Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pence Springs Grand Hotel


Andrew Pence came to this area of Summers County around 1872, and in 1893 bought land from Jesse Beard that would be the future home of his grand hotel.  The original Pence Springs Hotel, built around 1897, made use of a nearby spring to draw in visitors all over the country.  However, it wasn't until a bottle of water from the spring won an award for best spring water at the 1904 World's Fair that business really took off.  Unfortunately, the original hotel burned down sometime between 1914 and 1916.

However, a new, bigger hotel was built and completed around 1918.  It was considered the most expensive place to stay in the state, catering to the rich who were in search of the healing waters of the springs.  The money didn't last long, though, and the Great Depression was enough to shut the grand hotel down.  Eleanor Roosevelt tried to turn the property into a finishing school for young ladies, but that venture didn't last long, either, and in 1944 the estate was finally purchased by the Hugh and Hall Adams Corporation of Huntington and by 1946, the plans were drawn and finalized, turning the hotel into the West Virginia State Prison for Women.

West Virginia's female inmates were housed in the former hotel until the early 1980s.  Ashby Berkley, the son of a former prison employee, began buying the property a few pieces at a time, and by 1986 had reopened the structure as a hotel.  Subsequent owners John and Wendy Lincoln continued to operate the inn.

Today, history has come full circle and Eleanor Roosevelt's plans have somewhat come to fruition.  The Greenbrier Academy for Girls, an all-female boarding school, now occupies the turn of the century hotel.

The hotel is also occupied by a few ghosts....

Before the hotel was converted into a boarding school, visitors to the historic inn claimed to hear voices coming from the sun porch and the music room.  Apparitions dressed in formal wear of the early 20th century have also been spotted, leading many to believe that those who spent many a happy hour partying and relaxing at the hotel are still there in spirit.  There is also paranormal activity stemming from the time when the building housed West Virginia's female inmates.

At the time, the solitary confinement cells were located on the third floor, and remnants of their existence remain today.  It was said that between 2 and 3 am every morning, the cell doors on this floor were heard slamming shut.  Other activity includes lights going on and off on their own accord, and the dining room furniture being rearranged by unseen hands.  Further information on the alleged paranormal activity can be found in the book, Haunted Inns of America.

National Register Application

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7 comments:

  1. My mother worked at the Hotel and Riverside Inn for many years. I basically grew up playing on the third floor as well as the basement. I myself had several experiences that could not be explained. The Hotel is a beautiful place with a lot of history. Many people passed through the doors of the Hotel and I am sure that their spiritual energy could be the cause of the happenings at the Hotel. I personally witnessed along with many others, a apparition in the guards tower. It has stayed in my mind for many years now. I am very happy that someone has relayed the history and ghost stories of the Grand Hotel. I only wish the Inn was still standing and had not burned down because that was a beautiful place with a haunted history of its own.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your stories! Sometimes the best way to share the history of a location is through its ghost stories.

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  2. i go to the greenbrier academy for girls now and its scary as shit.

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    1. I can imagine! Feel free to share any specific stories or experiences you have or hear about. Thanks!

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    2. Oh honey. Let me assure you ...there is nothing scary about that old hotel. We used to go there all the time!! My parents are burried on the mountain right above you. If you see anyone its probably them visiting. They wont hurt you. Just say please leave in the name of the father,son,and the holy ghost.And they will leave you.

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  3. Do you know the name of the man who owned the property the last time it was a hotel?

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    1. I honestly am not sure. On the National Register application, it lists a local man named Ashby Berkley as being the owner, following the hotel's stint as the women's prison, so he MIGHT have been the owner of the property when it was a hotel this last time, or simply just a developer. I've added the link in the text above, but I'll look into the situation a little deeper and will post any updates I find. Thanks for your inquiry!

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