Constructed in 1923, Bluefield’s West Virginian Hotel is still the tallest building in the state south of the golden dome of the state capitol. The magnificent 12-story structure was built as a symbol of the wealth and power of the southern West Virginia coalfields.
Plans for the West Virginian began in 1918 when the Bluefield Rotary Club appointed William Jacob Cole to head a committee to undertake the development of a proper downtown hotel. Cole and his associates purchased 90,000 square feet of prime real estate at the corner of Federal and Scott streets and retained Alex Mahood, Bluefield’s prominent architect. Respecting his city’s passion for Renaissance Revival architecture, Mahood fashioned an enormous classical column of ashlar limestone, with an elegant lobby and mezzanine.
The stately West Virginian played a principal role in the community for nearly three-quarters of a century, serving as the meeting place and banquet headquarters for a wide array of civic organizations and national conventions. Every governor from Conley to Moore, as well as Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and humorist Will Rogers, enjoyed the hospitality of the elegant 240-room West Virginian. WHIS radio, among the state’s pioneer stations, originally broadcast from the hotel’s penthouse studio.
After serving as the centerpiece of downtown Bluefield’s business community for half a century, the hotel was sold in 1977 and renovated with federal urban development funds into a retirement center for elderly tenants.
This Article was written by C. Stuart McGehee
Last Revised on November 19, 2010
McGehee, C. Stuart. Bluefield's Biggest: The Grand West Virginian Hotel. Goldenseal, (Summer 1993).
Clipping file & Alex Mahood papers. Eastern Regional Archives..