Harpers Ferry Residents Divided over Hotel Development

The hotel was built in the 1800s.

Harpers Ferry, WV – 13 years after the property was purchased, the Hilltop House Hotel still stands in an uninhabitable state and heavily disputed by Harpers Ferry residents.

Purchased in 2007 for $10 million, developers intended to restore the hotel with an initial plan of 180 rooms and several amenities.

Facing zoning issues, unsafe building conditions, traffic plans, and more, the future of the hotel became a point of conflict among residents and the local government.

Elizabeth Riordan lives in historical Harpers Ferry and said the hotel is an eyesore in its dilapidated state, but the method of fixing the property is the issue.

“In general, the consensus among town residents is that everybody would like to see it rebuilt and a functional hotel again,” Riordan said. “… The major question is the size and scope of the project.”

Harpers Ferry has a population of 281 people and has a total area of 0.61 square miles.

Riordan said the hotel could become a big issue if the surrounding infrastructure can’t support it.

“I personally would like to see a much smaller hotel than the one they’re envisioning,” Riordan said. “I don’t have a particular problem with it being upscale, but 130 rooms in a town that is basically less than half a mile is very large when you consider the amount of traffic and employee traffic.”

Fred and Karen Schaufield own the property and have taken their case to Charleston where a pending bill could remove some of a town’s power to regulate tourism-related development projects.

Residents and the town council have been gridlocked in debates over the hotel’s development, with one dispute currently awaiting a decision at the West Virgina Supreme Court over an election of town council members.

“We’re very much wanting a vibrant community,” Riordan said. “But the way this is unfolding has raised significant concerns for me.”

By Timothy Young