A LOOK BACK: Historic Hilltop

Cynthia Gayton, owner of Steam at Harpers Ferry, is among the residents actively backing plans to redevelop the Hilltop House Hotel. With a business that’s all about appreciating the past, Gayton recently blogged about one of the famous faces to visit the Hilltop. While many people remember President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore’s lunch at the site in 1998, she points out that another Democrat in the White House, Woodrow Wilson, visited the Hilltop almost a century ago.

She cites a Washington Post article from Oct. 17, 1915, headlined, “Wilson at Old Inn, Motors to Harpers Ferry.” The president, along with his fiancé Edith Galt and two of his cousins from New Orleans “left the White House yesterday morning without telling even White House officials where they were going,” according to the story. “It was raining and the roads were muddy, but the holiday makers were not to be discouraged, and noon found the White House car at Harpers Ferry, 72 miles away. At an inn overlooking the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers the President registered, writing ‘Woodrow Wilson and party.’ ”

The group was given a tour by the hotel’s owner Thomas Lovett, who “took the greatest pleasure in escorting the party over the hotel, taking them on to the great balcony, where can be seen the beautiful country for miles around, including numerous points of historical interest. It happened that it will be 56 years today since the famous John Brown started his raiding at Harpers Ferry.”

After the Wilson party enjoyed a meal of roast lamb, fried chicken, boiled ham, creamed rice and Southern-style corn cakes (a.k.a. “corn dodgers”), the story notes the president paid for dinner himself and tipped waitress Martha Smith.

Do you have a yesteryear photo you’d like readers of the Spirit to see in this space? Get in touch with us at Christine@spiritofjefferson.com.


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