Suddenly rich from oil and natural gas in the late 1800’s, Parkersburg, West Virginia flourished into a vivacious city that welcomed businessmen and visitors from all over the country. Born into that prosperous time, The Blennerhassett Hotel opened its doors May 6, 1889 after having been under construction for six years. The hotel immediately began serving guests with an unmatched style and elegance.
The Blennerhassett Hotel was designed and built by Colonel William Nelson Chancellor, then mayor of Parkersburg and businessman, for the millionaires of the day. The hotel was a grand showplace that radiated the captivating atmosphere of the gaslight era. The architectural style of the hotel’s exterior is Victorian, Queen Anne, and includes the Romanesque Revival style, which can be seen in the tower and turret section of the hotel on the corner of the Fourth and Market Streets. The Kaltenecker Building, which houses our current day dining room, was built by a Parkersburg businessman by the name of Johan Kaltenecker during construction as a separate building but that would match the exterior of the hotel. It was during the second renovation when this building was incorporated into the main building during the 1985-1986 renovation. The Kaltenecker name can be seen on a portion of sandstone located on the front of the building.
It was second to none in the state when it came to hotels. Grand for its time, the original hotel had approximately 50 guest rooms that were built around a central staircase. The Common Area was located on the second floor, as well as the two double parlors. One of the parlors housed an upright piano. The restaurant was also located on the second floor and could seat up to 80 guests at one time.
Some of the best aspects of the hotel were, in fact, created nearby. A company from Cincinnati, Ohio did the original frescoing for the hotel. Local Parkersburg companies put in all the plumbing, gas, and electricity. The Bentley and Gerwig Carpet and Furniture store in Parkersburg furnished the hotel. A Cincinnati company also designed all of the window treatments throughout the hotel.
Still, no matter the distance traveled by the hotel to create an elegant aesthetic, the city of Parkersburg continued to shine through. The first proprietor/general manager to lease the hotel from William Nelson Chancellor was a man by the name of George C. Campbell. He was given the task of naming the hotel, and was originally going to name it The Argyle. He eventually settled upon the name of The Blennerhassett, due to the history behind Harmon Blennerhassett, an eccentric Irish aristocrat, and his connections with the Parkersburg area.
Renovations & Renewal
All while staying true to the legacy of The Blennerhassett Hotel, many updates and additions have been made over the years. The first of three major renovations took place in 1944-1945, when William Nelson Chancellor’s grandson, Nelson C. Burwell operated the hotel. The current Blennerhassett Coffee Bar area originally housed the First National Bank of Virginia, of which Chancellor was eventually the president. It has been said that the hotel was one of the first establishments in Parkersburg to have the luxury of electricity. There was also an electric elevator installed with electric bells, as well as a service elevator that sat beside the main guest elevator, at the time of the hotels opening.
It was in 1979 when The Grand Dame fell into disrepair. At that time, there were around 30 elderly residents living at the hotel in a short-term lease apartment agreement. On the evening of May 9, 1979, a fire broke out on the second floor of the Fourth Street side of the building and spread. The fire was fortunately extinguished before reaching the fifth floor and potentially engulfing the entire building.
With the hotel burned and in shambles, it took a group of sponsors to bring The Blennerhassett back to its former glory. In the early 1980s, a group of Parkersburg locals got together with Pennsylvania-based investors and decided to tackle the hotels renovation project. The second major renovation took place in 1985-1986, surpassing seven million dollars.
The third and most recent renovation ran from November 2002 up until the spring of 2006, surpassing 10 million dollars. The hotel now has 89 guest rooms. A patio courtyard area was also added at this time, as well as a climate controlled patio tent. In the early spring of 2012, a glass porte-cochere was added to the front of the main building, allowing for more protection from the weather for guests and clientele coming and going from the main hotel entrance.
Surviving through the years with multiple renovations, The Blennerhassett Hotel earned its place in history. The hotel is registered as a Parkersburg historical landmark as well as with the Historic Hotels of America. It is the last to survive of 11 original Parkersburg hotels that were located in downtown.
With new European-style décor and a return to personal service, guests experience a hotel like no other. Enjoy a casual, yet elegant atmosphere, especially in our main dining room, Spats, which is accented by a friendly, attentive staff that makes each guest feel truly welcome. Amenities with every modern convenience are available to make your stay comfortable as well as memorable. You are invited to take your place in history and share in the legacy of the stately hotel that stands as a reminder of that impeccable service that is as timeless as The Blennerhassett itself.