Lifestyle Magazine

The Martha Washington Inn

By Afcpam @Yes
The Martha Washington Inn

The Martha

The Martha Washington Inn was built in 1832 as a private residence for General Francis Preston and Sarah Buchanan Preston and their nine children.

179  years ago the residence was built for just under $15,000 dollars.  In 1858 the Preston family home was sold $21,000 dollars .  It became an upscale college for women.   The school was named Martha Washington College.  Locals call it “The Martha”.  The college operated for over 70 years through the years of the Civil War and the Great Depression.

“The “War Between the States” was soon to have a dramatic effect on the college. Schoolgirls became nurses and the beautiful grounds became training barracks for the Washington Mounted Rifles. Union and Confederate troops were involved in frequent skirmishes in and around the town with the college serving as a makeshift hospital for the wounded, both Confederate and Yankee.  Despite the devastating effects of the Civil War, the Martha Washington College survived. However, the Great Depression, typhoid fever and a declining enrollment eventually took its toll. The Martha was closed in 1932, standing idle for several years.”  – This was to sent to me by a staff person and borrowed from The Martha’s website, with permission.

For the next 50 years The Martha was to experience a number of changes in ownership. For a period of time the facility was used to house actors and actresses appearing at the Barter Theatre across the street. Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine, and Ned Beatty are but a few of the prominent actors who began their career here… all of whom have later returned to visit The Martha.  The Barter Theatre is today known as the longest-running professional resident theatre in America.

In 1935, The Martha Washington Inn opened as a hotel and throughout the years has hosted many illustrious guests. Eleanor Roosevelt, President Harry Truman, Lady Bird Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Elizabeth Taylor are counted among the many famous guests who have frequented the hotel.

The Martha Washington Inn

In 1984, The United Company, representing a group of dedicated businessmen, purchased The Martha Washington Inn and began an eight million dollar renovation.  Aware of this historic landmark’s importance to the town of Abingdon, the restoration was carefully designed to preserve and enhance much of its original splendor and architectural detail.

In 1995, The Martha Washington Inn joined The Camberley Collection of fine historic properties.

It was from the Civil War era that many of the ghosts came to exist.  Sightings of ghosts and other eery encounters have been experienced by guests and staff, including myself.  Violin music can still be heard coming from room 403.  The ghost, named Beth, soothed a dying confederate solider by playing the violin.  Guests in room 210 have actually been touched by ghosts!  If you stay in room 302, you might witness an entire silent party!  Images appear on the mirrors in the salon. In 2010 I was at The Martha, tending to some last minute details for an upcoming wedding.  I had my folder in my arms with a fabric swatch securely fastened to it.  I had just left the gift shop where the clerk had told me about often seeing a figure looking at her through the display window.  I laughed it off and made my way down the hall, through the front doors of the mansion, and to my car.  It was pouring rain.  When I got in my car I noticed that the fabric swatch was gone.  I opened the door to look to see if I had dropped it on the ground, then proceeded to look under and around my vehicle.  I traced my steps back to the shop.  Nothing!  I knew I had it in the shop and there was only a hallway and porch between the shop and my car.  Both the swatch and the paper clip had vanished.  The clerk remarked that the ghost was probably playing a trick on me, that it happens all the time.  I don’t know if there is any merit to this, I only know my swatch and paper clip disappeared and were never found. The gazebo is a beautiful place for an outdoor wedding.  This is the wedding I was referring to:
The Martha Washington Inn
Photos by Cable Photography The ballroom is gorgeous!  It can accommodate approximately 200 guests.
The Ballroom at The Martha Washington Inn

If you are ever in the Abingdon/Bristol, Virginia area, make it a point to visit The Martha.   You can take a seat on the front veranda and enjoy a glass of southern iced tea.

The Martha

150 West Main Street

Abingdon, VA 24210


Tomorrow we will explore one of the most ghostly populated buildings in Bristol, VA,  The Bristol Train Station.  Be sure to come back and tell all your friends, too!

Pam Archer


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