Hilltop House Hotel in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia…

Hilltop House Hotel in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia…
Virginia Hotels
Image by garyfgarcia
The following text taken from a press release about the future of this old hotel.

May 13, 2009
Hilltop Hotel Redevelopment Plan Presented to Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry, WV—SWaN Investors, the owner of the Historic Hilltop House Hotel, and their design team presented a Hilltop Hotel Master Plan and Rezoning Application to the Harpers Ferry Town Council for consideration.

After presenting basic concepts to the town and receiving extensive comments last year, SWaN and its partners commenced a process of visioning, by visiting the site and appreciating the views, followed by an exploration of the history and assessment of the properties’ current conditions to understand the potential for historic preservation.

The hotel, which is uniquely located on a large crest of land overlooking Harpers Ferry National Park with breathtaking views of the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers two hundred feet below, has long been a tourist favorite and a fixture in Harper’s Ferry since its establishment in 1888.

The Hilltop Hotel was destroyed two times by fire; once in 1912 and another time in 1919. Today’s current hotel foundation suffers severe structural issues in part because it was salvaged from the ruins of the 1919 fire and because it has been significantly modified over the years.

Mike Miller, SWaN Project Manager, stated that “the Hilltop team initially hoped to renovate the hotel, but once we brought in the experts, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that the existing structure could not be made safe.” The team focused on creating a historically sensitive reconstruction of the hotel borrowing heavily from a 1912 pre-fire photograph of the hotel. The design incorporates sustainable design principles and the project is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council. The team will pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. In addition, the landscaping will reuse stonework from the original hotel.

Six historic U.S. Armory houses located on the property facing Washington Street will be restored and available to the public as guest houses serviced by the hotel staff. In addition, the original stone structure of the hotel’s annex will be restored and will serve as a pool house.

According to Mike Miller, SWaN Investors’ Project Manager, Gensler Architects were selected as the Master Project Architects “because they impressed us with their creative design team’s track record working with the environment, historic properties and hospitality.”Gensler won the 2006 Leadership Award of the US Green Building Council.
According to Miller, the Hilltop team also includes the historic preservation architect, Oehrlein & Associates who was responsible for the rehabilitation of Washington DC’s Old Post Office and the 1845 McCabe-Marmion building for the National Park Service (NPS) in Harpers Ferry; Charles Town based Civil Engineers, W.H. Gordon & Associates who have handled large scale projects such as the Smithsonian National Zoological Park; and landscape designer, Rhodeside & Harwell who designed Gardens for the Smithsonian on the National Mall and restored the cultural landscape for the NPS in Gettysburg. The Structural Engineers, Robert Silman Associates have performed historic preservation projects including six 1860s brick and stone buildings for the NPS in Harpers Ferry.

One of SWaN’s principals fell in love with Harper’s Ferry and the Hotel 18 years ago while enjoying a beer overlooking the river. However, to revive the property, SWaN Investors had to develop a business case for investing more than million in Harpers Ferry to redevelop Hilltop Hotel. The hotel is designed to meet the demands of today’s first
class guests with 179 guestrooms.

The Hilltop team selected Gemstone Hotels and Resorts to serve as the functional expert on the design team as well as manage the Hilltop Hotel upon completion. Gemstone specializes in creating high-end experiences and the Hilltop Hotel will be one of their jewels with first-class amenities, including luxury guest rooms and suites, a spa, conference center, restaurants and outdoor event space in a naturally beautiful, one-of-a-kind, historic location just over an hour’s drive or train ride from Washington D.C. or Baltimore, MD.

The positive economic impact to the town is significant. Gemstone estimates that the hotel will employ a staff of about 220 employees divided over three work shifts. In addition, the tax base for liquor, occupancy, business and operating is projected at 5,000 in the first year of operations and over 5,000 per year thereafter. Gemstone’s marketing budget of .8 million is designed to drive Harpers Ferry awareness and bring in new visitors. Projections indicate 63,000 to 72,000 overnight visitors to Hilltop House per year. Guests will be encouraged to visit local shops and businesses.

Miller concluded, “We’re taking a long-term approach to this project. The economic downturn and the banking crisis will not last forever. That’s why we’re taking the first steps to build a facility that will benefit the community for generations.”

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