The Blennerhassett Hotel

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Discover the The Blennerhassett Hotel with its Queen Anne architecture and European glamour and personal service.

The Blennerhassett Hotel was constructed at a time when the United States was defined by great economic prosperity, industrial expansion, and significant social reform.

In the late 1800s, money from oil and natural gas flooded into Parkersburg, West Virginia, and the town quickly became a vivacious city that welcomed businessmen and visitors from all over the country. Designed and built by William Chancellor, a prominent Parkersburg businessman, Blennerhassett opened in 1889 and quickly became a grand showplace for what would later be known as the Gaslight Era. The original hotel had approximately 50 guest rooms around a central staircase. Restrooms were common places on each of the four guest floors and the kitchen was located on the fifth floor. What is now the hotel's game room originally housed the First National Bank of Parkersburg and had the luxury of electricity.

The hotel was named after Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, who settled on an island in the Ohio River in 1798 and built a Palladian mansion on their European-style estate (the island now called Blennerhassett Island). It was the envy of all locals, but they didn't rise to national fame until they allowed former Vice President Aaron Burr to use the island as the base of operations for his controversial military exhibition. Labeled as a conspiracy by some, the Blennerhassetts fled down the Ohio River to escape when militia invaded the island.

Staying true to the legacy of Blennerhassett, many updates and additions have been made over the years, with a full restoration taking place in 1986. Registered on the National Register of Historic Places, the charm of the hotel is seen in the architecture and original antiques that have been part of Blennerhassett from its beginning. Now, a new era is dawning; in 2003 new European-style decor, gourmet cuisine, and a return to personal service were introduced.

  • About the Architecture +

    "This grand Queen Anne Victorian style hotel was named after the Blennerhassetts who settled on an island in the Ohio River in 1798.

    The City Club is known for its steel-reinforced concrete walls and ceilings (artfully fashioned to look like wood), leaded glass windows, interior courtyards and magnificent indoor swimming pool. This building is a blend of Romanesque and Moorish styles of architecture common to the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Julia Morgan’s engineering skills, evident in the seismically solid building’s exterior, were matched by her attention to the interior designs for furniture, light fixtures, distinctive fireplaces and even dishes."


Image of Historian Stanley Turkel, Historic Hotels of America Image of Stanley Turkel's Book Built To Last: 100 Year Old Hotels East of the Mississippi, Historic Hotels of America.

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Hotel History: The Blennerhassett Hotel (1889), Parkersburg, West Virginia*



By Stanley Turkel, CMHS



The Blennerhassett Hotel opened for business in 1889. It was built by William Chancellor, a prominent Parkersburg businessman, as a majestic showplace that reflected the gaslight era. Grand for its time, the original hotel had 50 guestrooms around a central staircase. Restrooms were located on each of the four floors and the kitchen was located on the fifth floor. It was named after Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, who settled on an island in the Ohio River in 1798 and built a Palladian mansion where they allowed former Vice President Aaron Burr to use the island as the base of operations for his controversial military operations. Labeled a conspiracy by some, the Blennerhassetts fled down the Ohio River when American militiamen invaded the island.



Parkersburg, West Virginia in many respects epitomizes the river town of the American frontier. Possessing a strategic site at the confluence of two rivers and an abundance of natural resources, Parkersburg has grown from a gateway to the west to a major West Virginia city. From its earliest settlement to its growth in the 20th century, the course of Parkersburg's history has been largely dependent upon the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers.



Parkersburg had several significant figures in its history. George Washington not only led an exploratory visit in 1770 but claimed 34,000 acres west of the Alleghenies and pledged to settle in the Ohio River valley should the Revolutionary War be unsuccessful. Alexander Parker, for whom Parkersburg is named, rose to captain during his eight years of service in the Revolutionary War, entitling him to a substantial amount of land in lieu of cash payment.



Today, many of Parkersburg's historic resources are conspicuous by their absence. One is reminded by the vacant lots surrounding some of its largest 19th century structures that the city's center was nearly lost to insensitive urban renewal in recent years. That there are no pre-1820 buildings left in the downtown is an ominous note underscoring the need for landmark preservation of representative buildings from later phases of Parkersburg's development. Nevertheless, its original layout remains intact, with some notable buildings in all sections. The Courthouse and the Blennerhassett Hotel, two particularly significant structures evocative of Parkersburg's varied history, could serve as the dramatic focus of an improved downtown core. Greater awareness and protection of Parkersburg's historic resources should result in an enrichment of the area's self-image and, hopefully, its economy. With the existing adjacent National Register district, the multiple resources of downtown Parkersburg comprise a significant collection of buildings recalling Parkersburg's past as a riverfront town on the American frontier and later, a burgeoning industrial town of the Ohio River Valley.



Staying true to the legacy of the Blennerhassett Hotel, many updates and additions have been made over the years, with a full restoration taking place in 1986. Registered on the National Register of Historic Places, the charm of the hotel is seen in the architecture and original antiques that have been part of Blennerhassett from its beginning. In 2003, new European-style decor, gourmet cuisine, and a return to personal service were introduced. The hotel's elegant decor reflects its late-1800s origin, including lavish crown moldings, extravagant light fixtures, a period library, and a third-floor atrium sitting area at the heart of the hotel, bathed in natural sunlight from a skylight two stories above. The hotel's attention to detail carries over to its signature guestrooms and suites, which are outfitted with granite vanities, marble showers, and exquisite linen. But its impeccable staff—attentive, informed and helpful—makes Blennerhassett the place where past and present merge.



*excerpted from his book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi



*****



About Stanley Turkel, CMHS



Stanley Turkel is a recognized consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases and providing asset management an and hotel franchising consultation. Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for worldwide Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1842 Rooms), General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), all in New York City. He serves as a Friend of the Tisch Center and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He served for eleven years as Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the City Club of New York and is now the Honorary Chairman.



Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, Blue MauMau, Hotel News Resource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. Executive Vice President of Historic Hotels of America, Lawrence Horwitz, has even praised one book, Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry:



  • “If you have ever been in a hotel, as a guest, attended a conference, enjoyed a romantic dinner, celebrated a special occasion, or worked as a hotelier in the front or back of the house, Great American Hoteliers, Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry is a must read book. This book is recommended for any business person, entrepreneur, student, or aspiring hotelier. This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”

Turkel was designated as the “2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America,” the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.



Works published by Stanley Turkel include:



Most of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse—(except Heroes of the American Reconstruction, which can be ordered from McFarland)—by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com, or by clicking on the book’s title.



Contact: Stanley Turkel



stanturkel@aol.com/917-628-8549

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