About the Natural Bridge Hotel in Virginia
We are Natural Bridge Historic Hotel
In 1774, Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land, including the Natural Bridge, from King George III of England for 20 shillings. He called the majestic, 30-story solid rock bridge “the most sublime of nature’s works.” Jefferson built a two-room log cabin nearby, with one room reserved for guests, to use as a retreat. While President in 1802, he personally surveyed the area. Many famous guests stayed here, including John Marshall, James Monroe, Henry Clay, Sam Houston, and Martin Van Buren.
One of the most popular New World tourist attractions during the 18th and 19th centuries, Natural Bridge drew guests from all over the world with many arriving on horseback or horse-drawn carriages to explore the countryside.
In 1833, a new owner erected the Forest Inn to accommodate the increasing number of visitors. The Bridge had considerable notoriety during the 19th century with Herman Melville comparing the size of the Bridge to the white whale, Moby-Dick: “But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia’s Natural Bridge…”
William Cullen Bryant, another American literary figure, said that Natural Bridge and Niagara Falls were the two most remarkable features of North America.
During the 1880s, Natural Bridge was a resort owned by Colonel Henry Parsons, who also owned the nearby Rockbridge Inn. Parson’s first hotel was an expansion of a small “roadhouse hotel” that was owned by Captain Stevenson. Soon after the expansion around 1890, Parsons went up the hill to the present day location of the historic hotel and built the first main hotel associated with Natural Bridge - it was called the Appledore.
In the early 1900s, the Appledore was expanded to accommodate more guests and the name changed to The Natural Bridge Hotel. The Natural Bridge Hotel thrived up until it caught fire on April 24, 1963. While the exact origin of the fire is still unknown today, it is rumored to have started in the kitchen.
In 1964 construction began on the present-day hotel under the watchful eye of James N. Hunter and the new hotel opened its doors to the world with great pomp and circumstance in 1965.