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Penn Wells Hotel

History: 
    Penn Wells Hotel
 in WellsboroHistory: 
    Penn Wells Hotel
 in Wellsboro

History

The Penn Wells Hotel sits on the site of Wellsboro's first tavern erected in 1816. When the original structure was destroyed by a fire in 1866, what would later be known as the Penn Wells Hotel was constructed in 1869 by A.P. Cone. The four-story brick building was renamed Coles House in 1885 when it was purchased by J.S. Coles. Upon the death of J.S., his brother William took over the hotel and made major renovations, including refacing the original brick. In March 1906, a fire destroyed the hotel's fourth story. It was renovated by William Coles and operated as a three-story hotel until his death in 1920.

Between 1920 and 1925, the hotel floundered as multiple plans to refurbish failed to come to fruition. In 1925, local businessmen, including the great-grandfather of current owner Ellen Dunham Bryant, formed the Wellsboro Hotel Company for the purpose of maintaining a vibrant hotel in the center of Wellsboro. After debating refurbishment or construction of a new two-story colonial structure, refurbishment prevailed and a complete renovation of the hotel interior and exterior began. The hotel was renamed the Penn Wells. Six days before the scheduled opening of the "Penn Wells," a cyclone hit Wellsboro. Two hotel windows were shattered by flying debris and the roof of a nearby building landed in front of the hotel entrance. Nonetheless, the hotel opened on time. Shortly after opening, the Philadelphia Inquirer described the Penn Wells as "the gem of the Roosevelt Highway."

The Penn Wells quickly became the hub of activities in the community and further improvements were made. In 1928, the fourth floor of the hotel was rebuilt. In 1931, in the midst of a natural gas boom, the hotel expanded its dining room and added 18 additional guestrooms. In the era, the Roosevelt Highway/Route 6 became the best paved route between New York City and Chicago and the hotel thrived. A regular bus left the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City at 9:00 a.m. and arrived at the Penn Wells at 6:30 p.m. Motorcoaches from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh filled the hotel, as the area began promoting the local natural wonder, the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, to tourists. Famous visitors included Groucho Marx and Joan Crawford.

In the World War II era, Wellsboro was designated as a possible target for German bombing because of the contributions to the war effort made by the local Corning Glass factory. An observation post was built on the roof of the Penn Wells and staffed by local citizen volunteers to detect approaching enemy warplanes. In addition to its military support efforts during the war, the local glass factory began producing Christmas bulbs, because previously America's supply of Christmas bulbs had been imported from Germany. During the 1946 Corning Glass Works annual dinner, they displayed an American flag composed of 1,438 Christmas bulbs in the hotel dining room. The flag was featured in Life magazine in 1960 and has found a permanent home in the lobby of the Penn Wells.

Penn Wells Hotel
, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2017, dates back to 1869.


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