There’s been a renewed interest in the Kinniconick Hotel. Three readers emailed me asking directions on how to find it.
I answered that in an earlier column, and I shall repeat them here in a minute.
The clear blue-green waters of Kinniconick Creek still sing its song as it tumbles down across the riffles and slips silently through shaded pools where muskellunge lurk. The hotel, about 185 years old, still offers its view of the stream from the big front porch. Even the devastating 1997 washout of the stream never came close to the two-story frame building.
It was the ferocious muskie that bought the hotel fame for miles around in the years before the Civil War. People came to the old Ohio River town of Vanceburg by steamboat and later by train. They came from as far away as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
A carriage, sent by the hotel owners, brought them across Vanceburg Hill. They would check in and stay a week or two.
They brought strong tackle and went out in boats. Some battled muskies that would weigh close to 30 pounds.
It was operated as a hotel from about 1860 and served as the Rand Academy for about 30 years before that.
Last week I received an email from Lauren Poole, an Architectural Historian whose Lexington company is working under contract with the state to identify the history of some of Kentucky’s older structures.
“I’m doing some research on the Kinniconick Hotel, also known as the Kinniconick Lodge,” Poole wrote.
She said she was told by one of the hotel’s owners that I had written several stories about the stream and the hotel and wondered how she could gain access to them.
By sheer luck, I came across two full-page stories with photos that I had written while working as a full-time reporter for The Daily Independent – both in the early 1980s. I’ve always tried to save any history stories I did, but my filing system has most often failed me when I tried to locate them.
Anyway, with the help of a wonderful employee and a copier at the Portsmouth Public Library, I was able to make copies of both stories. I sent them by regular mail to Poole at her corporate headquarters office in Lexington. She hasn’t had time to receive them as of the printing of this column.
HIS DREAM HOME
Sam McEldowney grew up along the creek and always dreamed of one day owning the old hotel as his retirement home. In 1959, when he was serving as conservation officer for Lewis County, he got the chance.
The owner, Clyde Hickle, decided to put the hotel up for public auction.
McEldowney said he didn’t make it in on the bidding but Hickle told him if he would give him $1,000 profit it was his. He gave him $900 and he and his wife, Marjorie, who would retire as a teacher in the Lewis County School District, moved into his dream house.
For a time, while both were still working, they operated a bed and breakfast and rented out all 22 rooms.
But in 1959 they razed the older west half of the structure and remodeled the present part, which has 11 rooms.
“It’s the sturdiest, strongest house I’ve ever lived in,” Sam said. “We had to replace a few of the floor seals, but the big yellow poplar joists and beams are still good.”
They quit operating it as a hotel when both retired from their government jobs.
The hotel is reach by driving state route 59 out of Vanceburg and over the steep hill and down into the peaceful Kinniconick Creek valley. It’s about six miles to State Route 344, where you turn right and the hotel comes into view on your right.
From the Olive Hill area, or Interstate 64, you take State Route 7 for a short distance before turning left on 59, which you follow until you come to 344 leading off to your left.
Sam and Marjorie both died within recent years. Some of their family live there now. And of course, they have adequate protection from any lawbreakers that might get ideas.
But there was no real need to include that bit of information, since no thieves or crooks ever read this column anyway.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 932-3619.