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Country Inn in Berkeley Springs on schedule for foreclosure auction at end of August

July 31, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • The Country Inn, 110 S. Washington St. in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., will be auctioned at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013.
Submitted /

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — Anyone with a vested interest in Berkeley Spring’s tourism industry is hoping for a good owner for the well-known Country Inn as the clock winds down for a scheduled foreclosure auction of the historic property later this month, according to a local tourism official.

The inn with its 65 rooms, a full-service restaurant, commercial kitchen, banquet space, bar and lounges will go up for auction at its location at 110 South Washington St., at noon on Aug. 28, according to a news release from Hurley Auctions, who announced the sale in conjunction with AmeriBid LLC.

Various financial issues have faced the inn over the years.

In 1998, the inn and its officers were almost $1 million in debt to Morgan County, state and federal governments because of unpaid taxes.

At that time, West Virginia tax authorities placed $492,452 in tax liens against the Country Inn of Berkeley Springs, Inc., its late owner, Jack P. Barker, his widow, Alice M. Barker, and the inn’s secretary/treasurer for unpaid consumer sales tax in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 and interest, according to lien records filed with the Morgan County clerk.

In February 2011 unpaid hotel/motel taxes of about $25,000 from the Country Inn dating back to July 2009 were due to the town of Bath. Berkeley Springs refers to the postal area for the town, whose actual name is Bath.

The fact that the inn is headed to foreclosure auction has not surprised residents of in Berkeley Springs, said Jeanne Mozier, vice president of Travel Berkeley Springs, the local convention and visitors bureau.

Given the issues that have been affecting the inn in recent years, most people are wondering what took so long for the auction to be scheduled, Mozier said Wednesday.

People interested in the town’s tourism industry have been focused on getting a good owner for the inn, Mozier said.

Before the auctioneer for the sale was named, people were doing what ever they could to get the word out about the inn, she said.

“It’s a potential gold mine,” Mozier said.

Susan Webster, the mayor of Bath who once worked at the inn, said many people in town grew up with the landmark, which dates to 1932.

Webster said the inn closed in May, which has been difficult for the town because the facility’s anchor role in the downtown business area.

“For me, it’s the heart of the community,” Webster said.

However, Webster said she is hopeful for a bright outcome from the auction, noting that she has learned that there are corporations, individuals and groups interested in the property.

The property’s ties to local history are extensive.

A large hotel eventually known as The Berkeley Springs Hotel stood at the inn's location for 50 years in the 19th century. The structure burned to the ground in 1898.

In 1972 retired schoolmaster Jack Barker bought the inn from the family of the original owners and gradually made repairs and improvements.

Country Inn West, containing 35 guest rooms and an elevator, was completed on the steep ridge behind the original building in 1985.

The two-story Renaissance Spa adjoining Country Inn West was added three years later. A full-service spa pampered guests with massages, mineral whirlpool baths, facials, manicures, pedicures and other salon services.

The enclosed Garden Room, in the south wing of the original building beyond the West Virginia Room, was completed about 1990.

Barker died early in 1998, and his family ran it for a while, Mozier said.

The inn was eventually sold and has been operated by three different entities since Barker died, Mozier said.

 The inn’s site directly adjoins the tiny Berkeley Springs State Park — West Virginia’s smallest park. The town’s famous warm springs bubble out of the ground at the park’s site, where people often gather to collect free spring water.

 First recorded as the Medicine Springs in 1747, the waters for many centuries have drawn visitors seeking health and relief from the stress of everyday life.

 The springs have been popular since George Washington visited them in 1776, when he and friends incorporated the town of Bath.

 Public inspections of the inn will be held on Aug. 6, 15, 20, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on auction day two hours before the sale.

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