It was 89 years ago today. The notorious Dunglen Hotel in Thurmond, WV, burned in what was then reported to be faulty wiring, but is generally believed to be an act of arson. Although–to this day–the arsonist has never been named.
The popularity of the Dunglen may have had something to do with the fact that it served alcohol–which was banned in Thurmond proper across the river. The hotel opened in 1901 with a full orchestra brought in from Cincinnati–by rail of course. While the narrow valley was nearly inaccessible by car, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad did a brisk business with Thurmond accounting for 20% of its revenue at the town’s peak.
That inaccessibility was part of the reason the hotel was almost completely destroyed. The two nearest fire departments had to travel down the precipitous gorge and were much too late to save the structure.
Of course, authors LOVE stories like this. Every novel idea begins with a what if? And so, the burning of the Dunglen served as a central point in my latest novel. What if the crime was part of a feud between rival families vying for control of the region? Enter matriarch Serepta McLean and would-be preacher Colman Harpe–individuals on opposite sides of a long simmering feud who find themselves at a notorious hotel on the night it burns to the ground . . .
Man, I can hardly wait for November so you can learn the rest of the story!