This undated photo shows Lewisburg’s McElhenney Lodge on Church Street when it was part of The Greenbrier College for Women. The front brick portion of the building may date to the 1840s although missing county records make it hard to pinpoint its age. It was occupied by Elizabeth Kincaid in the 1850s and may have been an inn or boarding house. Kincaid was the first woman in Lewisburg to receive a license for a House of Private Entertainment (referring to an inn, boarding house, or ordinary).
In 1944, Dr. French Thompson, President of The Greenbrier College for Women, bought the property from John and Sarah Young. Sometime between when he purchased it and 1947, he likely added the east addition and dubbed the building McElhenney Lodge honoring Greenbrier County educator Dr. John McElhenney. In January 1947, the first twelve students moved into the addition and became known as “lodge girls.” After renting the building from Dr. Thompson, the college elected to purchase it in 1953 for $48,000.
Under the presidency of Dr. Ralph Murray in 1953, the college built a recreation room on the ground floor of the east addition. The students named the room the Idle-Inn. Dr. Murray dedicated the room by presenting the key to Vicky Miller, student body president, just before she broke the “traditional” bottle of Seven-Up soda on the doorstep. The room had pine paneling, easy chairs, a fireplace, ping-pong table, and a jukebox. It became a popular hangout for college students and Greenbrier Military School cadets.
The north wing, with more dormitory rooms, was constructed in 1960-61 along with a complete renovation of the rest of the building. In 1962, the building had 27 rooms for students and faculty. McElhenney Lodge continued to serve the college until 1972 when the college closed. The college buildings, including McElhenney Lodge, were bought by the State of West Virginia for $415,000 to house a mental health facility. McElhenney Lodge was then used for offices for a number of years.
Photo courtesy of Greenbrier Historical Society.
Sources: Brier Bits (Greenbrier College newspaper), Greenbrier College catalogues, Greenbrier College minutes, The People of the Old Stone Cemetery by Morgan Donnally Bunn.