The cold night air gnaws on my exposed skin as I stand outside the welcoming light of the old inn.
To me the Glen Ferris Inn has always been as much a part of the Kanawha River as the rocks that make up the falls. I knew that the building was old but I really didn’t know the history.
It wasn’t really known as “The Glen Ferris Inn” until the 1920s.
There’s evidence that it may have been built as early as 1815 by two unnamed Irishmen. Who later sold it to Aaron Stockton, grandson of Richard Stockton who’s signature appears on the Declaration of independence.
A lot of people think a liquor license was unknown in the USA prior to the age of prohibition in the early 20th century but history shows that Aaron Stockton applied for a license to serve alcohol to guests of the Inn in 1839 when it was known as “Stockton’s Tavern”.
By the 1860s it was the Union Quartermaster’s supply depo and internet research say that lasted until 1861.
My interest in the history of the Glen Ferris Inn was given life when I was told that the old stone wall with the waterfall that I often photograph was the old Stagecoach road’s retaining wall and that the “Stockton Inn” was a major destination along the route.
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The old Stagecoach road’s was known as the “Midland Trail” and I presume that’s why Route 60 is know by the same name today. It would be an interesting project to trace the old Stagecoach road’s in West Virginia and explore the abandoned settlements reclaimed by the forest today.
In 1874 the Glen Ferris Inn had survived the American Civil War but nearly fell to a problem that plagues our state even today. The industry ( at that time the railroad) simply passed it by and began delivering passengers and their purses to a different hotel on television other side of the Kanawha River. In fact the new hotel ( Named the Kanawha Hotel ) was so close that owners of the Stockton Inn could look across the falls and watch their rivals prosper while their own business failed. I can imagine the heartache of sitting in the majestic Victorian Inn and staring at the unused keys and empty dinning area while listening to the voices of the crowd on the other side. The owners at the time would have dreaded the sound of train approaching.
At some point, I’m unsure of the date, the Stockton Inn was sold to Union Carbide and became known as the The Glen Ferris Inn. The 15 rooms and 2 suites with a formal dinning room and riverside dinning room became lodging for the men who built the hydroelectric plant at Kanawha Falls and the hydroelectric dam at Hawk’s Nest State Park. But fate was not done with extracting a toll for history. The worst industrial tragedy in American history took the lives of residents of the Inn through silicosis. In the early days of the industry the men who dug the tunnel had their lungs destroyed by the rick dust from their tools. Many of them were either African Americans or immigrants ( possibility Irish or Italians) and they are said to be buried in a mass grave near Summersville Lake.
From there there’s a gap in what I could find but the story picks up in 1981 when the Glen Ferris Inn was purchased by Elkem Metals and the hydroelectric plant used to supply the foundry in Alloy, West Virginia.
Then in 1991 then Inn finally achieved historic status. And by 1996 it was owned by Dan and Becky Hill of Glen Ferris who sold it to the current owners Brigadier General Harrison Gilliam and major Thomas Wills in 2017 who have vowed to be caretakers of history and preserve the old Inn for posterity. I’ve never really set foot inside the Inn myself but I do see the cars and kayaks of the lovers of the rivers who come to shoot the rapids and enjoy beauty of the mountains.
I’m sure that I’ve overlooked at least some of the history and since my blog is read by locals who far better versed in the local history than I am it would be great for them to tell what they know or correct any errors in my accounting of the history with a comment below. 😊
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