“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Berkeley Springs in Morgan County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

Tannery vs Hotels

Washington Heritage Trail

Tannery vs Hotels Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones, May 12, 2018
1. Tannery vs Hotels Marker
Inscription.  After the Civil War, Berkeley Springs was divided between two conflicting economic forces. Hotels and bathhouses dominated the streets surrounding the warm mineral springs. The buildings of DeFord's First National Tannery bumped up against them, filling the area beginning at the alley just a half block north of the park on Washington St.

Bark, especially oak, was the secret ingredient of the local tannery's success. It was used to tan the hides. Thousands of pounds were peeled, carted into town and sold by country folk every May. It was stored in sheds spread over a couple blocks of downtown. In 1888 a dispute over bark led to the county's first murder in a decade.

The tannery had a complicated relationship with life in Morgan County. It provided jobs, undertook community tasks and donated generously to various churches and civic causes. Owner, Benjamin DeFord, was an active supporter of bringing a spur of the B&O railroad directly into town which happened in 1885. In 1886, leather from DeFord's in Berkeley Springs won first place at the World Exposition in New Orleans.

The tannery expanded dramatically in the
Tannery vs Hotels Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones, May 12, 2018
2. Tannery vs Hotels Marker
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1880s at the same time Berkeley Springs was once again becoming a fashionable resort. Smells from the tanning process, pollution in Warm Springs Run and the unsightliness of overflowing bark sheds and the tallest smokestack in the state affected public opinion. Anti-tannery forces gained momentum. Ironically, it was the railroad DeFord championed that ended the tannery business by making it easier to transport bark elsewhere.

The tannery finally closed in 1898 and over the next decade or so the buildings were damaged by fire or razed, opening blocks of downtown for other commercial development.

These waters have a peculiar effect in the process of tanning the leather which cannot be gained by others, giving to the leather a toughness and durability that cannot be equaled. The sole leather from this tannery took premium at World's Exposition in New Orleans in 1886.
The News, March, 1888
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceRailroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the West Virginia, Washington Heritage Trail series list. A significant historical month for this entry is March 1888.
Location. 39° 37.677′ N, 78° 13.613′ W. Marker is in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, in Morgan County. Marker is on North Washington Street (U.S. 522) north
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of Congress Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 105 Congress Street, Berkeley Springs WV 25411, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. James Smith (a few steps from this marker); Berkeley Springs (within shouting distance of this marker); Bath Historic District (within shouting distance of this marker); Henry Whiting (within shouting distance of this marker); Frederick Conrad (within shouting distance of this marker); James Elliott (within shouting distance of this marker); Hugh Walker (within shouting distance of this marker); Robert Brown (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Berkeley Springs.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 14, 2018. It was originally submitted on May 12, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 130 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on May 12, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Sep. 24, 2022