The days may be numbered for a familiar landmark in downtown Walnut Cove. The old Dodson Hotel has been condemned and may have to be torn down. The owner, Marianne DeHart Northington, was notified around three weeks ago and given 60 days to make some crucial decisions.
At this time, yellow caution tape, put up by the Walnut Cove Public Works Department, surrounds the three-story structure at the corner of Second and Main. No one is allowed to go inside the taped perimeter, due to the hotel being deemed unsafe.
“This thing got started because a citizen called and complained about the hotel,” explained Byron Ellis, Walnut Cove town manager. “The fire marshal [Anthony Stewart] went up there and reported that he thought it was dangerous and declared it a nuisance.”
The next step was to have Andrew Smith, the Stokes County building inspector, check out the structure. He, too, declared it unsafe and placed signed notices on the door to inform the public of the condemned status of the hotel.
“Evidently it’s been leaking for a long, long time,” Smith noted, “because the roof has caved in to the basement.” He said that the exterior wall closest to Second Street is buckling due to the damage. “A strong thunderstorm might bring it down,” he conjectured.
Ellis stated that some of the Walnut Cove Town Commissioners thought it would be best to keep people away from the old hotel. Prior to the building being roped off, cars had been parking on the Second Street side where the wall is a hazard.
Ellis says that the owner has a few options: she could repair the hotel, have it demolished or file an appeal with the town regarding their determination of the structure being unsafe. “There could be a hearing before the building inspector,” he added.
If nothing is done by the owner, the Town of Walnut Cove could have the old hotel torn down now that it has been condemned, according to Ellis. “It’s way past being just an eyesore — it’s a hazard now,” he stated.
Ellis explained how the hole in the roof can be seen in the latest Stokes County GIS mappings taken a couple of years ago. The hole appears even bigger when viewed from the more recent Google Earth pictures.
“You could drop a school bus in it,” Ellis said.
The Dodson Hotel was built in 1912 by Wesley Greenville Dodson and served as one of three hotels in Walnut Cove during that era. It was advertised as a modern accommodation that boasted lights, a generator, heat, its own sewage system and baths. According to former Walnut Cove Mayor Jack Gentry, many of the tenants of the Dodson Hotel were schoolteachers, with room and board being about $5-6 per week.
The structure was one of the most impressive ones in town, with a corbelled cornice and round and segmental arched doors and windows. At one point, there was a two-tier wrap-around porch, but that has been removed.
On the north side of the building is a one-story projection that was used as a store. The actual hotel interior featured a lobby, parlor, dining room, kitchen and approximately 20 hotel rooms.