Willard Hotel in Grafton was built in 1911–12 to serve travelers on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Rail traffic increased as the B&O expanded, reaching 30 passenger trains a day by the 1920s. The old Grafton House, containing both hotel and depot facilities, had been built in 1857 and could no longer meet the railroad’s needs.
Named in honor of B&O President Daniel Willard, the hotel was built by Grafton attorney and industrialist John T. McGraw. The contractor for both the Willard and the new B & O station was J. Walsh & Son of Baltimore, and the same granite and brick were used on both buildings. Both station and hotel were designed with entrances from the railroad and Main Street sides. The six-and-a-half-story hotel is Second Empire in style, with a mansard roof, cut stone trim, and brick corbeled quoins. The Willard was a thoroughly modern hotel for its time with all the amenities, and had one of the finest ballrooms in the area. The hotel officially opened with an elaborate banquet on April 12, 1912, attended by state and local dignitaries and railroad officials.
The Willard’s heyday passed with the decline of rail passenger traffic. By the early 1960s, it had ceased to function as a hotel and was used to house train crews; by 1988 it stood vacant. In the late 1990s, the Vandalia Heritage Foundation began rehabilitation work on both the hotel and train station. The Willard is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Grafton Downtown Commercial Historic District.
This Article was written by Margo Stafford
Last Revised on November 19, 2010
Taylor County Historical & Genealogical Society. A History of Taylor County. Parsons: McClain, 1986.
Potter, Janet G. Great American Railroad Stations. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
Potter, Jay. Grafton, West Virginia. CTC Board Railroads Illustrated, (Nov. 1997).