The Grand View Ship Hotel was, in its prime, one of the most famous attractions along the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental automobile route linking the east and west coasts of the United States.
Now only the “grand view” remains, but the story of the rise and fall of the Grand View Ship Hotel is no less fascinating.
Building the Grand View Ship Hotel
Know by several names, including the Grand View Point Hotel, The Ship Hotel, and the Ship of the Alleghenies, this roadside curiosity was the brainchild of Herbert Paulson, a native of the Netherlands and an entrepreneur who knew a good spot when he saw one!
In 1928, the Grand View Lookout Point was already a popular spot for tourists to stop when Paulson built a four story castle-shaped hotel and restaurant at this sharp curve along the Lincoln Highway, 17 miles west of Bedford.
Three years later he decided to enlarge and rebrand the hotel as a ship, inspired by the frequent valley fog that rolled in below the hotel, reminding him of ocean waves.
The SS Grand View Point Hotel opened on Memorial Day 1932, and was a successful venture until the PA Turnpike opened a decade later, siphoning off much of the tourist traffic from Lincoln Highway / Route 30.
The Grand View Ship Hotel went through numerous remodeling efforts in an attempt to stay current with the times and relevant as a business.
The Grand View Ship Hotel remained in the Paulson family until 1978, when another family purchased it and tried to rebrand it as “Noah’s Ark”, covering it in hemlock boards to resemble the Biblical ship.
The new owner successfully petitioned the state to have the name of the Grand View lookout changed to “Mount Ararat” to go along with the biblical theme (a name is still carries today).
But there would be no divine intervention, and Noah’s Ark / The Ship Hotel / The Ship of the Alleghenies closed for good in the late 1980s.
What Happened to the Grand View Ship Hotel?
The Grand View Ship Hotel fell into disrepair in the 1990s.
In the late 1990s, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor tried to save the structure, but those efforts proved futile.
In October of 2001, a month after Flight 93 crashed just to the west in Somerset County, the Grand View Ship Hotel burned to the ground.
The Grand View Ship Hotel Today
Today all that remains of this iconic roadside attraction is one wall and piles of debris.
The gas station across the road from the Grand View Ship Hotel is also rapidly decaying.
An yet, despite years of damage by the elements and vandals, this roadside pull-off still attracts thousands of curiosity seekers each year.
The “grand views” that caused the first motorists to stop here in the early 1900s are still attracting drivers more than a century later.
And a resurgence in nostalgic road trips has introduced a new generation of drivers to slower pace and scenic attractions along the Lincoln Highway.
If you’re interested in visiting the site of the former Grand View Ship Hotel, you’ll find the roadside pull-off along Route 30 / the Lincoln Highway approximately 17 miles west of Bedford at GPS coordinates 40.03738, -78.75842.
The abandoned garage across the road from the former Grand View Ship Hotel is a more obvious landmark, while the lone remaining wall of the hotel is partially obscured by guard rails.
Grand View Ship Hotel Artifacts
The Lincoln Highway Experience in Westmoreland County is a museum dedicated to telling the story of the Lincoln Highway, and it houses an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits related to the Grand View Ship Hotel.
For those like myself who had a chance to dine or stay at the Ship Hotel in one of its its various incarnations, the collection of artifacts at the Lincoln Highway Experience is sure to jog some pleasant memories.
The 1806 Old Log Church is another iconic Lincoln Highway roadside attraction in Bedford County.
In fact, the original route of the Lincoln Highway took it through the cemetery of what is the oldest standing church in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.
The Bedford Coffee Pot
The Bedford Coffee Pot is located just a few miles east of the 1806 Old Log Church along the Lincoln Highway, on the outskirts of Bedford.
Constructed in 1927 by David Koontz as a gimmick to entice motorists to stop at his service station for food and fuel, the Bedford Coffee Pot was one of hundreds of “roadside giants” than once stood alongside the Lincoln Highway.
Dunkle’s Gulf Station
Designed to be Gulf’s showpiece service station between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the art deco styling, Dunkle’s Gulf Station has been attracting motorists since it first opened along the Lincoln Highway in 1933.
Opened by Dick Dunkle, the Gulf station offered (and still offers) fuel and repairs along America’s first coast-to-coast highway.
The Fort Bedford Museum
The Fort Bedford Museum explains the history of Bedford County on the site of a British fort originally built in 1758.
The Fort Bedford Museum was built in 1958, 200 years after the original Fort Bedford was constructed during the French and Indian War.
The Flight 93 National Memorial
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 fought one of the first battles in the war against radical Islamic terrorists in the skies over western Pennsylvania.
The Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville is a tribute to the bravery, service, and sacrifice of those 40 passengers and crew members.
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