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.
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