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“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.
By Devry 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 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
Tannery vs Hotels Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Jones, May 12, 2018
2. Tannery vs Hotels Marker
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
 
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 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.
 
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); James Elliott (within shouting distance of this marker); Robert Brown (within shouting distance of this marker); George Dick (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Frederick Conrad / Robert Rutherford (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Berkeley Springs.
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceRailroads & Streetcars
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on May 14, 2018. This page originally submitted on May 12, 2018, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 62 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on May 12, 2018, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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