Historic Change

Massanetta Springs Restoration Melds Past And Present

Posted: February 5, 2013

Massanetta Springs nowadays, following renovations, the hotel seeks to appeal to both adults and a younger crowd. (Photo by Aimee George)

Only honored guests were granted exclusive access to the grand staircases of turn-of-the-century Virginia hotels, but Massanetta Springs hopes to fill their building with visitors ranging from camping children to professional conference groups.

Through the Living Waters Campaign, they’ve already completed the first phase in renovating the 1910 historic hotel — including exterior stucco, windows and roof work — and plan to complete the entire $11 million project within the next two years.

Solid Foundation

“Grace and hospitality,” says Executive Director Fred Holbrook, are the highest aspirations for the facility.

As he points out key features of the hotel, from the original stone fireplace to claw-foot bathtubs and restored windows, his passion for the space’s potential is evident.

“All this will be wood,” he says, tapping a foot on the carpet in the sitting room. Sweeping a hand over the railing of one of the staircases, he notes that simple touches will remain true to history without being “archaic,” such as raising railings to code height and adding more comfortable chairs.

“Everything was so solid,” he said the construction crew noted. Nielson Builders, of Harrisonburg, began construction on the project in June. “They said, ‘This is perfect. Restore it, don’t tear it down.’ "

Tony Biller, president and CEO of Nielsen Builders Inc., wasn’t new to Massanetta: he’d been building a relationship with the center for decades. “In my history of 25 years here, I have looked at that building a half a dozen times to be renovated and restored,” he said. Biller recalls walking through the hotel often, talking about plans. “It’s really exciting.”

Biller has always held a passion for working with church and community groups, he said. Completing the first phase not only meant shoring up the structure to stop decline, but also raising excitement about the potential of the building.

Next Steps

Although it’s already being used as Rockingham County’s second largest dining room, the hotel will sleep nearly 400, including more than 100 private bathroom bedroom suites.

Once completed, the hotel’s design will be “adult friendly” with comprehensive amenities, while remaining “youth inviting,” so that, if something needs to be replaced, it won’t cost more than a Model T.

“We just want it to be a welcome facility,” Holbrook said. “It’ll return to that flavor of the 1910 hotel, but be very inviting and durable.”

Restoring a historic property for modern use takes a different approach, noted Biller. “It’s not your normal out-of-the-ground commercial project,” he said. “It takes more thought, appreciation to detail, craftsmanship.”

The next phases, broken into three to stagger costs, will include renovation of the lobby, followed by the elevator and staircases and, finally, finishing the upstairs rooms.

“It’s a fantastic facility,” said Holbrook. “It’ll be beautiful.”

For more information on the project or to donate, visit www.massanettasprings.org or call (540) 434-3829.

Contact Samantha Cole at (540) 574-6274 or scole@dnronline.com