Fred Schaufeld said the rebuild could be done by Spring 2024 but a lot has to happen between now and then.
The Schaufelds said they first got interested in the project in 2005.
“We started with discussions with Mr. Stan Hagen who owned the property and since then it’s taken a long time to get to this point,” Fred Schaufeld said.
During their presentation before the Rotary, Fred Schaufeld cited what they believe would be huge benefits to the economy both locally and statewide.
They estimate the construction project will employ 239 people and when the hotel is operational, 135 full-time employees.
The developers said the project will bring $27 million to the state’s economy annually and $14 million in property taxes.
Fred Schaufeld said after the presentation that the cost of the project has gone up considerably.
“When we first started we thought this renovation project was going to cost under $20 million and right now we’re looking at a price tag over $150 million do we’re still breathing into a paper bag,” Schaufeld said.
Even though the existing structure was badly damaged and had to be dismantled, Karen Schaufeld said they are honoring Hill Top’s history.
“We’ll be putting it back up in approximately the same footprint of the original hotel and the dance pavilion that were there in 1914,” she said. “We want to try and recapture what that building would have felt like both inside and out if it had been a hotel that would have aged gracefully and not had the structural issues.”
As much as could be saved was preserved from the hotel site, which Karen Schaufeld said will be used in the new structure.
“We had to take it down because it was structurally unsound but while we did that we very carefully salvaged all of the stones which had been through two fires,” Schaufeld said.
The stones are being palitized by a local stone mason and what was left of timber and shell stone tile flooring. Matching tile to be able to complete the project has already been found in stock with a local tile dealer.
The couple has big plans for making the Hill Top House a tourist destination as well as a place for think tanks and leaders to gather.
“This place (Harpers Ferry) is a place where life-changing and world-changing ideas came and we are inviting groups who want to change the world to come here,” Fred Schaufeld said.
The new Hill Top Hotel promises many amenities, including dining overseen by James Beard Foundation Winner, Head Chef José Andrés who plans to bring a cooking school to the hotel site.
Town leaders and the developers did not always agree on how to move the project forward. Among the disputes were public rights of way and how much traffic the new development would bring to the tiny town.
The Washington Post summarized the disputes that have caused a bitter divide in the community.
“For the past 13 years, the town has been riven by disputes over the new hotel’s size and its design; its parking and sewage needs; and the effects of an influx of clientele for its $500-a-night rooms, underground golf simulator and restaurant overseen by celebrity chef José Andrés. Project consultants have quit in disgust,” the Post reported.
The Hill Top House Hotel has a storied history. The African-American Lovett family built the hotel overlooking the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in the late 19th Century.
The hotel site hosted visitors such as President Woodrow Wilson, Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell and W.E.B. Du Bois.