Potpourri Article: Hotel Windsor History
- from Potpourri, by Blanche Steenrod, 1938, Wheeling News-Register © Ogden Newspapers; reproduced with permission.
HISTORY OF THE HOTEL WINDSOR
-by Blanche Steenrod
Since the year 1815 there has been a hostelry on the same site where is now located Wheeling'sattractive Hotel Windsor.
One hundred and twenty-two years ago, there was a road where Eleventh Street leads to the Panhandle depot. This road led to the river where skiffs and other river craft landed. From this road a grove of locust trees grew almost to Twelfth. On the site of the Windsor, in that far-off day, a prominent citizen by the name of Zacharia Sprigg built a colonial inn and it was called the Sprigg House. The building was but two stories high, but it covered a large area of ground. On either side of the old house with its long pillared porch were two wings which were but one story each.
The surviving Indians of this section frequently gathered at the Sprigg House to listen to the conversation of the whites. Mr. Sprigg was the owner of hundreds of acres of farming lands and the food for the tables was brought from these acres. They were called plantations at that time and the negroes of whom he was the owner of many, did the work.
The old Cumberland road, when it was completed in 1818, turned from what we now know as Seventh, then known as Washington, to Main Street and when the stages stopped at the Sprigg House the guests passed through a walk in the rear and carriages and horses drove to the right of the house into a large barnyard.
One block farther down at the corner of Main and Fourteenth Streets, stood the largest hotel in town and it was called McCourtney's Tavern. The hotel was built of brick and the grounds extended from Market to Main and back to the alley. Sometimes there were as many as fifty stages in the yard at a time. Sometimes two circuses would exhibit there, too, on the same day. A page in old history tells us when the Sprigg House was a flourishing hotel that in the block below, on the west side of Main street, there was a boat yard and below that was one small frame house and at the mouth of the creek stood an old log garrison. It was a building over one hundred feet long, with ten rooms. During 1812 and 1813 a frame bridge was built across the creek by Peter Yarnell, Noah Zane and a man named Shrieve. The National road crossed this bridge. Below the bridge was built the Steamer Washington, which was about the first used on the Upper Ohio River and it was the first to make the round trip from Louisville to New Orleans. This Mr. Shrieve was the man for whom Shreveport was named. All of this early history was witnessed by the old hotel known at that time as the Sprigg House. The house faced the river and in the rear was a large yard where the stages were brought to a stop by prancing horses with a certain regularity as was the understood schedule.
THE ST. JAMES - 1885
Many years later the Sprigg House was removed, and in its place was built the old St. James. This was later owned by John H. Hobbs and Michael Reilly. (Michael Reilly was the Grandfather of a present permanent at the Windsor Hotel - Mrs. Matilda Smith.) It was while they were the owners that the name was changed to the Windsor. Tradition says that when Reilly and Hobbs were the owners that they were not on speaking terms and the hotel manager was obliged to carry the important messages to each. Charles Hobbs was one of these. There are many in Wheeling who will recall that the only entrance to the hotel from Main Street was through a tunnel which was not well lighted. The main entrance was from Water street. The old bar was located at the north east corner of the building on the alley. Many of the customers went down the alley on Sundays, and were admitted by a signal knock. At that time there were but two stories used for bedrooms. The main floor was on the second floor and below that the bar and basements. Across the front of the building on the second floor was a wrought iron railing similar to the one used at the McLure years ago.
During the year 1886, E.B. Garney was employed by the owners of the Windsor, Messrs. Hobbs and Reilly, as manager, and this he continued until he went to Pittsburgh where he engaged in business until the opening of the Fort Henry Club when he returned to Wheeling to become the manager there. Later a Mr. Carey who built the stone bridge in Wheeling over the creek bought the Windsor and engaged Mr. Carney to manage it. Mr. Carey was drowned in the creek near the scene of the bridge and Mr.Carney bought the hotel from his heirs.
In 1914 Mr. Carney organized a company and the present handsome structure was built and a beautiful foyer and entrance from Main Street replaced the darkened tunnelway formerly used. Now it is the main entrance and has white marble steps at the door and a white marble floors extending clear through the lobby.
THE RIVER VIEW
The Windsor might just as well have been always known as "River View." Since the days when the white-pillared portico which stretched the full length of the Sprigg House in 1815 and the other hostelries of that location have viewed the entrancing loveliness of the various moods of the ever sweeping Ohio. The Sprigg House had this advantage as well as the St. James and now the beautiful Windsor.
Families of Wheeling occupy the river view suites from year to year from their living quarters enjoy a glorious view of the river and on to the wooded hills of Ohio. At night there is an entrancing glisten and glitter of thousands of lights which are reflected in the broad surface of the river.
From the Windsor, the view of the bridges which span the Ohio nearby one sees the traffic from all parts of the world wheel along. At night the entrancing charm of moving vehicle lights reminds one of monster fireflies out for the pleasure which the soft breezes from the water give on a summer's night.