This landmark boat shaped hotel in Pennsylvania burned in 2001

S.S. Grand View Point Ship Hotel, Juniata Pennsylvania
Date added: June 29, 2021 Categories: Pennsylvania Hotel Special and Unique Roadside Attraction
1999  Looking Northeast

Motorists travelling the Lincoln Highway stopped at Grand View Point even before the hotel was constructed to take advantage of the view of the surrounding valley below. The Lincoln Highway at Grand View Point was part of a transportation corridor that has a history that dates back to the mid-eighteenth century. It had been part of the Forbes Road, Pennsylvania Road, and the early turnpike across Pennsylvania.

The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway, planned in 1913 by some of the leaders of the auto industry. They included Carl Fisher, founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Henry Joy, president of the Packard Motor Car Company. The purpose of the highway was to provide a route to the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and to demonstrate to the public the need for better roads across the country. It connected San Francisco with Times Square in New York City.

The original Grand View Point Hotel was built by Herbert Paulson, a Dutch immigrant, in the late 1920s. He had purchased the 13 acres of land on the hillside of Grand View Point for $3,200 from a Mr. Richelieu, who had operated a hot dog stand on the site. A new stone wall was built at the site in 1927 replacing one that had been in place since at least 1914 and, shortly afterwards, Herbert Paulson built the first Grand View Point Hotel. It was open for business by July 4, 1928.

Before it took the form of a ship, the building underwent some alterations. Initially the building was a four story, rectangular building, measuring 48' by 60', of wood-frame construction built in the late 1920s. The stone wall out front, which is four feet tall, was built in 1927 and had a stone castle turret at each end and four larger ones in the middle. The building also had turrets on its roof to echo the ones on the stone wall, one at each corner and a larger one in the middle of the front. The three turrets on the front had flag poles on the top of them.

This original building had large picture windows on the south end of the west facade as well as on the south facade. The main entrance was on the west facade and was flanked on the north by double-hung windows. An awning surrounded the building. The words "GRAND VIEW POINT HOTEL" appeared in large dark capital letters above the awning on the west facade and the words "SEE 3 STATES 7 COUNTIES" were in large dark capital letters on the south facade. An observation deck was also on the south side.

Within a couple of years, but before it acquired the shape of a ship, the building was modified. The observation deck on the south side was enclosed and a large glassed-in addition was built on the north side of the building. The awning on the west side was also extended further west towards the road and columns were added to support it. The top floor contained the dining room, a gift shop, and the observation deck and was at the level of the Lincoln Highway. The second and third floors, which were below road level, contained the hotel rooms.

The Grand View Point Hotel was an instant hit with motorists. Not only did they stop to admire the view, but they could now stop to spend the night or eat a meal. Rooms at the Grand View Point Hotel started at $1 and the restaurant was open 24 hours a day. Two of the restaurant's specialties were Castles Ice Cream and a chicken waffle dinner which consisted of chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy over a waffle, a popular regional dish of German origin. The land to the east of the building contained fountains and goldfish ponds. The restrooms were located further past these on a long path.

Because of its location at Grand View Point and being on the Lincoln Highway, business was very good at the Grand View Point Hotel. Business was also good because it was in a rural area of Pennsylvania that did not offer many other services to motorists on the highway. Due to the success of the hotel, Herbert Paulson believed it was time to enlarge and make the hotel more attractive to visitors. The view from Grand View Point inspired Paulson with a couple of different ideas for the enlarged hotel. The view from the hotel reminded Paulson of the view from a European castle so he considered enlarging the hotel into a full size castle. However, he felt that the shape of a castle would block too much of the view.

The view from Grand View Point also reminded him of the waves of the sea, especially when fog filled the valley below. He considered enlarging the hotel into a fish, but found that a fantail was too expensive. He then decided on building a ship because the tapered ends of a ship would not block as much of the view.

The enlargement of the Grand View Point Hotel began c.1930 and was finished in early 1932. Herbert Paulson had borrowed $125,000 at 16% interest from his insurance company in order to complete the enlargement. Albert Sinnhuber of Turtle Creek, PA designed the alterations to the building. The plans for the "Ship" indicate Sinnhuber to be a building designer. After consulting several sources, no other information was found on this person.

The most difficult aspect of the construction was laying the base of the hotel. A concrete base was poured by the contractor but because of the steepness of the slope it slid down the mountain. A second base was poured using 22 junked cars to help keep it in place. Eighteen piers were set in the hillside over thirty feet into the bedrock below to support the structure. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation also required three steel I-beams to be placed under the highway to help anchor the building. The order of construction is ambiguous but the resulting system of piers and beams acted to keep the building in place. The construction of the building used a total of 63.5 tons of steel.

The grand opening of the Grand View Point Hotel occurred at noon on May 29, 1932, Memorial Day. The festivities included concerts by the Bedford High School Band as well as a concert given by a small local German band. Tours of the building were also offered to the public. The highlight of the festivities was the dropping of a bouquet of flowers onto the deck from a plane flying overhead.

The new Grand View Point Hotel became an instant landmark on the Lincoln Highway and was known from coast to coast. The fact that a ship existed in the Allegheny Mountains, miles from the nearest ocean, caught the eyes of passing motorists, just as it had been intended to do. People came from miles to eat in its restaurant, have a drink in the lounge, browse in the souvenir shop, stay in one of the guest rooms, or admire the view. A guest book that covered September 18, 1936 to June 18, 1938 recorded over 102,000 signatures of people from every U.S. state and territory as well as visitors from 72 foreign countries. It is one of about ten guest books that were used at the Grand View Point Hotel from about 1923 to 1950.

However, it was not just the average traveller that stopped at the Grand View Point Hotel. It attracted the rich and famous of the early and mid-twentieth century. The famous visitors to the Grand View Point Hotel included Rudy Vallee, Will Rogers, J. P. Morgan II, Tom Mix, John Barrymore, Mary Pickford, Calvin Coolidge, "Red" Grange, and Greta Garbo. The Ship was not only a landmark for motorists on the Lincoln Highway, but for airplane and helicopter pilots as well. The hotel was marked on older USGS maps as well as aviation maps of the time.

Business at the Grand View Point Hotel boomed through the 1930s. Due to the increased amount of automobile traffic in the 1930s, many other businesses also opened along the Lincoln Highway to take advantage of the traveler's trade. Each establishment tried to offer something unique that would lure the traveller to stop, such as unique architecture, a great view, or souvenirs. As a result, the Grand View Point Hotel kept facing increased competition. Herbert Paulson took several measures to keep up with the competition in the 1930s. Dances were often held on the north deck to help draw people from the local area. A new lounge, the Coral Room, was also added. It offered both bar and table seating and had a mirrored wall behind the bar. The original soda fountain was removed and the front pillars were enclosed to provide more space in the lounge. A new 20 foot long brass telescope, supposedly the largest in the world at the time, was added on the south deck to help visitors take advantage of the view. The telescope stood at the Grand View Point Hotel until May, 1986 when vandals tipped it over. At one point in time, a brochure for the Grand View Point Hotel boasted that the building had six view telescopes.

The opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, America's first superhighway, between Carlisle and Irwin in 1940 had an effect on business. The opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike took much of the traffic off of the Lincoln Highway because travel was much quicker and easier on the new Turnpike. Although the Grand View Point Hotel still drew many people, most non-local travellers bypassed it.

When Herbert Paulson stopped running the Grand View Point Hotel in the 1940s, the business was taken over by son Walter Paulson and his sister, Erna. They ran the Grand View Point Hotel until 1978. Because nobody else in the family was interested in taking over the Grand View Point Hotel it was sold to Jack and Mary Loya.

In order to boost business the Loyas renamed the Grand View Point Hotel Noah's Ark. To further emphasize the theme, part of the building was covered with wooden planking and they started a small zoo next to the old gas station. However, they soon found that it was too much for two people to take care of and leased the building to Ron Overly and Christine Ford in 1988.

Soon after the hotel closed. It burned to the ground October 26 2001.