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Penn Wells Hotel Joins Historic Hotels Of America

The Penn Wells Hotel - A step back in time



The Penn Wells Hotel in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania is pleased to announce it has joined Historic Hotels of America®, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Penn Wells Hotel is one of more than 295 hotels and resorts throughout the country that is recognized by Historic Hotels of America for preserving and maintaining its historic integrity, architecture, and ambiance.

“We are delighted to induct the Penn Wells Hotel, a Victorian style hotel built in 1869 to Historic Hotels of America.” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Director of Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “We welcome the Penn Wells Hotel, Shawn and Ellen Bryant, and the Penn Wells staff into Historic Hotels of America.”

To be selected for membership in Historic Hotels of America, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance.

“We view the inclusion of the Penn Wells Hotel in the Historic Hotels of America as a wonderful tribute to generations of individuals who have maintained the Hotel’s historic value,” said Shawn Bryant, CEO of the Wellsboro Hotel Company. “We like to say that the Hotel is ‘a step back in time’ and preservation of that history is central to our mission. We are grateful to be included with other fine hotels that similarly represent and respect America’s history while actively meeting the current needs of travelers and communities.”

The Penn Wells Hotel is rich in history and architectural integrity, sitting as the centerpiece of Wellsboro, PA’s Main Street historic district, famous for its distinctive boulevard lined with gaslights. Wellsboro is the home of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, the northern terminus of a noted 62 mile rail trail popular with cyclists, and is surrounded by a number of state parks, hiking trails, lakes, mountains, and streams. Originally built in 1869, the Hotel was renovated and expanded in the 1920s. During that time, it has hosted hundreds of thousands of guests arriving by rail, bus, and automobile. It currently offers 72 guest rooms of varying configurations, which are open to travelers from May to December and select off-season weekends. Additionally, it hosts a restaurant and lounge open year-round, as well as a beautifully appointed dining room that is a popular venue for wedding receptions and other group events.

The Penn Wells Hotel sits on the site of Wellsboro’s first tavern erected in 1816. When the original structure was destroyed by a fire in 1866, what would later be known as the Penn Wells Hotel was constructed in 1869 by A.P. Cone. The four-story brick building was renamed Coles House in 1885 when it was purchased by J.S. Coles. Upon the death of J.S., his brother William took over the Hotel and made major renovations, including refacing the original brick. In March 1906, a fire destroyed the Hotel’s 4th story. The Hotel was renovated by William Coles andoperated as a three-story hotel until his death in 1920. Between 1920 and 1925, the Hotel floundered as multiple plans to refurbish failed to come to fruition.

In 1925, local businessmen — including the great-grandfather of current owner Ellen Dunham Bryant — formed the Wellsboro Hotel Company for the purpose of maintaining a vibrant hotel in the center of Wellsboro. After debating refurbishment or construction of a new two story colonial structure, refurbishment prevailed and a complete renovation of the hotel interior and exterior began. The Hotel was renamed the Penn Wells. Six days before the scheduled opening of the “Penn Wells,” a cyclone hit Wellsboro. Two hotel windows were shattered by flying debris and the roof of a nearby building landed in front of the Hotel entrance. Nonetheless, the Hotel opened on time. Shortly after opening, the Philadelphia Inquirer described the Penn Wells as “the gem of the Roosevelt Highway.” The Penn Wells quickly became the hub of activities in the community and further improvements were made. In 1928, the 4th floor of the Hotel was rebuilt.

In 1931, in the midst of a natural gas boom, the Hotel expanded its dining room and added 18 additional guest rooms. In the era, the Roosevelt Highway/Route 6 became the best paved route between New York City and Chicago and the Hotel thrived. A regular bus left the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City at 9:00 a.m. and arrived at the Penn Wells at 6:30 p.m. Motorcoaches from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh filled the hotel, as the area began promoting the local natural wonder the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon to tourists. Famous visitors included Groucho Marx and Joan Crawford.

In the World War II era, Wellsboro was designated as a possible target for German bombing because of the contributions to the war effort made by the local Corning Glass factory. An observation post was built on the roof of the Penn Wells and staffed by local citizen volunteers to detect approaching enemy warplanes. In addition to its military support efforts during the war, the local glass factory began producing Christmas bulbs, because previously America’s supply of Christmas bulbs had been imported from Germany. During the 1946 Corning Glass Works annual dinner, they displayed an American flag composed of 1,438 Christmas bulbs in the Hotel dining room. The flag was featured in Life magazine in 1960 and has found a permanent home in the lobby of the Penn Wells.

Today, along with its sister property the Penn Wells Lodge, the Penn Wells Hotel continues to welcome visitors to Wellsboro, with a heavy emphasis on tourism in the summer and fall months when the Hotel fills with golfers, cyclists, and outdoor enthusiasts of all types, as well as those who just want to escape to the quaint small-town atmosphere that Wellsboro is known for or view the majesty of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon in person. The Penn Wells also regularly welcomes groups and weddings. The restaurant at the Penn Wells is a regular stop for motorcoaches, especially during the popular fall foliage season.

Hotel Facts

* The Hotel lobby displays a unique piece of Americana — a Christmas Bulb American flag made in 1946 using 1,438 Christmas bulbs made at the Corning Glass Works plant, then located and employing more than 700 workers in Wellsboro, PA. It was featured in Life Magazine on July 4, 1960.

* The Hotel sits along historic Route 6, the main route between New York and Chicago prior to the development of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s.

* The future of the structure that is now known as the Penn Wells Hotel was in doubt in the early 1920s following a March 1906 fire and the death of the hotel’s proprietor. A group of businessmen committed to maintaining a downtown hotel met and formed the Wellsboro Hotel Company. They decided to preserve the existing structure (renaming it the Penn Wells Hotel) and embarked on a significant remodel and expansion.

* The art-deco Arcadia Theatre, which opened in 1921 and sits next door to the Penn Wells Hotel, is owned by the same company that owns the Penn Wells. Hotel guests often enjoy movies at the Arcadia, and the Penn Wells and Arcadia partner in hosting two film festivals. The Arcadia’s front stage theatre has been the scene for wedding ceremonies, cocktail receptions, and rehearsal dinners for Penn Wells’ brides and grooms.

* A family commitment to Wellsboro runs deep for Penn Wells President Ellen Dunham Bryant. She is the fourth generation of the founder of Dunham’s Department Store, one of the few remaining independent, small-town Department Stores in the United States. Ellen’s great-grandfather not only founded Dunham’s in 1905 — he was also one of the original shareholders of the Wellsboro Hotel Company, which was formed in 1925 to maintain the Hotel. Dunham’s is conveniently located directly across the street from the Penn Wells Hotel and is the site of Cafe 1905, a coffee shop operated by the Penn Wells.

About Historic Hotels of America®

Historic Hotels of America is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels. Historic Hotels of America was founded in 1989 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with 32 charter members. Today, Historic Hotels of America has more than 295 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 46 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties. More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, please visit

About the Wellsboro Hotel Company

Based in Wellsboro, PA, the Wellsboro Hotel Company owns and operates the Penn Wells Hotel, Penn Wells Lodge, and Arcadia Theater, and operates Café 1905 in Dunham’s Department Store. The Wellsboro Hotel Company is led by CEO Shawn D. Bryant and President Ellen Dunham Bryant. The Wellsboro Hotel Company was formed in 1925, at which time it took ownership of, renamed, and began operation of the Penn Wells Hotel. Wellsboro’s community leaders came together to form the Company for the purpose of restoring and maintaining the town’s distinctive Main Street landmark. The Company recently celebrated its 90th year of operations.

Media Contact

Heather Taylor
Historic Hotels of America
Senior Manager, Marketing Communications
Tel: +1 202 772 8333
Fax: +1 202 772 8338


Writing: N/A


Produced by Vogt Media

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