By WHITNEY BURDETTE ∙ firstname.lastname@example.org
PARKERSBURG — Although Blennerhassett Hotel is steeped in history, it is the center of downtown revitalization in Parkersburg.
The Ross family, who bought the post-Civil War era hotel 12 years ago, envision the property as the epicenter of culture and entertainment in downtown Parkersburg, said Cecil Childress, general manager of the hotel.
"Certainly the goal of the renovation was to keep the historic nature, but the mindset of the current owners is for economic redevelopment in the downtown area," Childress said.
The hotel was built in 1889 by William Chancellor. It has operated continuously as a hotel since then, Childress said, except for periods when it was closed for renovation. The Ross family invested nearly $7 million to renovate the hotel in 2000. Now, the hotel includes 89 guest rooms and suites, a full-service bar and restaurant, Starbucks coffee shop, a gift shop, meeting space and two ballrooms. Childress said the amenities are aimed at business travelers, but hotel-sponsored events keep the locals entertained as well.
"We do live entertainment four nights a week," Childress said. "We have a Martini Monday event we do every Monday — great deals on great martinis, as well as live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. As the weather gets nice, we do some jazz entertainment out on our patio. The patio was opened in 2005 and gives it a very nice upscale outdoor dining experience. We still have our traditional upscale restaurant which produces food that is predominately American fare with a French cuisine emphasis."
In addition, the Blennerhassett Hotel offers an extensive wine menu, featuring 550 varieties. Childress said the hotel maintains an inventory of 3,000 bottles, which comes in handy for some of the hotel's events.
"It allows us to do a lot of culinary as well as wine-type events," Childress said.
The hotel also offers culinary cooking classes, ranging from knife skills to baking to how to prepare soups and sauces. The hotel also sponsors and takes part in the annual Taste of Parkersburg, which takes place every fall. The hotel's restaurant also hosts buffet-style dinners for holidays, including Mother's Day.
The Blennerhassett name is well-known throughout the Ohio Valley. The Blennerhassetts owned a mansion on what is known as Blennerhassett Island on the Ohio River. Herman Blennerhassett was accused of conspiring with Aaron Burr to start a mercenary army to take over either Texas from the Mexicans or the newly purchased Northwest Territory. Childress said Blennerhassett allegedly provided Burr with money to fund the militia.
Because of the history, Childress said his hotel is often confused with Blennerhassett Island.
"We're easily confused, but we're comfortable with that in a sense," he said.
The Blennerhassett Hotel and the Greenbrier resort are the only two hotels in West Virginia to be named to the Historic Hotels of America, a division of the National Historic Trust.
But even as Parkersburg forges ahead, Childress said the history and grandeur of the hotel will remain in tact.
"You're not going to find anything of this caliber when it comes to overall quality of guestroom product this side of the Greenbrier," Childress said. "The owner really pays attention to detail and the right kind of commitment to quality and it makes for an absolutely unique experience. Once someone stays here, we pretty well have them hooked."