U.S.S. Grandview Ship Hotel
Mayor Murphy has built a second model for the Miniature Railroad & Village in as many years. The S.S. Grand View Ship Hotel, affectionately known as The Ship, sat perched on the side of the Allegheny Mountains, 17 miles west of Bedford, Pennsylvania along side the Lincoln Highway. Dutch immigrant, Herbert Paulson purchased the 13-acre site in 1923 for $3,200 and opened his first roadside stand, but this was not an ordinary roadside stop. At an elevation of 2464 feet one could view 3 states and 7 counties from this point.
Mr. Paulson, who originally worked as a tool and die make in Pittsburgh, received some resistance from state officials who believed there was a real danger that anything he constructed on this site might slide off the mountain. His determination won out when told the state "It's my property, either you let me build it or you buy the property!"
The very next year, Paulson enlarged his roadside stand using a castle theme to build a new 4-story structure. The three floors, which hung down the mountainside, featured hotel rooms and vehicle storage while the top floor included an observation deck restaurant and gift shop. Three I-beams installed under the roadside and 18 steel piers anchored 30 feet into the ground held the building to the ledge.
Some may have been satisfied with this feat, but Paulson decided to enlarge again and began to imagine a ship perched on the side of the mountain and how the fog in valleys below looked very much like the sea. The "Captain" hired two men who happened to be hunting nearby, Emilo Rosso and Louis Franci and together they started constructing the Ship Hotel over top of the Castle. Contractors were brought in from Turtle Creek to set 63.5 tons of steel in place for the base. The cost of this ambitious endeavor was $125,000. Paulson also added a 5th floor for fourteen 'first class' hotel rooms. The lower floors were now called 'second class' and steerage.
The Ship quickly became famous - a landmark along the nations first highway. Her log boasted of the famous celebrities who stayed there: Clara Bow, George Burns, Joan Crawford, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Greta Garbo, Lillian Gish, Tom Mix, J.P. Morgan George Raft and Mary Pickford along with visitors from every state and 72 foreign countries. For locals it was 'The' fancy place to go for dinner, proms and other important celebrations.
Business along old Route 30, including the Ship, suffered dramatically as more and more drivers began using the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the family eventually sold the famous landmark after Herbert Paulson's death in 1973. Though the new owners tried various new gimmicks for attracting tourists, the glorious days when the famous filled the hotel rooms seemed to be over. The Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor tried unsuccessfully to purchase the property from the current owners and the building sat abandoned and falling into disrepair. Finally in the middle of the night October 2001 witnesses reported seeing a ball of fire on the mountainside as the Ship burnt to the ground. Nine fire companies responded to the call.
Special thanks to:
Martin Aurand, Architecture Librarian and Archivist, CMU
Brian Butko, Editor of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.
Helen Russian - Central City Historical Society
Olga Herbert - Executive Director, Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor
Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor website*
The Lincoln Highway Pennsylvania Traveler's Guide, 2nd Edition
By Brian Butko
The Ship to rise again -- in miniature
Historic Ship Hotel Burns
October 27-28, 2001
*The LHHC is a designated state heritage park headed by the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. Its mission is to conserve, interpret and promote the cultural, historical and natural resources along the section of the Lincoln Highway which runs through Pennsylvania's Westmoreland, Somerset, Bedford, Fulton, Franklin and Adams Counties.