Tannery vs Hotels

Tannery vs Hotels (HM27IK)

Location: Berkeley Springs, WV 25411 Morgan County
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Country: United States of America
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N 39° 37.677', W 78° 13.613'

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Washington Heritage Trail

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

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
HM NumberHM27IK
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, May 14th, 2018 at 1:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 738009 N 4390139
Decimal Degrees39.62795000, -78.22688333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 37.677', W 78° 13.613'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 37' 40.62" N, 78° 13' 36.78" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)304
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling North
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 200-298 US-522, Berkeley Springs WV 25411, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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