Still towering 70 feet above the small town of Mullens, the Wyoming hotel has been slowly consumed by decay since it closed nearly five decades ago.
The paint is peeling off the walls. The floors are littered with debris. And, sitting at the confluence of the Guyandotte River and Slab Fork, the structure has been inundated several times over its more than 100-year existence.
This decadence, however, is ended thanks to the Mullens Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit made up of current and former residents who wish to restore the once chic structure to its former grandeur.
Work will begin later this month to consolidate the rear of the building, explained Carolyn Wilcox, president of the Mullens Community Development Corporation.
Work will be done on the roof and the fire escape will be removed, she said.
The next step will be to make improvements to the facade of the building and then to clean the interior.
Most of the 68 rooms still have ragged curtains on the windows as well as furniture that was there when the hotel closed in the mid-1970s.
According to Wilcox, some of the historic hotel’s unique features can be retained, including the marble, much of the tiling, as well as much of the furniture.
Committee members hope to use the skills of the House of Wonder in Maben to finish the furniture, she said.
âIt will be good for them and for us,â she said.
The restoration of the building will be completed one level at a time, Wilcox said, as funding becomes available.
The first floor houses a lobby, dining room and ballroom for up to 250 people, five commercial bays and is surrounded by a mezzanine on the second floor with social rooms.
On the top three floors are the guest rooms with a shared bathroom on each floor.
The mezzanine will likely need to be restored with the renovations to the first floor, she said.
New plumbing and electrical work will also have to be done.
Bathrooms will need to be built in every room to meet today’s standards, Wilcox noted.
There has already been interest in using the top two floors for condominiums, she said.
Additionally, some of the first floor space will likely be used for telehealth services at CAMC and Princeton Community Hospitals, Wilcox said, noting that the community has strong ties to top administrators at both facilities.
It is difficult for some elderly residents to travel to Charleston, Princeton or Morgantown for services, she said.
âMany older people no longer drive or can no longer drive. They don’t have kids or their kids are too busy to drive them, and it’s hard for them to get to Charleston or Morgantown, âshe said.
With telehealth desks in the hotel, at least some of those initial visits can be made locally, Wilcox noted.
She stressed that they will not compete with doctors in the region, but will try to provide specialist services that are not available locally.
Additionally, the plans include rooms for ATV riders and other visitors, she said.
Committee members also hope to develop the roof, Wilcox said. She said those at the top of the building believe the breathtaking view may be one of the facility’s greatest assets.
â â â
Working with both the University of West Virginia and Virginia Tech, the committee was “on a roll” with the project until Covid-19 struck and schools were closed, Wilcox said.
Virginia Tech students provide architectural and engineering services, while WVU students contributed to the project’s first brownfield grant.
The architects told Wilcox and other committee members that despite the building’s age, it is in very good condition structurally.
â â â
Wyoming’s first hotel, built in 1918, was destroyed by the 1919 fire.
In 1920, the hotel was rebuilt by John C. Sullivan, who owned several coal mines in the area, as well as other investors, according to renowned historian Jack Feller (1922-2013).
Designed by world-renowned architect Alex Mahood, the five-story structure was built in the shape of an ‘H’ and, as part of the historic Mullens district, the hotel was listed on the National Register of Places. historical records on November 16, 1993.
Guests included prominent figures such as US Senator John F. Kennedy, UMWA President John L. Lewis, Major League Baseball great Babe Ruth, world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey, among many. many others.
When Sullivan went bankrupt in 1925, the hotel was bought by Shenandoah Life Insurance of Roanoke, Va., Then sold to Beckley Newspapers owner MH Hodel in the 1940s, and later to Sam and Nelva Webster of Mullens, according to historians.
The Websters’ son, Samuel E. Webster, plans to donate the building to the city after the environmental studies are complete, according to Mayor Jenny Ann Martin, who is also the nonprofit company’s vice president.
Marcia Catron is the treasurer and the board members include Webster, Audra Blackwell and Mark Blackwell.
In addition to a few private donations, the project received two grants. Requests for additional grants have also been submitted, Wilcox said.
Earlier this year, the project was selected by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia for one of its Saving Historical Places grants.
The $ 6,000 grant is being used by the Peacework Development Fund to save the building from imminent danger of collapse by removing the fire escape, according to a prepared press release.
The Peacework Development Fund is an international non-profit organization that works to reduce poverty and economic disparities. The group supports community organizations, helps develop strategic actions and improves opportunities through networking and building alliances.
The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to historic preservation.
In 2019, the Mullens Community Development Corporation received a $ 5,000 grant from the FOCUS (Foundation for Overcoming Challenges and Utilizing Strengths) West Virginia Brownsfield program.
It was the seed to start the project, Martin said at the time.