The Western Front Hotel is so much more than just a lovely boutique hotel in tiny St Paul, VA. It is the heart of a dedicated effort to balance the environment, local economy and community. If you’re lucky, like we were, you will be greeted by the Mayor of the Western Front, Jody Evans who’s great granddad was a moonshining preacher while his other grandpa’s side were all miners.
Stories run rich and deep in St. Paul. Traditionally coal mining supported the town until about twenty years ago when the last mines were closed. But long before that miners and train folk would get off the train and visit the bordellos and moonshine bars – mostly bourbon – on the other side of the tracks from what was a multicultural thriving town.
In coal country, since the 1920’s and 30’s, it’s been continual boom or bust. By the 1990’s there were around 10,000 miners making an average of $80,000 a year! The town was in a great place, but no one really wanted to move to ‘dirty’ coal country. A few forward-thinking town leaders realized all their eggs were in one basket and started making efforts to diversify.
We’ll write in our next missive about the revitalization efforts of the local economy but will focus this one on the Western Front Hotel. The old buildings on Fourth Avenue had previously been everything from a department store to a bakery with apartments above – all within walking distance of the coal trains. As one local told us “That building was never going to function like it was.”
So they set about creating a boutique hotel to support the burgeoning ecological and environmental draw of Wise County. And they certainly have succeeded. The Western Front Hotel is hip and comfortable and the kind of place you just instantly feel at home. Their goal is to cater to the adventurous of spirit as well as body with 30 spacious rooms including one that sleeps 8 with high tech bunk beds for girlfriend getaways or a family looking for trailhead adventures.
We loved the themed décor inviting you to celebrate the bounty of the outdoors. From old coal pails for your breakfast delivery to cute pillows and retro fridges, the theme celebrates the original surfaces as much as possible with exposed brick and reclaimed wooden headboards.
All have access to two outdoor balcony terraces, a spacious game room and a lovely outdoor fire pit complete with a small stage and cornhole for relaxing. Current plans including putting in two EV charging stations which will be the only ones within 25 miles.
“There’s so much more than meets the eye here at the Western Front. Once you see it, you’ll keep coming back.” Said Bobbie Jackson, the attentive General Manager whose door is always open although she’s usually right there to greet folks checking in at reception.
From the beds that make you want to linger, the great Mexican restaurant off the lobby (more on that in another post as well), ATV rentals from the desk and a super cute gift shop, the Western Front has totally hit their mark for being accessible and welcoming to all including your pets.
But the draw is the kayaking, hiking, ATV riding, fishing and biking literally just outside the door in every direction. In our short stay we took advantage of both ATV and biking some local and renown trails, but it was clear we only scratched the surface. Consider staying at least two nights or make a long weekend of it enjoying the respite from spurts of energy!
For more information about the Western Front, check them out here. http://www.westernfronthotel.com