Berkeley Springs icon dies

January 07, 1998

Berkeley Springs icon dies


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Former Town Councilman Jack Porter Barker, who transformed The Country Inn here into a major tourist draw for the town, died Monday of congestive heart failure at the age of 86.

Barker's family will continue to operate the inn, according to his daughter, Adele Barker, of Tuscon, Ariz.

"The Country Inn will continue to be run in the spirit and in the same style that my father imparted in it," she said.

The inn, in the center of town adjoining Berkeley Springs State Park, will not be sold "in the foreseeable future. We feel very strongly about that," Adele Barker said.


Jack Barker is also survived by his wife, Alice Barker.

A World War II veteran, Barker was a teacher and coach at the Landon School for Boys in Bethesda, Md., for 20 years, retiring in 1971.

The following year, at age 61, he bought The Country Inn, then called the Parkview Inn. He changed its name and image, turning the 1930s building into a modern resort that became an attraction for guests from the Washington metropolitan area.

Barker doubled the number of rooms to 80, added a garden dining room, built spa facilities and brought in weekend entertainment, Adele Barker said.

"Daddy loved this place. The thing he was most proud of was his gardens. He loved them. Many people who came here took him for the gardener. He spent very little time at the front desk," she said.

She said her father's health began to fail in September. He underwent open heart surgery, "but it didn't do the job. The symptoms came back with a vengeance," she said.

Jack Barker came down to the inn on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve in a wheelchair to be with his guests, she said.

"He had a pencil and paper with him. He was lining up the bands for next year," Adele Barker said.

"It's a great loss," said Martha Ashelman, who runs Coolfont Resort outside Berkeley Springs with her husband, Sam. The County Inn is their main competition.

"We were close in recent years. Jack did a lot for the tourism industry here. He left a legacy, a shining gem in the middle of town," Martha Ashelman said.

Barker served on the council in 1986 and 1987 and again in the early 1990s.

Berkeley Springs Mayor Susan Webster said she was one of Barker's first employees, hired as a bartender soon after he bought the inn.

"Jack gave the place a new image. It needed a new life, new blood and excitement. He came in with such energy and such vision. He turned it into a showplace," she said.

Webster now owns the Appalachian Restaurant up the street from The Country Inn.

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