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Demolition begins at historic hotel in Harpers Ferry

January 21, 2022 GMT

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. (AP) — Demolition of a crumbling historic hotel in West Virginia began this week, after more than a decade of court battles.

Workers began dismantling and removing some of the structure and contents Wednesday in Harpers Ferry, project spokesperson Margaret Brown said.

Hill Top House Hotel developer SWaN Hill Top LLC of Leesburg, Virginia, plans a 129-room luxury hotel on the site, but the proposal has divided the town.

SWaN bought the hotel and several adjoining properties for $10 million in 2008. It planned to build the hotel and nearby guest houses and anticipated overwhelming community support. But some Harpers Ferry residents found those plans out of proportion with the town’s persona.

The project recently managed to move forward after the state enacted a tourism law authorizing development of state-controlled tourism districts under certain circumstances, The Journal of Martinsburg reported.

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The project cost is expected to be $150 million. The hotel is planned to open in 2024, Brown said.

Workers have been removing stone from the hotel to be used in the new building, she said. The blue and black shale and limestone are specific to the area, Brown said. Other items being removed for use in the project include flooring and furniture.

The 76-room hotel and lodge, which overlooks the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, offers stunning views of fall foliage and trains chugging across bridges. The first hotel was built there in 1888. It was rebuilt each time after fires in 1912 and 1919. The guest list has included Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell and Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton.

Harpers Ferry, with a population of only a few hundred, is also historic.

Settled in 1732, the town near West Virginia’s borders with Maryland and Virginia was the site of a failed raid by abolitionist John Brown that helped propel the nation into the Civil War. It changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865. In 1944 most of the town became part of the National Park Service. The Appalachian Trail passes through it.