Walking Tour of Historic Berkeley Springs
List of Sites on the Walking Tour of Berkeley Springs:
1. Dutch Cemetery
Perched on the hill overlooking the cemetery is the Community Services Building which was originally constructed as Bath District High School in 1918 on the grounds of Mt. Wesley Academy. It is typical masonry design of the period with decorative brick patterns, limestone base and architrave. The ballfield uphill from the building was the exact location of the academy.
On Martinsburg Rd. at Green Street, the tiny structure was opened as a gas station in 1934, a period when car service business were springing up throughout town. The Italianate Victorian on the hill, recently operated as a bed and breakfast, was constructed by Dr. John Hunter for his family in 1875. The unusual board and batten siding is original.
2. Corner Washington St & Martinsburg Rd
The busy intersection of Martinsburg Road and Washington Street now dominated by two gas station/convenience stores has an impressive history. The expansive Van Rensselaer estate extended south and east from the corner. Eugene Van Rensselaer, owner of the Berkeley Springs Water Company, built Glen Luta mansion there in 1872. Van Rensselaer razed the building in 1915 for a luxury hotel which was never built. After his death in 1925, its grounds were laid out and sold in lots. The corner became commercial with Glen Luta miniature golf opening in 1930 and lasting two seasons. The Glen Luta Restaurant was succeeded by Tastee Freeze, now Sheetz.
The north corner was part of the original town plat and included three lots. Daniel of St. Thomas Jennifer, friend of George Washington and signer of the U.S. Constitution from Maryland, owned two of them. A rare Civil War encounter occurred here in 1864. A party of Southern soldiers raided the lodge room in the house built on Washington Street by Joseph Duckwall and held several local officials captive while stealing numerous horses. In 1867, noted writer and illustrator, David Hunter Strother, known as Porte Crayon, bought and lived in the house until early 20th century. After a period of being operated for summer lodging, the Strother house became Willard’s Tourist Home. It was demolished in 1977. Initially a store, then a service station, Roy’s has expanded since 1927 to occupy all three lots: the block between Mercer and Washington streets bounded by Warren Street and Martinsburg Road.
3. St. Mark's Episcopal Church
4. Trump & Trump Law Offices
5. Wisteria Cottage
6. T.H.B. Dawson House
7. Highlawn Inn
8. Berkeley Springs Presbyterian Church
9. Citizens National Bank
James Mercer of Virginia was the original owner of the corner of Liberty and Mercer streets where he built a cabin before the town was formed. Mercer’s longtime associate, George Washington, stayed in this cabin during his visits in 1767 and 69. It was added to several times including a tower built by Henry Harrison Hunter in 1878. Named Tanglewood, it was a wedding present for David Hunter Strother in 1848; he entertained noted writer Washington Irving here. Tanglewood was later operated as a boarding house until razed in 1968.
Washington’s brother-in-law, Fielding Lewis, owned the lot on the southside of Washington and Liberty. Kennedy tore down Lewis’ 18th century cottage to build Stoneleigh in 1904, and the Gough House to build Stoneleigh’s carriage house. The latter was razed in 1967 for the main section of Citizens National Bank and the dramatic stone house was razed for the bank’s expansion in 1986.
10. The Country Inn at Berkeley Springs
One of the ten lots occupied by Inn and Spa was owned by James Smith, Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Pennsylvania; another by General Horatio Gates who witnessed Rumsey’s successful public steamboat trial in Shepherdstown in 1787.
Prior to 1846, Colonel John Strother of Martinsburg bought about half the lots and built his Pavilion Hotel. He sold half of it to his son David Hunter Strother in 1855 and began calling it the Berkeley Springs Hotel. It was a 500-room resort facing onto the park. In 1848, President James K. Polk stayed at the newly completed hotel which he found to his liking until he discovered that Strother was an ardent Whig and opponent of Polk’s Democratic Party. When Confederate General Stonewall Jackson spent two days in January 1862 shelling Hancock, Maryland, he quartered his men and horses in the grand hotel; both Strothers were well-known Union supporters. Upon the father’s death in 1865, son David Hunter Strother, noted writer, illustrator and Union Adjutant General, assumed complete ownership and operation of the hotel.
Berkeley Springs, West VirginiaThe Berkeley Springs Hotel continued as a mainstay of the resort town, famous for its dress balls and band music, until March 1898 when it burned. Only the machine shop and outbuildings survived. In 1906 and ‘07, there was a merry-go-round on the empty grounds and from 1928 to ‘31 it was used as a tourist campground. After three decades of rumors and false starts by various investors, the local Harmison family built the current center section in 1933 and moved their Park View Inn from its original site across Washington Street. It became so popular, two wings were added in 1937. Jack and Adele Barker bought it in 1972 and named it The Country Inn. During the 1980s a dining room, spa, and new rooms in a separate building were added. The facility changed hands again in 2003 and is now a member of the Historic Hotels of America under the name Inn and Spa at Berkeley Springs.
The tiny lodging place known as Bath Cottage, south of the Inn, was built in the 1990s on the foundation of the cabin where 19th century bathkeeper, John Davis, was born and lived.
Behind the Inn are two lots that once held prominent 19th century cottages demolished by town order in 1937. By tradition, cottages were named. These were Woodside and Ellen Gowan.
11. Berkeley Springs State Park/ Berkeley Castle
Berkeley Springs, West VirginiaPlaced on the National Historic Register, the park includes the springs and the town’s first spa and bathhouses. Their history is outlined in the Treasure Tour of Berkeley Springs State Park. The buildings include the 1815 Roman Bathhouse, with the Museum of the Berkeley Springs on the second floor, and the Gentlemen’s Spring House in the northwest corner. The Main Bathhouse was built in 1929 along the south boundary. Buildings were first constructed in the park beginning in 1784 and included a series of covered bathhouses, the most recent of which were razed in 1949 for the outdoor swimming pool.
Perched on Warm Springs Ridge overlooking the park and springs is the most extravagant example of the town’s Victorian building boom — Berkeley Castle. It was constructed of local sandstone by Samuel Taylor Suit of Washington, DC in 1885 as a summer cottage for his young bride Rosa Pelham. Suit died and Rosa finished building the cottage which the local press dubbed the Castle in tribute both to its appearance and Rosa’s many extravagant parties. During the first half of the 20th century, the Castle passed through many hands. It was used for everything from dances and an antique fair to a summer camp. Up until 2000, it was open for house tours; currently it is a private residence available for photo and movie shoots. The building is dominated by the three-story tower; the roof is trimmed with battlements. There are 13 interior rooms and a basement “dungeon.” WV9 now cuts through the Castle property; a stone gate tower built by Rosa in 1893 is stranded on the opposite side of the highway.
12. St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
13. Fairfax Street - Southeast Block
Dawson’s Variety was the first structure rebuilt in 1975. Its site has a long history as a location for retail operations.
The present BB&T Bank was constructed in 1978 on the hotel site. Prior to construction of the Washington Hotel by George Biser in 1905, the corner held a dwelling that occasionally served as a boarding house. In the 1880s, Beverly Tucker rented it as his family cottage. Tucker was a US Government official turned Confederate agent who became a friend of postwar presidents including Harrison and Garfield, The Washington Hotel was the mainstay of the early 20th century resort industry also housing several businesses within its structure.
Among the most prominent of the commercial buildings on Fairfax St. destroyed by the fire was the Opera House built by W.H. Young in 1905. The town’s first motion pictures were shown there in 1909 and continued through the mid-20th century under a variety of names and managers. Many events were staged in the Opera House which could seat 450, had a 22-foot ceiling and a large stage. At various times it also held the Town Hall and an indoor miniature golf course.
Today, most of empty area is owned by St.Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. It is used for parking and as the food lot for the annual Apple Butter Festival.
The boulevard in Fairfax St. was added in 1916 when Fairfax and Washington streets were first paved — with brick. The Soldiers Memorial Monument was added in 1925. Its landscaping is maintained by the Foxglove Garden Club.
14. Hunter Funeral Home
The contemporary home on the south side was built in 1963 after razing the large frame dwelling built by Dr. Boyd Pendleton in 1884 and operated for the first half of the 20th century as Casler’s Inn. The original lot owner was George Washington’s brother Samuel, one of the Bath Trustees responsible for laying out the town.
15. George Washington's Lots
16. Upper Fairfax Street
Next east, is the Bathkeeper’s Quarters, part of Highlawn Inn. It was built in 1907-8 by Henry Harrison Hunter for his son Latrobe. From 1908 to ‘37, the town’s telephone switchboard was located in the living room. Most historic is the tiny white building behind the structure which was H.H.Hunter’s workshop, built with materials left over from construction in Berkeley Springs State Park during the 1880s. There is original board and batten on the square section as well acorn trim and horizontal siding that matches the small building in the park possibly dating the bricking of that structure, if not its actual construction, to the Victorian period.
Berkeley Springs, West VirginiaMountainview, the next house up the hill was built by Henry Harrison Hunter as his final home in 1885. Adjacent is the The Manor Bed and Breakfast in a Second Empire style two-story home with slate-covered mansard roof and board and batten siding. The Hunter family built this for local manufacturer Alexander Sloat in 1879. Sloat was briefly Mayor of Bath in 1882. During the 1920s and ‘30s, the Hunter family used it as a boarding house. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
A quarter mile further up the hill is War Memorial Hospital built on the former Dent Estate. In 1934, the Pines Crippled Childrens Clinic was built to use the waters of Berkeley Springs. It was visited the following year by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1938, a second building was constructed to expand the clinic. Due to the efforts of a group of local businessmen, Morgan County took over the defunct Pines opening War Memorial Hospital there in 1950.
17. Masonic Lodge/ Visitors Center
East of the Masonic Lodge, the Inn on Fairfax St., is housed in a residence built in 1903 and restored a century later.
Around the corner on Mercer St, the Berkeley Springs Fire Department was constructed in 1957 on the site of the 19th century Trimble Hall which housed an opera house and tavern. It was razed for the new fire hall.
18. Morgan County Courthouse
The empty lot next door, until 1997, held one of the town’s oldest structures: a covered-over log structure known in the 20th century as the Harmison then Heare building. It served as dwellings and shops. The County Commission office to the west is located in a much-renovated structure that became the town library in 1974.
The Morgan County Courthouse on the corner of Washington and Fairfax is the third since the county was established in 1820 from sections of Berkeley and Hampshire counties. The second courthouse was built on this site in 1845 after the first one, located at Wilkes and Fairfax streets, was destroyed in the 1844 fire. The current structure, with its clock tower, opened in September 1908. The stone urn in the reflecting pool of Berkeley Springs State Park was placed in front of courthouse #2 in 1891 by the Village Improvement Association then moved in 1908. An addition was constructed to the Courthouse in 1923. Today’s courthouse is a neo-classic of light colored pressed brick, rustic sandstone trimmings and Ionic capitals on pilasters. Traditional awnings were restored in 2002.
Attached to the Courthouse on Washington Street is the Sheriff’s Office. It was renovated in 1989 from a jail and jailer’s residence most recently built in 1962, third in a series. The first jail built on on this site in 1874 generated complaints about windows that opened onto the town’s main street. The second jail was built in 1938 after considering several other sites.
19. Fairfax Street - State Park Side
The corner building at Fairfax and Washington has one of the most complicated histories of any structure in town and it is linked — literally at some periods — to surrounding buildings. In 887, tannery worker George Biser bought a grocery business on this corner and built a brick building there in 1889. By the beginning of the 20th century, his retail business included both a structure on the corner and the building to the west on Fairfax St. In 1904, Biser added two stories to the corner building then sold it four years later to the Bank of Morgan County. Citizens National Bank purchased both this building and the adjacent one on Washington St. in 1939. The yellow brick facade was added by the bank in the 1950s. Mountain Laurel moved to this corner in 1998.
Berkeley Springs, West VirginiaThe next building to the west has cornices that state 1876 and 1890 marking it as the oldest structure on the block. It has always housed retail businesses and once opened to the corner building as part of Biser’s store. The 1901 fire stopped here. Italianate details on the upper level include a bracketted cornice.
Homeopathy Works is located in two buildings that have housed retail businesses for nearly a century. The easternmost structure was built by Ziler in 1908 and soon after became part of George Biser’s retail store. In 1913, the Dunham Building was constructed as a new addition to Biser’s store. Homeopathy Works opened in 1993.
The brick building next west was rebult in 1915 after a three-story structure, built in 1908 on Fairfax Inn grounds to house Ruppenthal Photo Gallery, was burned in the 1912 Fairfax Annex fire. It has been the site of a variety of retail business through the decades.
The Bath House Health Center building teaches earnest viewers not to believe everything engraved on a cornerstone. It was constructed in 1988 in the style of the older surrounding buildings, and dated 1888 as a joke. A building was constructed on this site in 1911 and then burned in the following year’s fire. It was rebuilt in 1912 and for many years housed the Bridge Cafe which advertised itself in 1918 as “The Delmonicos of Berkeley Springs.” Fire claimed the brick structure in 1981.
Berkeley Springs, West VirginiaThe northeastern corner of Wilkes and Fairfax streets is Lot A and entrance to the park. In 1822, the newly formed Morgan County bought the lot and the 18th century stone structure from Joseph Sherrard as the first courthouse. In 1844, it was burned in a massive fire. The county traded the lot for the one that holds the current Courthouse. In the 1880s, the St. Elmo Inn was located here and later became an annex to the Fairfax Inn linked by walkways over the run. It survived the 1901 fire and was operated as an independent lodging business with room for 200 guests and an adjoining pavilion. The building was destroyed by fire in 1912. The brick building now housing the Berkeley Springs Antique Mall was constructed in1922 as a car garage boasting “fireproof storage” for automobiles. A succession of businesses, most auto-related, located in the building including a bottling plant in 1934. The building was used by Berkeley Metal for manufacturing prior to the Antique Mall taking it over in 1990. The tiny building to the east was constructed in 1994 over Warm Springs Run where the walkways once were.
20. Washington Street - West Side
The next structure north evolved from a brick building which held various businesses in the 1880s including Green’s Drugstore then C.W. Johnson’s store. There was once a substantial exterior staircase granting people entrance to the second floor office of The News. In 1936 Hudson Yost opened the Fairfax Restaurant in this space. The elaborate soda fountain back bar still in the building was added at this time and bears the German spelling of the Yost name across the top. Under various owners, the Fairfax Restaurant continued as a downtown mainstay until the 1990s. Bath Bookworks opened in 2002. The adjacent building was constructed in 1905.
The alley that divides the Washington Street block nearly in half once led into the courtyard area of the Fairfax Inn. To the north, the land was covered in First National Tannery buildings owned by the DeFords. The tannery closed in 1893; the buildings were damaged in the 1898 fire and razed over the next several years. Tari’s Cafe occupies three separate buildings. Berkeley Springs, West VirginiaThe southernmost structure was built in 1913; the adjacent concrete building in 1922. At various times, these storefronts held restaurants. The third building, housing Tari’s Gallery dining room since 2000, was built in 1947. In 1922, an open air theater operated on what was then an empty lot.
The Star Theatre is located on the site of the tannery’s main building. The current brick structure was built by W.H. Young in 1916 as a car storage garage and repair shop for the Johnson family and then converted to a movie theater in1928 with the addition of the front section which shows traditional design for that period. The southernmost front room housed the town’s telephone switchboard from 1937 through the 1960s. The marquee was added in 1949; it became the Star in 1977.
21. Washington Street - East Side
22. Morgan County Public Library
23. Francis Asbury Methodist Church
Berkeley Springs, West VirginiaThe apartment building on the southwest corner of Wilkes and Congress has undergone significant renovation since its beginnings as an 18th century boarding house owned by Philip Pendleton, then by notorious early 19th century gambler, Robert Bailey. In 1775, Reverend Philip Fithian who wrote extensively of his visit to the town, lodged here. By 1844 it was called the Gault House and operated by William Hunter. The Dutch colonial roof is a modern addition but the three-story porch suggests a southern colonial influence on the original. Looking across Congress St., there is another 18th century log and stone house that was home to Revolutionary War generals John Smith, Otho Williams, and Colonel John Stull. Later this unique structure served as a schoolhouse.
The northeast corner of Congress and Wilkes once held an inn, built in 1779. Reportedly George Washington spent the night there in 1794 with Alexander Hamilton as they rode west to stop the Whiskey Rebellion. From that time on, owner John Hunter called it the inn “at the sign of General Washington.” In 1845, it was called the Flagg House. The back section of today’s law office of Richard Gay was added in 1901 and has unusual siding. The front section, location of the historic inn, was razed in 1938 and replaced by the current brick structure. The name was then changed to the Morgan Inn.
Next door is a 19th century dwelling that was renovated to house “The News” in 1907. Today it has been renovated into Atasia Spa. It has an impressive pediment although one urn is missing.
24. Perry Office Building
Further north on this block, Lynette’s Cafe is housed in the former Eichelberger residence constructed in 1915. The garage holding flea market booths behind the building was constructed in 1928. The R.A.G. Shop was built as Bowman’s Department Store in 1962. This historic corner held a shop in 1785 owned by steamboat inventor James Rumsey and his partner Nicholas Orrick.
25. Independence Avenue/ The Ice House
The block is dominated by the Ice House, home of the Morgan Arts Council since 1996. The yellow pressed brick structure was built as a state-of-the-art apple cold storage facility in 1911. In 1921, the siren whistle for fire alarms was installed on top of the building and continues in use today. The corner was part of a tannery in the 19th century, then a livery operation. In 1861, it was an empty lot and site of the only legal hanging in Morgan County history.
26. Wilkes Street Houses
27. Old Factory/B&O Depot
The Mission-style, brick train depot on the corner of Williams and Washington was built by the B&O Railroad in 1914. It replaced a smaller, frame structure erected soon after the train first came into town in 1888 as a spur from the main line along the Potomac. The current depot was used until 1935 when passenger service stopped. Most notable features are its low pitched terra cotta tile roof with overhanging eaves and decorative brick work. The Depot, now owned by the town, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The area was part of the Crosfield Addition which included a sand plant, mills, coal and wood yard and the Berkeley Lodge Hotel.