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East View Apartments (Fairmont Hotel)

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Fairmont Hotel
1916–1917, 1920, Milburn, Heister, and Company 200–214 Jefferson St. (northeast corner of Jefferson and Washington sts.)
  • (West Virginia Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Late in 1915, members of the Watson family promised to provide two-thirds of the estimated $300,000 cost of a first-class hotel if Fairmont's citizenry would guarantee the rest. Within two days, the challenge was met. Former U.S. senator Clarence W. Watson advised the organizers to “arrange your plans so that your hotel may be added to without trouble,” predicting that the growing city might need a hotel twice the size within five years. Preliminary designs were shipped to more than twenty-five architects across the country. Twenty of them responded by returning detailed plans, all “far more lavish than was expected,” the Fairmont Times told its readers on March 2, 1916. Officials invited Fairmont's citizens to help make the final choice and displayed the drawings in the Watson Building ( MA7). On March 8, the directors announced the winner: the Washington, D.C., firm of Milburn and Heister. Their perspective rendering showed a massive structure with entrances on two levels to accommodate the hillside site. The steel-frame structure, standing six stories tall on Jefferson Street, seven on Washington, was clad in dark red brick.

Senator Watson proved a good prophet. The original hotel had 150 bedrooms, but in 1920, only four years after construction began, the same architects added two additional floors with both hotel rooms and apartment suites. The provision for apartments was prescient: after the hotel closed in 1984, the building was converted into the East View Apartments. It stands as an enduring symbol of Fairmont's early-twentieth-century aspirations.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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