The Old Clark Inn…100 Years Old and Still Going Strong!

Michael Moore

We live in a world dotted with an amazing collection of iconic landmarks that, when seen in a painting, a photograph, or on a device, have the ability to instantly transport us to their location.  For example, a quick glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and suddenly we’re strolling the boulevards of Paris and sipping strong coffee at an outdoor café.  A few seconds with an old photograph of the Great Pyramid of Giza and before you know it, we have the urge to shake the sand out of our shoes and reapply a little more sunscreen.  Spend a second or two surveying the details of the Colosseum and we might insist we hear Gladiators battling somewhere off in the distance.  The point is images of these iconic landmarks (and many others) have the ability to convey a place and a feeling without us actually needing to be there. 

I suspect the reason this happens is because most iconic landmarks have something in common – history.  In other words, these landmarks have been with us for such a long time and have become so well-known, it becomes very easy for us to picture them in our mind’s eye.  History has an interesting way of lending credence to a thing or a place.  Whether it’s a room George Washington supposedly slept in or the Great Wall of China, the longer that place or thing has been around, the more significant it becomes and, in some cases, winds up as a “must-see” destination for many a traveler.

Now when it comes to our own iconic historic landmarks here in Nature’s Mountain Playground, we have some good ones to choose from.  For instance, if you’re a Civil War buff you’ll definitely want to plan a visit to Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, site of one of the last significant Civil War battles fought in West Virginia.  If science and space are more your thing and you’d like to learn about the work of radio telescopes, then a visit to the Green Bank Observatory, home of the world’s largest, steerable radio telescope, is a “must do” for you.  And, if you’re looking for the room of that overnight stay George Washington made, well…we may not be much help to you there, but we do have a charming, historic lodging offering in a little place known as the Old Clark Inn.  And when it comes to our local history, the Old Clark Inn has the distinction of being the oldest continually operated lodging business in Pocahontas County – 100 years this year and still going strong!  Here’s a quick account of those 100 years and a little history of the Old Clark Inn.    

Around the beginning of the 20th century, the Greenbrier River Trail, that so many of us hike and bike today, was a working railroad track.  The train running that track would bring freight and passengers into the bustling town of Marlinton with as many as eleven trains passing through town in a day.  Residents from outlying parts of Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties would make their way to Marlinton for things like a little shopping, conducting business, picking up supplies from the train itself, and even enjoying some entertainment (and that, dear reader, is why Marlinton has an opera house).  Now, with so many people coming to Marlinton in a time when travel was a bit more of a challenge than it is today, a clever woman by the name of Lucy F. Moore-Clark, in all likelihood, saw a business opportunity.  Possibly realizing people making the trip to Marlinton may want to stay overnight, Lucy and her husband George rolled the dice.  In 1924, Lucy and George purchased property on Third Avenue, near the railroad track and construction of what would eventually be known as the Old Clark Inn began.  Lucy operated the business until her death in 1956 and shortly after her passing, Dr. Robert Pittman took ownership renaming the business the Marlinton Hotel.

In 1964, ownership of the Marlinton Hotel came under the control of Roy and Betty Kelly and Arlie and Eula White, who ran the hotel for the next 18 years.  By 1982 the hotel was sold to Rev. Kenneth Cloud who in turn sold it in 1983 to Mr. C.P. Farley.  Under Farley’s care, the hotel had a bit of a makeover with renovations including the addition of indoor bathrooms – no more late-night, outdoor runs to the privy, thank you very much.  Unfortunately, just two years later, the devastating flood of 1985 hit the town of Marlinton and by 1987, the Marlinton Hotel was sold once again, this time to Mr. Fred Etheridge.  Etheridge’s ownership lasted only eight months, however, by which time he had defaulted on his loan, forcing Farley to foreclose.

By 1989, the hotel was sold again to Mr. “Rusty” Lett and remained in his possession for four years when it was then sold to Richard and Shelby Morrison in 1993 and renamed the Old Clark Inn.  Two years later, Mike and Leslie Cain became the new owners of the Inn and by 2004 the Old Clark Inn once again changed hands being purchased by Nelson Hernandez and his wife Anderea Biondi.  Under the care and operation of Nelson and Andrea, the Old Clark Inn  grew to become a popular lodging option for the tremendous influx of motorcyclists and bicyclists Pocahontas County has seen during recent years. 

But within the last two years, change once again knocked on the door of the Old Clark Inn.  And after 16 years at the helm, Nelson and Andrea passed the torch on and in May of 2020, the Old Clark Inn found itself under new management yet again.  Today, the Old Clark Inn is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Geoffery and Elizabeth Woods.  And while the Inn is once again under the care of new owners, it has not lost its 1920s charm and atmosphere.  Cyclists gearing up to ride the Greenbrier River Trail, motorcyclists looking to cruse the Highland Scenic Highway, or skiers wanting to make that perfect downhill run at Snowshoe, as well as travelers looking for a one-of-kind Boutique/Inn style stay, will find a home at the Old Clark Inn.  The warm and inviting atmosphere of the Old Clark Inn, coupled with hosts that are excited to share Pocahontas County with their guests, has been the key to the Inn’s staying power.  The winning combination of great hosts, charm and atmosphere, along with the abundance of scenic beauty Pocahontas County offers, has made the Old Clark Inn successful for 100 years and will more than likely keep things that way for another 100.

So, can you call the Old Clark Inn an iconic landmark?  Well, we certainly do.  And while it may not have the world-wide recognition of the Eiffel Tower and it’s a safe bet George Washington never slept there; it still has the one key ingredient mentioned earlier – history.  The Old Clark Inn has seen the railroad line come and go from Marlinton, survived our infamous 1985 flood, housed guests from half way around the world, and seen at least ten different owners over the 100 years it’s been with us.  That’s a pretty rich history.  And while it’s true the Old Clark Inn may not be a part of world history, it is part of our history, part of Pocahontas County’s history.  It stands today as the oldest, continually operated lodging business in our county.  So, if you’re making plans to visit us here in Nature’s Mountain Playground, why not add a stay at the Old Clark Inn to your itinerary?  We’d love to share it with you and add your name to the long, ongoing history of our own little iconic landmark – the Old Clark Inn. 

(Special thanks to Suzanne Stewart of The Pocahontas Times for her 2014 article, Old Clark Inn Owners Celebrate a Decade as Innkeepers.  Many of the names and dates used in this blog are a result of Suzanne’s work.)