Guyandotte Hotel

Commercial / West Virginia

The Guyandotte Hotel is a long abandoned hotel in the coalfields of West Virginia. Guests in the hotel over the years included then-Senator John F. Kennedy, United Mine Worker’s President John L. Lewis, Babe Ruth, Will Rogers, and other dignitaries.

The actual name of the location has been modified to protect the location as much as possible from vandalism.

History

The Virginian Railroad reached Wyoming County in 1906, which was soon followed by the first commercial coal mine in 1908, sparking the development of the Winding Gulf Coalfield. 11 The Winding Gulf, promoted as the “Billion Dollar Coalfield,” soon had dozens of companies vying to extract pricey low-volatile “smokeless” coal, high-quality metallurgical coal, and steam coal from the earth.

The six-story Guyandotte Hotel was designed by Alex Mahood 2 and constructed in 1918 in the center of the action. 1 But the new facility was completely destroyed by a fire that ravaged the city on December 23, 1920, but was quickly rebuilt by J.C. Sullivan, owner of several coal mines in Tralee, Meade Poca, and Barker’s Creek. 10 The first floor of the new Guyandotte featured a lobby, and a combination dining room and a ballroom that could host 250 guests, 9 while the second floor contained social rooms for the guests. 2 The upper three levels contained 68 guest rooms and one bathroom per floor. 1 The basement was used by the American Legion Post 108. 6

Hotel Advertisement

A hotel advertisement noting a reduction in rates from December 1921. Source: Raleigh-Register, 16 Dec. 1921, p. 2.

In 1922, Sullivan moved his Bank of Wyoming from his company store in Meade Poca to the Guyandotte in 1922. 1 Despite the good fortunes of the booming coalfields, Sullivan went bankrupt in 1925 and the hotel was acquired by the Shenandoah Life Insurance Company of Roanoke, Virginia. 2 The Bank of Wyoming was acquired by the People’s Bank of Mullens in January 1926.

The hotel was lightly redecorated when the guest rooms were repainted and the beds replaced in September 1936. 3 Additionally, a large red neon sign, weighing 400 pounds, was installed over the main entrance.

In the 1940s, the Guyandotte was sold to M.H. Hodel, the owner of the Beckley Newspaper Company, and later conveyed to Sam and Nelva Webster. 2

Radio station WWYO was formed in January 1949 to offer “the friendly voice of the hills.” 12 When it went on air at 7:15 AM on February 6, it was the county’s first airlane medium and was the last new station in the southern part of the state to program live country music extensively. The tower and station were located in Pineville with a supplemental office located in the Guyandotte.

In the evening of September 23, 1952, John J. Woods, who billed himself the “human fly,” climbed the Guyandotte under the sponsorship of the city’s police department. 5 At the top, he inverted himself and balanced his head on the ledge at the top of the 70-foot building. It was a repeat performance of an earlier act in 1946. Woods, at age 55, stated that he had scaled over 11,000 buildings. During his 38 years as the “human fly,” he had fallen just four times, once a distance of four stories. Twenty percent of the money donated by spectators was donated to the local police department’s uniform fund.

The hotel dining room was reopened by John Hall in 1956. 7 Hall enlarged the existing Coffee Shop and connected it to the shuttered dining room, which was renovated and outfitted with air conditioning and lounges for both men and women. “Ella’s Beauty Salon,” operated by Ella Neely, opened in the basement of the hotel in October 1960. 8

Declining demand for coal from the Winding Gulf Coalfield and the mechanization of coal extraction led to regional population collapses. Unable to fill rooms and compete with larger chain hotels along the West Virginia Turnpike and Interstates 64 and 77, the Guyandotte Hotel was forced to close circa 1978.

A record-breaking flood in July 2001 swept up to seven feet of water through the Guyandotte Hotel. 4 It spread not only mold and debris throughout the basement and the first floor, but caused the concrete floors in the rear of the building to collapse.


Gallery


Sources

  1. Historic Walking Tour, Mullens, WV. Mullens: Rural Appalachian Improvement League, n.d. Coal Heritage. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. Article.
  2. United States. Dept. of the Interior. Mullens Historic District. Comp. Howard G. Adkins and Mack H. Gillenwater. Washington: National Park Service, May 1993. 16 Oct. 2014. Article.
  3. “Wyoming Hotel Newly Bedighl.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 25 Sept. 1936, p. 7.
  4. Calwell, Becky “Mullens.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 30 May 2013.
  5. “‘Human Fly’ to Climb Mullens Building Tonight.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 23 Sept. 1952, p. 5.
  6. “Mullens Legion Post Receives Gift from Charles Town Club.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 21 Oct. 1945, p. 2.
  7. “John Hall Returns to Mullens to Re-Enter Restaurant Business.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 2 Jul. 1956, p. 2.
  8. Breck, Eve. “‘Waiting for Mother’ Pleasant for Tots of Salon’s Customers.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 20 Oct. 1960, p. 12.
  9. “Lodging in Railroad Towns.” Historic Inns of Southern West Virginia, by Ed Robinson, Arcadia, 2007, p. 74.
  10. “Mullens business district suffers three fires in early years.” Wyoming County Report, 3 Apr. 2017.
  11. West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office. Wyoming Hotel. Comp. Dobson, Sone & Valente, 23 Oct. 1990. Article.
  12. Miller, Jeff. “History of WWYO, Pineville.” History of Broadcasting in West Virginia. Article.