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Pence Springs Hotel

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1916–1918, Wilbur A. Meanor and James P. Sweeney. 1946–1947, Alex B. Mahood. North side of WV 3/12 at Pence Springs

Pence Springs is something of a johnny-comelately in the history of the Virginia and West Virginia springs as it did not develop as a resort until the 1870s, long after the antebellum springs era was past. The initial development was closely related to the C&O Railway, whose main line along the Greenbrier River provided convenient access for guests. The first hotel, a large frame structure, burned in 1912 and was replaced later in the decade by the present hotel, an austere brick building with desultory Georgian Revival details. Huntington investors sponsored the rebuilding and hired Huntington architects to design the three-story hotel with its unusual, elongated V-shape. At the tip of the V, a monumental portico with four wooden piers extends all three stories, with decks on the first and second floors. On the opposite, reentrant angle of the V, a porte-cochere protects the principal entrance, which opens into an octagonal reception area.

Delays, partially caused by the exigencies of World War I, plagued initial construction, and records of a lawsuit between the contractors and owners at the Summers County Circuit Court clerk's office reveal a great deal of information about the building's materials and costs. The sixty-two-room hotel opened in July 1918 but closed in 1929. During the Depression, it served for a brief period as a girls' school, and in 1940 plans were made to turn it into a dude ranch. Instead, the state purchased it in 1946 and converted it into the West Virginia State Prison for Women. Bluefield architect Alex B. Mahood designed the necessary changes, fortunately confined largely to the bedroom floors. After the prison closed in 1983, the property was sold and reopened as a hotel in 1988.

A number of subsidiary structures dating from the early twentieth century are scattered around the grounds. The springhouse (c. 1900), a one-story, gable-roofed pavilion with arched openings, lies down a slope east of the hotel. Bottled sulfur water from Pence Springs won a silver medal (second prize) at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

Writing Credits

Author: 
S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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