List Your Equipment For Free  /  Seller Login

VIDEO: Scenic Old Hill Top House Hotel in Harpers Ferry, W.V., May Finally Be Revived

Thu January 20, 2022 - Northeast Edition
West Virginia MetroNews Network

Harpers Ferry, W.V., Mayor Greg Vaughn longs for the day when he can finally watch the resurrection of a historic hotel in his tiny town that has been discussed for a decade.

"I'm looking forward to the first truckload of debris leaving that site," he recently told West Virginia MetroNews, a statewide radio news service. "I think many, many other people are also looking for that to happen. I think that that will be a positive step and hopefully things move along productively, and this becomes reality in a year and a half or two years when somebody can cut the ribbon."

The $150 million Hill Top House Hotel, a centerpiece of discussion for years, has a clearer path forward with the announcement in late November that the developers have chosen a company to oversee construction and redevelopment.

JLL Hotels & Hospitality Project and Development Services has been selected to spearhead the project atop a spectacular bluff overlooking the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

As things stand now, the new hotel is expected to open in mid-2024.

Harpers Ferry is nestled within a beautiful mountain setting, just a short drive for travelers from Washington, D.C., who want to enjoy the accompanying national historical park or a hike along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The area also brims with history as the site of abolitionist John Brown's raid on the United States arsenal prior to the Civil War.

A unique site, the bluff where the old hotel was built affords one a special sight. From there, facing east, visitors can stand in West Virginia, and with a look to their left across the Potomac River view the steep hills of Maryland. With a glance straight ahead, they can peer down the Potomac toward Washington, or they can catch a glimpse over their right shoulder at the Virginia highlands across the Shenandoah River.

But an attraction the area has been lacking, Vaughn noted, is a hotel worthy of those attributes.

"We're one of the smallest municipalities in the state of West Virginia," he explained, noting Harpers Ferry's population of only about 285. "But obviously we're probably the most visited tourist destination in the state, where our population expands to tens of thousands during the week. Having that hotel there and the tax base from the hotel will be a tremendous opportunity for this very historic town to take on some projects that we have deferred for decades because of lack of funding."

He added that a modernized and enhanced Hill Top House on that site is important for the community because it will attract many Harpers Ferry visitors to overnight there.

"[Needless to say], I am really anxious for this to get under way," Vaughn said.

W.V. Assisting Developers with Hotel's Revival

MetroNews reported that Hill Top House Hotel will be developed as one of West Virginia's Tourism Development Districts. That initiative, passed in 2020, enables the state Development Office to help small towns with big tourism projects. A $150-million destination in the historic gateway to West Virginia, the 19th-century Harpers Ferry hotel is the first of five allowed districts.

"Thank you to the state of West Virginia for being so forward thinking," said Karen Schaufeld, who is leading redevelopment of the hotel property along with her husband, Fred, and their SWaN Investors company.

The hotel will be operated by Evolution Hospitality, and José Andrés' Think Food Group will steer the food and beverage program.

The mayor credited the Schaufelds for their vision and sustained interest.

"I feel very comfortable knowing how historically-minded and … community-minded both are for Harpers Ferry," Vaughn noted.

Hill Top House a Witness to the Past

The original Hill Top House was built in 1888 and opened by Thomas S. Lovett, an African American entrepreneur who was born in slaveholding Virginia five years before the start of the Civil War.

The hotel burned to the ground twice, reopening each time, before continuing operation until 2007 when SWaN Investors, purchased it, and later closed the hotel because of its poor structural integrity.

In 2009, the Schaufelds and their partners announced their intentions to rebuild and reopen Hill Top House.

Since then, however, the project has progressed only on paper, MetroNews reported.

"This has been languishing," said Vaughn. "I just think it's time to move beyond the divisiveness in this community and move this project forward."

A major obstacle has been the streets around the Hill Top House. The developers propose using not only the land where the hotel now sits but surrounding properties also under their ownership. Doing so would make the development a cohesive hospitality destination, the group said.

But because Hill Top House is in a residential area, the streets surrounding it are public property.

"The biggest step is that we came to agreement with the town to buy the streets on our property," Karen Schaufeld told the state news network.

Another issue was the scenic overlook, which has been a valued public space even for people who might not stay at the hotel. The developers have agreed, though, to maintain public access to the sweeping view.

"It's almost like you're holding something in trust for the public. That's always been part of our plan," Schaufeld said last fall on MetroNews' "Talkline."

Plan Includes Using Old Materials

Because the Hill Top House hotel has fallen into disrepair, the Schaufelds intend to use some of the materials that are left while also reflecting its history as it is refurbished.

Vaughn referred to stones that have been gathered from a wall surrounding the hotel.

"They're going to repurpose those stones and put them right back in a similar location," he said.

Additional recovered materials, Schaufeld said, include mirrors that were used by brides, an old piano and old furniture. Additionally, photos of the exterior from about 1914 will help recreate the early look of the hotel.

"This is such a compelling project and we're so passionate about it," she explained. "Anything worth doing is often hard. For us it was compelling. And we believed it would be compelling for a lot of people.

"Harpers Ferry is where history happened."

Today's top stories

'Borderland' Project Reshapes Interstate 10

Papich Construction Installing Two Crossings Beneath California Highway

Caterpillar Inc. Donates $500,000 to Associated Equipment Distributor Foundation's Vision 2025 Campaign

ABC: Nonresidential Construction Adds 17,100 Jobs in May

Construction to Begin Soon On Central Florida Roadway Built to Charge Electric Vehicles

Lindy Leads I-79 'S Bend' Project in Pennsylvania

VIDEO: Cat Grading Beams Deliver High Productivity Material Grading

Prefab Process May Help Contractors Surmount Many Jobsite Challenges


aggregateequipmentguide-logo agriculturalequipmentguide-logo craneequipmentguide-logo forestryequipmentguide-logo truckandtrailerguide-logo
39.04690 \\ -77.49030 \\ Ashburn \\ PA