembered from the Arcade were Gibbs Barbershop, Arcade News Agency, The Arcadia, and the Corey's Arcade Fruit Company.  The Arcade continued to be prosperous until the late 1900s. When the Arcade was demolished, the iron structure and glass paneling from the roof were salvaged and to be repurposed in the restored Hotel Kanawha, however that project was never finished. 

Prior to the existence of the Hotel Kanawha, the Charleston Institute for Women was housed on this site until 1869. The Hotel Kanawha was constructed from 1902 to 1903, and was 96,000 square feet upon completion. The eight story structure expanded and added a wing in 1906, and again in 1917. When the Daniel Boone Hotel opened in 1929, it replaced the Hotel Kanawha as the premier hotel in Charleston. Prior to the existence of the Daniel Boone Hotel, the Hotel Kanawha was where local, state, and federal politicians resided during their stay in Charleston, WV.

When John F. Kennedy ran against Hubert H. Humphrey in the 1960 Democratic primaries, it was more than just a political battle: it was a battle of denominations. To ensure victory in the southern West Virginia coalfields that were primarily protestant, Catholic candidate John F. Kennedy made countless visits and sent his brothers to speak on his behalf. A Lou Harris poll three days prior to the election showed Kennedy long to Humphrey despite Kennedy’s popularity. After Kennedy heard of the results, he made an unforgettable speech during a telecast where he put the religion debate to rest. Upon Kennedy’s win over Humphrey, he thanked West Virginia during his speech and said that he would not have won if it weren’t for the Mountain State.

In 1965, the installation of newer hotels in Downtown Charleston outweighed Hotel Kanawha’s popularity, and the building was sold and then utilized as the West Virginia Job Corps office until 1997. The Job Corps was dedicated to training underprivileged young women for the work force, and was installed by the Kennedy administration. Restoration efforts began in the late 1990s, and continued into the early 2000s. These plans included the razing of the arcade to provide parking for both the Hotel Kanawha and the Kanawha Bank and Trust Building, the renovation of the Hotel Kanawha to make more rooms and add a ballroom, and create a tower that connected the Hotel Kanawha and a restored Kanawha Bank and Trust Building. To fund this project, the Hotel Kanawha needed to be added to the National Register of Historic Places to acquire federal and state historic preservation income tax credits. The Arcade was demolished in 1998, and in 1999 the project managers asked for a $7.7 million loan. A $6.6 million loan was allotted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and approval from the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority shortly followed. The cost of the project skyrocketed as issues and problems arose, and the project developers secured only a fraction of the costs. Not enough investors donated money, and soon the city started pulling their money from the project. The Hotel Kanawha was demolished in May of 2003, and a four story building replaced it in 2004.

Cahal, Sherman. Kanawha Hotel. Abandoned. Accessed March 05, 2017. http://abandonedonline.net/locations/commercial/kanawha-hotel/.

Little, Herb "Kennedy-Humphrey Primary." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 22 November 2013. Web. 05 March 2017.
The Arcade. My WV Home. Accessed March 06, 2017. http://www.mywvhome.com/seventies/arcade.htm.