Story by Carla E. Anderton for Mon Valley Vistas
“I love old buildings. I grew up in a 200-year-old farmhouse, and I grew up around stonemasons. I knew from the time I was eleven or twelve years old that I wanted to be a stonemason,” said George Appel, owner of Appel Masonry.
No stranger to hard work, he credits his strong work ethic to his upbringing on a nearby turkey farm.
“I’m all for kids growing up on a farm because it teaches them how to work. It teaches them there is no such word as can’t,” he said.
Appel, a stonemason with over 42 years of experience, recently restored and renovated the Historic National Hotel on Route 40 in Beallsville.
He said the building’s origins date back to 1815, and the structure initially was a two-story brick house erected on Lot #1 in Beallsville. In 1832, an addition was made to the back of the building which was completed in 1835, and the structure became a hotel known to have served guests venison stew and squirrel stew.
The hotel prospered until the advent of the railroad when foot traffic along the National Pike slowed to a crawl and commerce ceased in all the little towns along Route 40. However, when the automobile was invented, travelers returned to the historic national road, and in the 1900s, the hotel became a restaurant serving chicken and waffles.
Shortly thereafter, a man with the surname of Yank bought the building and turned it into a store. His grandson Tom sold the hotel to Appel.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Appel said. “I knew the owner, I made him an offer. He lived in this building. I sold one of my rentals and I bought this building. Tom still comes here for the fish fry.”
“We closed on the building at 9:30 a.m. and by 9:35 I had seven guys out there with chainsaws and weedeaters. We took seven truckloads of brush the first day,” he said.
“The day after we closed on it,” he said, “the roof started leaking for the first time and the basement took on 23 inches of water. It was up to my knees.”
Not long after Appel rectified the flooded basement situation, another challenge arose when a gas well truck trying to navigate a tight turn at a traffic light collided with the side of the building.
“It ripped the front porch right off,” he said. However, he used the situation to his advantage to redo all the railings.
Now, after putting a new roof on the building and beginning the process of replacing 43 windows, Appel has begun welcoming the public to view his handiwork. He and his wife, Kelly, will offer cuisine like fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, pizza, and home-style meals every other weekend. The hotel’s limited hours of operation are due to the fact the couple still have full-time jobs during the week. They officially opened their doors on May 8, 2021, and will be open every other weekend on Saturdays from 4-10 p.m. and on Sundays from 12 noon-6 p.m. Kelly does the cooking and George handles taking orders and handing customers their meals.
Diners can enjoy their food inside the hotel’s dining room or outside on the porch, and takeout is also available. The Appels also plan to offer catering services, and the dining room can be rented out for meetings and special events.
So far, the public reaction has been very positive, with Appel saying the community has been very supportive of their endeavor. They sold out of pizza and cabbage rolls during their opening weekend. Future plans include having steak nights and holiday events.
The hotel also has extended stay suites upstairs that can be rented out, and an innkeeper’s room where Appel and his wife will stay when they eventually open a bed and breakfast in the building.
The hotel isn’t the first historic building in Beallsville Appel has bought and restored to its former glory. He also owns the former bank building directly across the street. He said he’s pleased to see so many other new businesses opening up in Beallsville.
“The more businesses that open up here, it’s better for everyone involved,” he said. “It’s going to get people to stop in this town, and once they stop and park, they’re going to explore this town. It’s good for the town, and that’s my goal. I want to give back to this town.”
While Appel said the building had “good bones,” he was quick to acknowledge the restoration effort was a massive undertaking, one he took on because of his passion for history and desire to help preserve it.
“If we don’t preserve the history, it’s not going to be here for the next generation. I know in my heart that I gave this building another 150 years,” he said.
For more information about the Historic National Hotel, follow them on Facebook.