By Lynne Bolton
In Fincastle’s long history, there was at least one period in time about which many folks today may not be aware. Our small town was a “go to” destination for wealthy families from the Deep South! During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Fincastle, with its two luxury hotels – the Western Hotel and the Hayth Hotel – played host to many guests.
Fincastle’s allure was twofold. It was a lovely town located near sulfur springs for those interested in the health spas. It was also a haven for families from towns such as Mobile and New Orleans. Wealthy gentlemen from the Deep South would send their wives, children, and nannies “up North” for the summers in order to escape the diseases which ran rampant due to mosquitos and other “critters.” So, while the men toiled in the heat “back home,” their wives and children enjoyed Fincastle’s hospitality of fine accommodations.
Parts of both the Western Hotel and of the Hayth Hotel still exist; however, neither is currently used as a hotel. The buildings remaining of the Western Hotel are now the “Old” District Court building, the former location of the Botetourt Historic Museum (behind the Courthouse), and the two-story white oblong building beside the “Old” District Court. The remnants of the Hayth Hotel are on Roanoke Street behind the Registrar’s brick building. The largest building still standing is currently divided into rental apartments. Missing for more than a century, directly behind the current apartment building, is the grand ballroom and dining room where visitors could indulge in fine dining, and evenings spent dancing at the hotel’s ballroom.
This author’s very existence is thanks to Fincastle’s resort status. In the late 1880s, Johann Aurich, a successful businessman in New Orleans, sent his wife, Catherine, and his daughters and their maids to Fincastle for the summers. They stayed at the Hayth Hotel and enjoyed all that Fincastle had to offer. During one of those summers, Pauline Henrietta Aurich met an energetic local businessman, French Davis Bolton, and they fell in love. Pauline and French Davis were married in 1892, and my grandfather, Norman Bolton Sr, was born in 1897. I am certain that there are many other similar stories that could be told when Fincastle was a resort town!