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History of Fort Loudon Inn
History has the land deeded to a John Beaver around 1760. On that land was a structure used as a cattle drover inn. The upstairs room of this building would be lined daily with fresh straw and the cattle drovers would sleep there using their saddles for pillows. It was common practice for anyone who made a living in their saddle to keep it with them at all times. This would prevent it from being stolen and it made a great resting place for their tired heads. A good saddle was hard to come by so they took no chances. On the land there was also a blacksmith shop and a wagon repair shop. Both were a necessity for the folks traveling west with the wagon trains over the mountain. Folk would stop at the Inn to make sure their wagons were in good shape before heading over the Mountain into the unknown. Prior to the construction of the Inn the land was owned by Rowland Harris. He built a log cabin on the property and I would guess he kept up with the blacksmith and wagon shop until the main house was built. We believe the construction began on the Inn in the 1790ís. The half moons on the central stairway, the plaster molding, and the fireplace mantels are all displays of the craftsmanship of a colonial period home of the 1800ís. The corner cupboard was built and installed by Harris in the early 1800ís.
Through the years the Inn has had many names. Mansion House, Laurel Hotel, Vanceís Inn, (as many locals still call it) and presently it is called the Fort Loudon Inn.
It is said that James Buchanan resided at the Inn in 1840 prior to becoming the 15th President of the United States. He was born April 23, 1791 in Cove Gap near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.
The Inn is also said to have connections to the Underground Railroad!! A group of slaves in their passage through the Underground Railroad fought and killed 3 men who had found them at the Inn. The slaves got away, but left behind a dead infant girl. The Baker family who occupied the home at this time had to build boxes to bury the men and the little baby. Shortly after this time the local folks talked about the haunting at the Inn. They would see a strange light at night up on the third floor where the baby was found. The town folks also said that on full moon nights, the cries of the baby could be heard. They also said they heard other mysterious noises as well and that it was probably one of the slave hunters whose head was cut off by one of the slaves with a sword that was taken from Mr. Bakerís blanket chest. My guess is that it was this slave hunter just stomping around looking for his head!
The most noted Innkeeper was Rosie Vance. She and her husband owned the Inn from 1900-1946 and made it a great community gathering place. She provided an all you could eat chicken supper on Sundayís for $1.00. The locals say that people would come to eat, walk around for a bit and play games and then eat again, making a full day of it getting their fill. As the fame of Rosieís cooking spread the crowds grew. Folks would come from Chambersburg to play cards and end up staying all day and then for dinner. She used what is now the common area of the Inn for a dining room and had tables set up everywhere. People began coming from quite a distance so she thought she would build a few cabins across the road to house these travelers. One of those cabins still stands today. It became a sort of get away from the city and cool down in the mountain air retreat.
Rosie was a petite lady, just a little less than five feet tall. Size certainly had nothing to do with her strong work ethic and determination. It was said that you would almost always find her either with a bowl in hand cooking, or a bucket in hand mixing mortar, her two favorite pastimes. The evidence of her mortar mixing can be seen in some of the old pictures around the Inn. She was of Swedish decent and wanted the Inn to mimic that of a Swedish home and did not like the tall ceilings so she dotted mortar at the top of the walls in a maple nut branch pattern to create the illusion of a lower ceiling. You can still see a trace of this in the common area of the Inn. She worked with a fella by the name of Joe Rosenberry and together they covered the Inn with chicken wire and stucco. She also mixed and dyed mortar, placed it in cigar boxes to harden and made enough slate tiles to cover the entry way, living room and central hall. She also helped build the first in ground pool in Franklin County across the street from the Inn and even more people came from miles. So you can see why she was one of the most noted Innkeepers.
In 1962 the Inn was purchased by Carlos Ponitano. He made some major changes to the rooms turning them into smaller efficiency type units. I believe he also had an Italian restaurant and ran a somewhat of an artist community. There is a barn next to the Inn and it was used for a studio.
Carlos Positano purchased the Inn in 1962. He did some major renovations, turning the rooms into smaller efficiency apartments.
Zach and Rose Group carried on with the efficiency way of running the Inn when they purchased it from Carlos as did Jerry and Marie Traister who purchased the Inn in 1994 from Zach and Rose.
In May of 2006 we purchased the Inn and carried on the efficiency way of business renovating the common area for meeting rentals, parties, and family gatherings and for bus tours. We had every intention to renovate into a Bed and Breakfast then in January of 2009 a fire ripped through the building and we were shut down for 6 months. In July of 2009 half of the building was completed and we opened three all new apartment and two motel rooms. And that is where we are to date.
The Inn still stands stately at the top of Main Street. Many have been sheltered by her and many look forward to her remaining a constant reminder of the days gone by and look upon her with visions of a glorious future.
We have many pictures from past owners that we proudly display. If there are any other pictures out there floating around we would love to copy and display them. Call anytime if you have a story to tell or just want a closer look. We happily open our doors to all who care to relive a part of their past.