West Virginia

Stone by Stone: Restoration of Historic Harpers Ferry Hotel Begins

"The history was so emotional, so meaningful. It got us stuck to it"

NBC Universal, Inc.

Restorations will soon begin on an historic hotel in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, that has sat empty and dilapidated for more than a decade.

The Hill Top House Hotel has stood above Harpers Ferry for more than 130 years with a view few can resist. Its vista looks out over three states and two rivers.

Developers Karen and Fred Schaufeld said they first fell in love with the hotel 30 years ago, not just for its views, but for its history, too.

"The history was so emotional, so meaningful. It got us stuck to it," co-owner Fred Schaufeld said. "A place where anyone who is anybody on the East Coast came from Mark Twain, to Carl Sandburg, and Alexander Graham Bell and all the presidents."

The Hilltop House won’t be demolished, but crews will take it apart stone by stone so that much of the original material can be reused in the new hotel.

"[We want to] really try to capture the look and feel of when it was rebuilt in 1914," co=owner Karen Schaufeld said.

The couple says they've done their best to save as many of the old artifacts from the hotel as possible, including an old parlor piano and a mirror that survived two fires in the early 1900s, twice destroying the hotel.

But the development hasn't been without obstacles and controversy.

Some neighbors have complained about the size of the project as the developers not only purchased the hotel, but all the surrounding buildings, including historic structures old homes and even the town roads leading up to the hotel.

Another concern residents in the area have is public access to the spot where visitors and locals have come to take in the vista for more than 100 years.

"This public vista was always on private property," Karen Schaufeld said. "In the agreement with the town, we have put a permanent … pedestrian easement so that this vista will always be open to the public."

The groundbreaking for the new hotel is slated for next spring with a hotel opening in 2024.

Plans include restaurants, a spa, several ballrooms and conference rooms.

"This is really going to change the way that people interact with Harpers Ferry," Karen Schaufeld said.

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