The History of the Horton Hotel: a story of pioneers who followed their entrepreneurial spirit

history of the horton hotel

The Horton Hotel is located in a historic building in downtown Boone, North Carolina. The building was constructed in the 1920s by Henry Walter Horton, and in earlier days the building notably served as both a Studebaker dealership and a Spainhours Department Store. We aim to honor the Horton legacy through the creation of a space to gather and enjoy the finer things. Think cozy rooms, plush bedding, craft cocktails, delicious small plates… we could go on! But first, let’s look back. Let’s dive into the history of the Horton Hotel. How did the Horton family end up in North Carolina? It’s a story about brave pioneers who followed their entrepreneurial spirit!

It all starts in Mousley, England… 

The small town of Mousley, England, south of Leicestershire in the 17th century – this is how far back our research brought us, and it’s where Henry Walter Horton’s distant family members stepped on board the Swallow to sail to America. His family was likely part of the “Great Migration” that occurred between 1630 and 1641. Nearly 21,000 Puritans – English Protestants, which we believe the original Horton family adhered to – emigrated from England. Their destination wasn’t North Carolina just yet, but the New England colonies, as they were eager to establish their own congregation.

The Belle of Broadway

Three generations and a century later, Henry’s great, great, great grandfather Nathan Horton Jr., born in 1757, decided to move to North Carolina. Before his big adventure he met and fell in love with Elizabeth, a charismatic actress known as “The Belle of Broadway” for her work in musical theatre. The couple married in 1783 in New Jersey, just as the American Revolution was ending. They moved south in 1785. Their final destination: territory that would eventually become Watauga County, North Carolina.

A year of traveling

Together with their firstborn, baby Hannah, the couple began a journey that would take a year traveling The Great Wagon Road, a trail through the Appalachian Valley from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. What made people decide to take on such a journey? To travel such a long distance without knowing what their final destination would be like? During those times, many immigrants were in search of land to stake claim to and homestead. Many moved to locations where family or friends were already established. It’s likely the small Protestant Jersey settlement in the mountains of Western North Carolina brought Nathan and Elizabeth to the area.

history of the horton hotel

Travelers on the Great Wagon Road: North Carolina’s first interstate highway. 

With furniture and clothes packed on a four-horse wagon and their precious baby safely in their arms, Nathan and Elizabeth left New Jersey. Tragically, Hannah died not far from New Jersey as they passed through Hagerstown, Maryland.

Time is on their side: traveling with a seven-foot-tall clock

Nathan and Elizabeth continued their travels on an unpaved yet well-traveled route, stopping in lodges along the way. The journey took them through 553 miles of forests, mountains, and rivers. All this way they hauled Nathan’s grandfather clock, a beautiful seven foot tall clock crafted of mahogany. Today the clock is showcased in one of Appalachian State University’s meeting rooms.

The history of the Horton Hotel: Henry bought the building

After a year of arduous traveling, they finally arrived as some of the first settlers at Cook’s Gap near the Watauga River. While Nathan held their newborn son William in his arms, born shortly after their arrival, they stumbled upon an empty hunter’s lodge and settled in the area.

Henry Walter Horton, the great, great, great grandson of Nathan, was born three generations later, the son of William Horton. With his wife Susan Usher, Henry bought the building at 611 West King Street, now the Horton Hotel. The original one-story building – housing a Studebaker dealership – was torn down and replaced with a five-story building constructed specifically for Spainhours Department Store, with apartments upstairs. The fanfare was that the store had the town’s first shoe department with a dedicated salesman who could measure and fit each customer. It was the rage of the day!

History of the Horton Hotel

This is a picture of King Street in Boone, North Carolina, in the early 1900’s. If you look closely, you can see the ‘S’ sign (Studebaker) after the sign that says ‘restaurant’. 

What it wills…

So there it is: a short history of the Horton Hotel. The Watauga County Hortons were, and still are, influential in the High Country region – a family of patriots, entrepreneurs, servicemen and politicians. Hence the family coat of arms motto, “What it wills, it wills strongly.” On the exterior of the building, up at the top, you can still see the silhouette of the Horton crest.

It’s no coincidence that the owners of the Horton Hotel, Fulton and Denise Lovin, are business pioneers as they open the first boutique hotel in downtown Boone. And, what they “strongly will” is for guests to enjoy their stay in the unique and historic Horton Hotel!

Book your stay at the Horton Hotel

We can’t wait to have you stay with us in downtown Boone’s historic Horton Hotel. We look forward to sharing even more of the history of the Horton Hotel with you! We’re now accepting reservations for January of 2019, so book now! (Our goal is to be open by the end of fall 2018… so sign up for our email list here to stay in the loop!) And don’t forget to read some more of our blogs about all the things you can do in the area while visiting. We hope to see you soon!

Author: Sanny Visser

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