First built by Thomas Lovett, the Hill Top House Hotel has graced the scenic promontory overlooking the Potomac River valley and "The Gap" at the tri-state boundary since 1889. (At left: Lovett stands in front of the original structure, 1892.) Mr Lovett and his wife, Lavinia, previously operated an inn at the Brackett House, also in Harpers Ferry (intersection of Fillmore and Columbia Streets, currently used as National Park Service offices). After burning down and being rebuilt twice, in 1912 and 1919, the Lovett family finally sold the hotel property to Fred McGee in 1926.
(At right: Postcard image of the second Hill Top House Hotel structure, 1912.)
From its earliest days, the hotel's prominent location and gorgeous views attracted many notable guests, including several U.S. Presidents (most recently Bill Clinton, in 1998), members of Congress, other high-ranking government officials and foreign dignitaries, Alexander Graham Bell, Mark Twain, and W.E.B. DuBois, just to name a few. The property was purchased lastly by SWaN Investors of Leesburg, Virginia in 2007, after which the hotel was closed due to poor structural integrity. Upon closing, SWaN announced its intention to rebuild and reopen the business as an upper-echelon hotel property, beginning many years of discussion between the owner, the Town government, and local residents and business owners on a future vision for the hotel and its place in the surrounding community.
(Shown here is the existing third Hill Top House Hotel structure. Photo taken around the time of the hotel's closure in 2008.)
The first major breakthrough from these discussions, public hearings, and open forums came in 2012. After much long, hard work, Professional Planner David Beniamino and the Town Council-appointed Visioning Steering Committee prepared a series of four important documents pertaining to the Harpers Ferry Vision. This set of materials was subsequently formally adopted by the Town Council. These four documents are as follows:
Based on these four documents, further input from the community, and the initial plan presented by SWaN Investors, discussions turned to zoning changes for the area surrounding the hotel and associated properties. In 2017, after much debate and years of work by the Planning Commission and its subcommittees, a new zoning overlay district was created by ordinance, called the Promontory Overlay District Ordinance (Article 1313 of the Codified Ordinances of Harpers Ferry). This ordinance defines the parameters within which the hotel property may be developed. Upon its enactment, the ordinance met with the approval of SWaN Investors, the Town government, and the vast majority of local residents and business owners, marking another historic event for Harpers Ferry and greater Jefferson County. As a result, SWaN Investors revised its plans for the future Hill Top House Hotel and debuted a new presentation to the community in April 2018, followed by the beginning of the process for final approval of the hotel complex by the governing and deliberative bodies of the Corporation of Harpers Ferry. (Proposed design of future Hill Top House Hotel shown at right. This design is loosely based on the 1912 structure.)
Regular meetings are held between representatives of the Town government and SWaN Investors. In addition, a communication protocol has been established between the two entities: the RFI ("Request for Information") process. All RFIs are public information and published for review online. Click here to access and review a collection of all RFI documents to date.
At the Town Council meeting on Monday, 10 December 2018, planning consultant Steven Ball delivered a memorandum outlining fee estimates for the Hill Top House Hotel construction project. The estimate, including conditional use and site plan review, as well as construction management and inspection fees, totals $364,798.10. The memorandum and supporting figures can be accessed here.
During the Planning Commission's special meeting that was called on 15 May, SWaN Legend's project and design team presented the formal Concept Plan for the Hill Top Hotel reconstruction project. This submission included three key components:
Additionally, SWaN Legend's project and design team presented a Ground Level Landscape Enhancement Plan in August, which included the following documents:
The individual submission items may be accessed by clicking the links above. They are also available for review at Town Hall in hard copy. Contact staff at 304-535-2206 for more information on reviewing these items at Town Hall.
PO Box 217
Harpers Ferry WV 25425
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Hill Top Hotel RFIs (Requests for Information)
An RFI process has been implemented for more efficient communication between the Corporation of Harpers Ferry and the developer of the Hill Top Hotel. To access and review the RFIs, click here or on the folder icon below.