Seventy-Five Years Ago, a Colonial Revival Couple Spent Their Thanksgiving Honeymoon in West Virginia and Virginia

Seventy-five years ago this Saturday, November 24, my grandparents were married. 

After the ceremony at St. Leo Catholic Church in Columbus, they and their guests sat down to a catered breakfast that my maternal great-grandparents hosted at their 84 East Moler Street home. 

In 1937, the day before Thanksgiving was unseasonably warm and sunny, so the newlyweds posed for pictures outside. In this one below, you can admire the jacket of her black velvet suit, which was trimmed with a silver fox collar and a corsage Grandpa gave her of gardenias and lilies of the valley. 

That afternoon, they left for their wedding trip to Virginia. An avid follower of the Colonial Revival movement, Grandma had been reading about the preservation and restoration of Colonial Williamsburg by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., so Grandpa decided to take her there. 

They stayed overnight and had their Thanksgiving dinner the next day at the Daniel Boone Hotel in downtown Charleston, West Virginia. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because it is such an important part of Charleston’s history. Its National Register inventory nomination form provides lots of interesting information about it. 

Built between 1927 and 1929 on the site of West Virginia’s first governor’s mansion, it was expanded first in 1936 and again in 1949. The Classical Revival, U-shaped building on the corner of Capitol and Washington Streets was made of blond brick and terracotta. Its elegant accommodations made it the choice of visiting dignitaries like Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Tyrone Power, Jeannette MacDonald, John and Jacqueline Kennedy, the Lennon Sisters, Dwight Eisenhower, Bette Davis, Nelson Eddy, the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, Guy Lombardo and Gene Autry – all favorites of my grandparents. The hotel closed in 1981 and was renovated, opening as an office building in 1984. 

According to the back of a postcard Cindy bought that was published by the E.C. Kropp Co. in Milwaukee, the 10-story fireproof hotel was built at a cost of over a million and a quarter dollars by the citizens of Charleston in memory of Daniel Boone. Located a short distance from the State Capitol of “beautiful West Virginia, ‘The Switzerland of America,’” the hotel was described as having a homelike atmosphere, a radio and a private bath in every room, and a uniform high standard of quality and service, with moderate rates. 

My grandfather liked the hotel so much that the staff gave him a coat hanger with the hotel’s name on it, so he could hang his wedding suit on it when he returned home. Until he died in 1990, his best suit hung on that hanger. As with all of his possessions, this well-cared-for memento is just as pristine today as the day it came home with him. 

Next, my grandparents stopped at the Greenbrier, the historic resort located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Using Grandma’s Brownie box camera, they took this photograph of the hotel’s main entrance, which had been redesigned by Cleveland architect Philip Small in 1930. 

They also took this picture of the White Sulphur Springs train station, directly across the road from the Greenbrier. The station was built for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in 1930; today, it’s served by Amtrak. In recent years, the Greenbrier has painted the train station with peppermint striping and converted the building to a Christmas store. 

The newlyweds also documented West Virginia’s first snowfall of the season. 

Then, they stopped at Natural Bridge, the geological formation of a natural arch located in Rockbridge County, Virginia. This National Historic Landmark had been surveyed by George Washington and was once owned by Thomas Jefferson, both of whom were Grandma’s heroes.

While they were there, they bought this footstool for $1.00, which sat next to their fireplace for decades. My grandparents’ home featured many of the elements of a classic Colonial Revival interior – braided and hooked rugs, candle-lit wall sconces, pewter porringers, quilts that my grandmother made, a brass bedwarmer, a crewel fire screen, Windsor chairs, copper teakettles and silhouettes of Washington and Jefferson. All it needed was a spinning wheel and it would have been absolutely perfect. 

Traveling next to Lexington, Virginia, practical Grandpa determined that they lacked the funds to continue to Williamsburg.  They saw the sights of Lexington that I’d come to love as a student at Washington and Lee University, and then they returned home to Columbus. However, Grandpa didn’t forget what he had set out to do. Years later, during the 1960s and 1970s, my grandparents spent many Thanksgivings in Colonial Williamsburg, visiting other historic Virginia landmarks along the way. 

There are so many similarities between my grandmother and me that I’ve proudly earned the title of “Jane Junior.” One of those common bonds is our shared love of the Colonial Revival. I’m thankful to have her copy of Wallace Nutting’s 1930 classic, Virginia Beautiful, with newspaper clippings about Virginia filed between the pages, which she used to plan their trips. We spent one Sunday afternoon poring over Richard Guy Wilson’s The Colonial Revival House, published in 2004. On another occasion, we talked about our favorite parts of Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America, Thomas Andrew Denenberg’s 2003 tribute to the Congregational minister who recreated early American tastes in the decorative arts through his reproduction Colonial furniture, his States Beautiful books and his carefully posed, hand-tinted photographs of Old American domestic scenes. 

Shortly after Grandma died, Re-creating the American Past: Essays on the Colonial Revival was published. She would have loved this collection of essays edited by Richard Guy Wilson, Shaun Eyring and Kenny Marotta, particularly “Candace Wheeler and the New Old-Fashioned Home,” “Ellen Biddle Shipman’s Colonial Revival Garden Style,” “The American Parkway as Colonial Revival Landscape” and “Henry W. Longfellow’s House and Furnishings and the Colonial Revival.”

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