TWO PENCE SPRINGS HOTELS
Fred Long and Stephen Trail Hinton, WV Hinton, WV
1. Establishing shot. West Virginia Department of Highways Historical Roadside Marker showing the location of the second Pence Springs Hotel-West Virginia State Prison for Women. Pence Springs is located near the Greenbrier River, a major tributary of the New River System, in Summers County, West Virginia.
2. Map illustrating the location of: the Pence Spring, the first Pence Springs Hotel, and the second Pence Springs Hotel. Raw data extracted from USGS 7.5 Alderson Quad.
3. Photograph of Andrew Pence circa 1905. It was he who endowed his Southern genteel character upon the spring-hotel complexes.
4. The Pence Spring today. The pioneers referred to the spring as "The Buffalo Spring" due to the numerous buffalo that frequented the salt lick. It is this spring that became the foci of the two Pence Springs Hotels. In 1872 Andrew Pence purchased the spring property. Soon after the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad passed by the spring on the opposite side of the Greenbrier River. In 1880 Andrew Pence received a deed to the property and in that year built a boarding house in which his family also resided. This structure subsequently burned in 1891. In 1882 the bottling and sale of Pence Spring water began. Dr. George L. Pence, son of Andrew Pence, in an interview in the November 29, 1952 edition the of the Hinton Daily News stated, "...It [the present Pence Spring] was just a swamp on the hill up from the river when my father first saw the spring. Animals from all around would pass up the cool water of the Greenbrier River to go up the hill and drink from the sulphur spring. My father dug up a gum tree and had running mineral water. . ." According to Jacob Dick Pence, another son of Andrew Pence, "...The work consisted of an excavation being made and a wooden gum placed over the spring. . ." Circa 1892 a square wooden spigot replaced the gum tree as a spring tap. About this time Andrew Pence erected a frame spring house to cover the spring.
5. The Pence Spring August 11, 1905. In 1904 the spring water won the St. Louis Worlds Fair silver medal award for the high quality of the spring sulpho-alkaline water. In 1901-02 Andrew Pence employed eight to ten men to excavate the area that surrounded the spring to obtain better control of the sulphur water flow. In a 1904 court case involving Andrew Pence he stated, "they worked for thirty to forty days excavating the earth around the spring until they came to where the water poured at ten gallons or more a minute from a crevice eight to ten inches long and from an inch to an inch and a half wide flowing in a north-westerly direction from a rock. The top of the rock when I first came to it was a mixture of slate and crystalized lime. . .and going down 10, 12 or 14 inches I could see nothing around the water, only the white crystals or quartz rock through which the water flowed. It came out through well defined walls of polished white crystal rock, as though it might have been running there for ages." Andrew Pence confined the spring water entirely with cement and tile. Pence at this time also replaced the old wooden, frame spring house with a new spring house that stands today though altered. The new spring house was neo-classical in design resembling a minature Grecian temple. The new spring house consisted of a triangular shaped roof supported by concrete columns. This spring was also referred to as "The Sulpho-Alkaline Spring". The spring house was trimmed in a gingerbread style.
6. The Pence Spring Grove circa 1904.
7. The Pence Spring circa 1910.
8. View of the first Pence Springs Hotel, looking east, circa 1900. This hotel was erected between 1894 and 1897.
9. The first Pence Springs Hotel circa 1900. Architecturally this hotel was constructed in a L configuration. The structure was a two and a half story, frame, grey colored building.
10. Shot featuring the main section of the first Pence Springs Hotel, 1903. The hotel was crowned with a two story, ten by twelve, frame observation tower that was erected atop the front roof.
11. A view of the first Pence Spring Hotel looking southeast circa 1905. By 1901 a combined ballroom-dining room was operating at the hotel along with a bowling alley on the adjacent grounds. This hotel boasted a fine 9 hole golf course. The Hatfields of feud-fame were frequent summer visitors at this hotel. On the morning of October 29, 1912 the quaint Victorian hotel burned.
12. Bowling Alley which today serves as a family dwelling. The bowling alley is the structure on the left of the slide taken February 1984. The Pence Spring house can be seen to the right of the slide.
13. Horse drawn carriage circa 1900, that transported hotel guests from the Stockyards (later changed to the Pence Springs Station) Train Station to and from the hotel.
14. The only remaining vestige of the first Pence Springs Hotel looking west.
15. This circular concrete structure is the only remaining vestige of the hotel proper. This structure is approximately 16 inches high by 12-1/2 inches wide, and has a diameter of 11 feet and one inch.
16. Close up of a segment of the circular concrete structure.
17. View of the circular structure looking south. It was within this setting that the first Pence Springs Hotel once existed. As to what life was like at the hotel about the time of the turn of the 20th Century we can catch a glimpse in a letter published in the Greenbrier Independent on August 11, 1904. The letter is signed "J", and the flow of the letter seems to indicate that it is from a gentleman staying at the resort on his honeymoon: "The hotel is full, nearly all from West Virginia; quite a number from Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. Quite a number of elegant and lovely ladies grace the lawns and parlor with their beauty and polished manners, and they contribute their skill and culture to the many plays and amusements engaged in during the day and early evenings. . . . all innocent in form and effect. We have delightful instrumental music and vocal voices therewith. The old sentimental Southern songs make your writer's very soul abound and rebound with the realization that we are in Dixie Land."
18. View looking north of the grand building that was once the second Pence Springs Hotel. Today the building is once again empty, and is beginning to decay. Slide taken March 1984.
19. View looking north of the second Pence Springs Hotel under construction in 1918. The best of everything in the way of materials was used in the construction of this hotel. This hotel was the last of the grand southern spas to be built. Architecturally the hotel is in the Georgian or neo-classical style with a twist of Victorian. The central area is Georgian while the wings are Victorian.
20. View looking south of the rear of the second Pence Springs Hotel while under construction in 1918.
21. The Pence Spring Hotel after completion. This post card was produced circa 1925. This hotel spanned the era of the "Roaring 20's" and was a typical speakeasy for the affluent. Yet, the focal point and reason most people came to the spa was to partake of the mineral water, that is, the sulpho-alkaline water of the Pence Spring.
22. The Pence Spring house and bottling works looking south circa 1915.
23. Another view of the Pence Spring house and bottling works circa 1915.
24. This slide was taken February, 1984 at the Pence Spring concrete bridge that connects the spring house with the grove. The three bottles pictured once held water from the Pence Spring, and ginger ale manufactured at the bottling works. The bottle to the left was a water bottle. Its logo is "Pence Springs Water Company Pence Springs, W. Va." in raised relief. The middle bottle is a ginger ale bottle while the bottle to the right is another variety of water bottle. These bottles were bottled circa 1925.
25. An outing at the Pence Spring circa 1920.
26. Life at the Pence Spring circa 1920.
27. The Pence Spring circa 1920. Note that the black gentleman sitting on the bridge in the center of the photo is "Satch Kelly" who was the official spring dipper at the Pence Spring. His tenure at the spring spanned the entire existance of both Pence Springs Hotels.
28. The Sulphur Spring (the Pence Spring) circa 1920.
29. Scene at the Pence Spring in 1922. Note the glass mugs on the concrete spring box. From the look on the two gentlemen's faces captioned in the photo one cannot help but wonder as to what was in the mugs. To me they look crocked.
30. The Pence Spring house circa 1925. Note "Satch Kelly" dipping water at the Pence Spring. Also, note the water bottling operation at the right of the slide.
31. The Pence Springs complex May 12, 1928. Note that the spring house has been altered in that the two longest sides of the spring house have been enclosed.
32. Recent slide illustrating the close proximity of the Pence Spring to the second and still standing Pence Springs Hotel. Concrete steps once connected the two complexes and can bee seen in the slide.
33. A recent slide of the second Pence Spring Hotel building. This hotel was of brick construction. The following is from an advertisement on a Pence Springs Hotel Post Card, "a mountain resort in the beautiful Alleghaneys, is equipped with every modern convenience of the city hotel. Home garden, excellent cuisine, splendid service, famous mineral water. Orchestra, dancing, golf, tennis, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, motoring, marvelous scenery. Located on main line of C & O Railway and the Atlantic & Pacific Highway."
34. The Pence Springs Hotel building today looking north. This hotel was known quaintly as "the Country Home: and opened to the public in June 1918. It was a spacious 60 room hotel of brick construction. It was the talk of the region when completed. The atmosphere generated was Southern-genteel replete with Black employees mainly from the South. It is noteworthy that moonshine liquor along with other more tame alcoholic spirits freely flowed during the Era of the Prohibition at the Pence Spring-Hotel complex. The last record of the Pence Springs Hotel being open to the public was on September 3, 1929, when the last dance of the season was held at the famous though short lived resort. The dance was a final adieu to a grand lady if I may refer to the elegant hotel as such.
35. Slide of the veranda taken on the veranda looking south.
36. The Pence Springs Hotel circa 1930. The following excerpt is from an article written by L. T. Anderson under "Current Affairs" from the February 7, 1982 edition of the Sunday Gazette Mail:" The combined testimony of former patrons created an impression that the hotel was indifferent to time. The flapper and jazz age arrived and then was smothered in the grayness of the Great Depression, but the Pence Springs Hotel seems to have remained ricky-tick and ragtime to the end. When I first saw it, the end had come. Its doors were locked and its grounds shabby. The pin-stripped flannels and straw skimmers were gone from a croquet court now covered with weeds. Where there had been the soft talk of whist players there was nothing."
37. Close up of the front of the Pence Springs Hotel showing details of the facade. Note the large columns and massive grand character of the structure. Slide taken summer 1983.
38. Slide of the east wing of the hotel. Note the open porch on this wing. Also, note the second story porch on the front section of the hotel.
39. The east wing of the hotel. Note the concrete walkway that patrons once used to visit the Pence Spring. Slide taken summer 1983.
40. The east wing porch looking southwest up the porch toward the front. Note the pooled water on the floor. Slide taken summer 1983.
41. The west wing looking northwest. Note the enclosed solarium. Slide taken March, 1984.
42. The west wing looking northeast. Slide taken summer 1983. The one story addition was added during the late 1940's, during the prison era.
43. Rear of the Pence Springs Hotel building July 1983. Note the columned porte cochere, or rear entry. Note the bars on the windows a grim reminder that in 1947 the hotel was converted to a prison.
44. Close up of porte cochere.
45. Hotel manager's quarters, later the prison superintendents quarters. This structure was erected circa 1920.
46. Guest house and supervisory quarters, erected circa 1920.
47. The casino which fronts the west wing of the hotel, July 1983. This structure was erected circa 1920.
48. Motoring garage erected circa 1920. Automobile touring became popular during the life of the hotel.
49. The caddy house erected circa 1920. This structure complimented a fine 9 hole golf course. This building was the domain of the caddy master. Slide taken summer 1983.
50. One section of the 9 hole golf course which lies on a gentle sloping terrace located northeast of the hotel complex. Slide taken summer 1983.
51. Indian mound (46SU321). According to Mr. George Counts of Pence Springs, his father helped construct the golf course. He related that his father had told him that Number 3 Tee was an Indian Mound prior to serving as a golf tee. Slide taken February 1984. Note the hotel building in the background.
52. The Pence Springs Hotel stables erected circa 1920. The stables have been altered. Slide taken summer 1983.
53. The guard house a reminder of the time when the Pence Springs Hotel was converted to the West Virginia State Prison For Women. The hotel served as a prison from 1947 to 1983.
54. The Pence home erected circa 1920. It was designed and constructed in the same style as the second Pence Springs Hotel. This home sits near where the first Pence Springs Hotel sit.
55. The entrance to the Pence Springs grounds. Slide taken summer 1983.
56. One of the many woodland trails that grace the area north and northeast of the hotel building. Slide taken summer 1983.
57. Slide taken summer 1983 of the hotel grounds.
58. Another 1983 summer slide of the hotel grounds. Many large old patriarchs stand guard over the hotel building and spring. Many of these trees were planted when the hotel and spring house were constructed.
59. One of many wild flowers that grace the grounds of the hotel-spring complex. Slide taken summer 1983.
60. Hotel grounds flora summer 1983.
61. The Pence Spring Grove 1983. Note the large old oak trees that dominate the grove today, and the Pence Spring Flea Market that is taking place beneath the canopy of the trees.
62. Close up of the Pence Springs Flea Market.
63. The Pence Spring house interior and tap February 1984.
64. Steps that once led from the Pence Spring to the second Pence Springs Hotel, looking west from the spring.
65. The old walkway covered partially today by foliage. Note the hotel building on the skyline. The following are impressions and thoughts concerning the Pence Spring. I first visited the spring in 1965 while employed in a summer program with the West Virginia Department of Highways. Upon nearing the spring house grounds, I was overcome by a feeling of enchantment that seemed to envelope the environs of the spring. The grove put me in a dream-like state of peaceful repose. Then suddenly, upon entering the spring house my sense of being spellbound was overpowered by the repugnance of the acrid hydrogen sulphide that entered my nostrils. The gas having dissipated from the spring sulphur water into the air around the spring. I wonder as to whether or not other people have similar reactions upon their first encounter with the spring. Throughout the years when I have visited the spring a certain timelessness, sense of order, and peacefulness of the place come to mind as impressions characteristic of the spring area. Even today, in 1984, the odor of the spring sulphur water startles me just as upon that first encounter. Nevertheless, the environs of the spring is truely an enchanted place.
Acts of the Forty-Eighth Legislature of West Virginia, Regular Session, 1947. BJW Printers, Beckley, West Virginia. 1947.
Cohen, Stan. Historic Springs of the Virginias. Charleston, West Virginia: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, May, 1981.
Miller, James H. History of Summers County. Parsons, West Virginia. 1908.
Price, Paul H., John B. McCue, and Homer A. Hoskins. Springs of West Virginia. Morgantown, West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey. 1936.
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CLERK RECORDS AND COURT CASES
Summers County Clerk Records. Deed Books C, U, Y, 28, 32, 33, 34, 36, 39 and 53.
Summers County Circuit Clerk Records. Pence vs. Blair. File 6, Case 2304.
Summers County Circuit Clerk Records, Park Grimes Co., vs. Pence Springs Co., File 5, Case 1141.
Summers County Clerk Records. Record of Inventories, Appraisements and Sales, Book No. 1.
Berkky, Ashby. August 14, 1983.
Dotson, Frances. August 12, 1982.
Dotson, Tildon. August 12, 1983.
Houseby, Eldridge Grayson. May 21, 1982.
Price, Edna. August 11, 1983.
Summers, Rosa Haynes August 15, 1983.
Sweeney, Hugh. July 12, 1983.
Tolley, Suzanne. August 12, 1983.
PAMPHLETS AND MAPS
Pence Springs Hotel: The Country Home. Hotel advertisement (brochure) circa 1920.
Pence Springs Water Company. Brochure advertising the spring. Circa 1925.
United States Geological Survey. Alderson Quadrangle, West Virginia. 7.5 minutes. Topographic.
West Virginia Department of Corrections. State Prison for Women, Pence Springs, West Virginia. June 22, 1982.
Last Updated: 08-Jul-2009