The Dunglen Hotel: The Historic Hotspot for TroubleOctober 22, 2014
Tucked into the WV hills is the nearly abandoned, but once booming, rail town of Thurmond. And in its heyday, this tiny town was home to an infamous hotel— a short-term stop for the wealthy, and the mischievous.
Because Thurmond was once one of the busiest rail stops in the country, the Dunglen Hotel was thriving. And within its walls, the alcohol flowed freely and gambling was the pastime of choice. It was an upscale den of sin.
The Thurmond Boom
It was the coal industry that brought in all the big money. There were wealthy barons who owned the mines, and there were ‘tie walkers,’ too.
Tie walkers were salesmen and other businessmen who stopped into Thurmond, the hub of transportation in the area, because it was a direct line to all the New River Gorge’s mines. Sometimes they hopped aboard, but they’d also trek along the tracks to each town, giving them the nickname.
What were they visiting for? Often, to sell products. Each mine was pumping out hundreds of tons of coal each day, which took a lot of workers. Those miners lived in pop-up towns beside the underground entrances. And each little town had its own company store. Miners were paid in scrip, which could only be spent at the store. So, if a salesman could get the company store to carry his goods, then he had captive buyers for the products.
Lavish Living in the Dunglen
The Dunglen was built in 1901, a towering 3-story, 100-room wooden structure with a wrap-around deck.
Because of its spacious lobby, dining and ballroom areas, the sprawling Dunglen was known for its parties. They had huge dances in the elegant ballroom. Symphonies would ride in to perform, and play into the night. Sometimes all night, so the legends say.
It was also the meeting spot for the coal barons. The largest transaction in the area took place in the hotel, a more than 1-million-dollar sale of one of the local mines.
Behind Closed Doors
Alcohol was banned in the little 200-resident town of Thurmond, but the bars of the Dunglen never closed (much to the contempt of Captain Thurmond, a strictly moral man who wanted to run the town according to his beliefs.)
Gamblers came in to the area to bet thousands. The play room was lined with every type of game imaginable. According to Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the Guinness Book of World Records, the Dunglen housed the longest-running poker game, which stretched on through 14 years.
It was said that some of the big money disputes led to more sinister crimes, though the truth of that is lost to hearsay.
The hotel’s demise was just as grandiose as its reputation. It was burned down by arsonists on July 22, 1930. It was part of a fatal blow to the area’s economy, ruining the travel infrastructure that was already in jeopardy because of the rise of road traffic that took business from the rails.
But the legends live on.
Have you heard any wild tales of the Dunglen Hotel?