The Historic Blennerhassett Hotel was built and constructed by Colonel William Nelson Chancellor. Construction on the original part of the hotel began in 1883, and after six years of construction, the doors were officially opened to the world on Monday, May 6, 1889. Chancellor wanted a hotel grand for its time, and second to no other hotel in the state of West Virginia, which the Blennerhassett was. The Blennerhassett was built for the millionaires of the day.
In the 1880’s, Parkersburg was in the middle of the oil and gas boom era, and Chancellor wanted his hotel to reflect the wealth of the day. The city of Parkersburg first received electricity in 1888 for the street lights on the main streets in the town. It was electricity that was generated by natural gas. The hotel had both gas and electric at the time that it opened. Local Parkersburg companies wired the hotel for electricity, plumbed it, and fitted it throughout with gas lighting, and steam heating.
The first proprietor to lease the new hotel from chancellor and run and operate it was a man by the name of George C. Campbell. He was given the task, before the hotel was opened, to name Chancellor’s new hotel. He decided that it was going to be called the “Hotel Argyle”, not sure what significance this name had, but he eventually decided on “The Hotel Blennerhassett”. The name derived from Harmon Blennerhassett, an Irish aristocrat who settled on an island in the Ohio River a few miles from Parkersburg with his family in the late eighteenth century. Blennerhassett Island shares his namesake and is now a West Virginia State Park.
The Bentley and Gerwig furniture company helped to furnish the hotel with some of its new furnishings before its new grand opening. Chancellor had two different companies from Cincinnati Ohio come in and do all of the original window treatments throughout the hotel, as well as all of the frescoing works, which would have been seen in different parts of the lobby area, as well as in the restaurant. There was an electric elevator, as well as an electric service elevator that were located in the hotel at the time of its opening, something new for the day.
The restaurant was located on the second floor and could seat up to 80 guests at one time. The kitchen was located on the fifth floor of the new hotel. This was done in case a fire in the kitchen were to start, it would start on the top of the building and work its way down. This was a common safety precaution for the day. The common area was located on the second floor and had two double parlors, with one housing an upright piano. The grand mirror in the lobby had a wire cage built around it, to protect it from stray bullets that could possibly have come through the windows due to unruly crowds and people on the street. There was a central staircase in the lobby which led up five stories. There were public bathrooms on every floor, and bathrooms in all of the 50 new guest rooms.
The first national bank of Parkersburg was located where our present-day Library is. William Chancellor twice served as mayor of Parkersburg and was the president of the first national bank at the time his new hotel was being built. Originally, Chancellor had become a teller at the Northwestern Bank of Virginia, eventually working his way up to vice president, and then eventually president. The Northwestern bank of Virginia became the first national bank of West Virginia when West Virginia became a state during the Civil War. In the 1980’s the bank became United Bank, and is currently located on Market Street in Parkersburg. He wanted his bank right in the heart of his hotel, where it remained up through the 1910’s.
The entrance into the bank was located at the corner of Fourth and Market Streets. After the bank went out, this became the main Hotel entrance until the 1985-1986 renovation. From historic records, we are very certain that the bank was most likely opened to the public before the hotel was completed. The Hotel is believed to be one of, if not the first, establishment in Parkersburg to have functional modern-day electricity.
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