(McArthur)- The Vinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (VC CVB) has purchased the historic Hotel McArthur building. Owner Kathryn Matteson signed the nonprofit organization’s purchase contract on December 17, 2021. The idea of acquiring the hotel was first mentioned nearly two decades ago when the VC CVB was formed. The recent sale is the result of over a year of communication and negotiation with the owner, lienholders, banks, and contractors. Vinton County National Bank, which held a lien against the building, offered a 25% reduction in view of the community improvement potential the hotel project has. The VC CVB’s mortgage is with Ohio Valley Bank, which offered the organization a 15% down payment and first year interest-only payments. The VC CVB hired Downstream Strategies, an environmental and economic development consulting firm based in West Virginia, to conduct a feasibility study of the project to help with securing funding sources for the future renovation.
Although small lodging options like cabins and camping have grown exponentially since the CVB was formed in 2001, the ever-growing attraction of the Hocking Hills Region means there is still a shortage of local lodging options. Vinton County does not currently have a hotel, forcing guests to stay in adjacent counties. With Hotel McArthur back in operation, there will be increased lodging available for tourists and traveling workers. By bringing more visitors into the center of the county, they will spend more money locally instead of leaving the Lake Hope area to shop in adjacent counties. Downstream Strategies’ feasibility study estimates $860,000 annually in state and local tax revenue. Profit generated from leased business space and hotel operation will be used to fund new VC CVB staff positions and new tourism projects in the county, such as events, festivals, and infrastructure projects for the new Vinton County Park District. The hotel is expected to support 11 new jobs.
Hotel McArthur is a uniquely L-shaped building in downtown McArthur. Built in 1839, it is the oldest surviving structure in Vinton County. It has been home to many small businesses including saloons, restaurants, barbers, newspapers, and of course hotel operators. There were once tunnels underneath the building connecting it to houses across the street, allegedly used for hiding runaway slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. The hotel is supposedly haunted, too; guests frequently reported hearing footsteps on the staircase and heavy objects being moved around upstairs. The VC CVB plans to eventually get the hotel added to the U.S. National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
The hotel has been modified many times throughout the years, but the main structure is intact. Four layers of bricks in the walls are covered with horsehair plaster. Massive log beams are visible from the basement, which was excavated by hand in the 1960s by former owner Paul Hogan. A grand wooden staircase connects the ground floor to the second story. The original brick façade was covered over in blue stucco and a stone veneer that was left unfinished.
The VC CVB is planning a $2.5 million renovation to remove the more modern additions—mainly remodeling efforts from the 1970s through the 1990s—and restore the hotel to look as it would have in its heyday years of 1840-1940. The stone veneer on the exterior walls will be replaced with historically accurate brick veneer and lighting fixtures. Some more recent modifications are now part of its history and will be preserved, such as the 1940s “Hotel McArthur” neon sign currently hanging over the main entrance. It will be restored and relocated to the back of the hotel near a new swimming pool for guests. Pools at hotels became popular in the 1940s to 1960s, so the rear of building will be modeled after that time period. Some modern amenities will need to be added, such as full bathrooms and accommodations for people with disabilities, including a wheelchair ramp and elevator. The original mansard roof burned in the late 1800s, so the building now has a flat roof making it resemble a modern apartment building from the outside. The five-ton HVAC system on the roof will be relocated to the ground and a new mansard roof will be built.
The plan for utilizing the building space includes relocating the Vinton County Visitor Center into the main lobby, where guests will check in and can purchase souvenirs from the gift shop. A bar and restaurant space is located directly past the lobby, which will be leased to a local operator. The large room known as the Buzzard’s Nest will become an open dining area with a small event stage. Public restrooms and two office suites will be located to the right of the lobby. The basement will be finished and utilized for staff offices and storage. Guest rooms will be themed and named for local historic sites and persons. The CVB hopes to market the hotel’s paranormal aspects, connecting it to other supposedly haunted locations like Hope Furnace and Moonville Tunnel.