The Martha Washington Inn was built in 1832 as a private residence for General Francis Preston and Sarah Buchanan Preston and their nine children.
179 years ago the residence was built for just under $15,000 dollars. In 1858 the Preston family home was sold $21,000 dollars . It became an upscale college for women. The school was named Martha Washington College. Locals call it “The Martha”. The college operated for over 70 years through the years of the Civil War and the Great Depression.
“The “War Between the States” was soon to have a dramatic effect on the college. Schoolgirls became nurses and the beautiful grounds became training barracks for the Washington Mounted Rifles. Union and Confederate troops were involved in frequent skirmishes in and around the town with the college serving as a makeshift hospital for the wounded, both Confederate and Yankee. Despite the devastating effects of the Civil War, the Martha Washington College survived. However, the Great Depression, typhoid fever and a declining enrollment eventually took its toll. The Martha was closed in 1932, standing idle for several years.” – This was to sent to me by a staff person and borrowed from The Martha’s website, with permission.
For the next 50 years The Martha was to experience a number of changes in ownership. For a period of time the facility was used to house actors and actresses appearing at the Barter Theatre across the street. Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine, and Ned Beatty are but a few of the prominent actors who began their career here… all of whom have later returned to visit The Martha. The Barter Theatre is today known as the longest-running professional resident theatre in America.
In 1935, The Martha Washington Inn opened as a hotel and throughout the years has hosted many illustrious guests. Eleanor Roosevelt, President Harry Truman, Lady Bird Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Elizabeth Taylor are counted among the many famous guests who have frequented the hotel.
In 1984, The United Company, representing a group of dedicated businessmen, purchased The Martha Washington Inn and began an eight million dollar renovation. Aware of this historic landmark’s importance to the town of Abingdon, the restoration was carefully designed to preserve and enhance much of its original splendor and architectural detail.
In 1995, The Martha Washington Inn joined The Camberley Collection of fine historic properties.
150 West Main Street
Abingdon, VA 24210
Tomorrow we will explore one of the most ghostly populated buildings in Bristol, VA, The Bristol Train Station. Be sure to come back and tell all your friends, too!