Davis & Elkins unveils plans for historic Graceland mansion

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Davis & Elkins unveils plans for historic Graceland mansion
The former residence of Senator Henry Gassaway Davis, "Graceland" overlooks Elkins. (Photo courtesy Davis & Elkins)

ELKINS, W.Va. — Davis & Elkins College has announced plans to partner with regionally renowned chef Dale Hawkins and Fish Hawk Hospitality in the operation of Graceland to ensure the continuity of the landmark property.

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The partnership will preserve the landmark structure's historical significance and its connection with Davis & Elkins College at Elkins, West Virginia, for more than eight decades, according to college President Chris A. Wood.

Graceland was designed in the Norman style. (Photo courtesy Davis & Elkins College)

"To ensure Graceland remains an integral and vibrant part of the Davis & Elkins campus, we knew we needed a partnership with an outstanding member of the hospitality industry who understood the impact and importance of this destination to our D&E community, and the community-at-large," Wood said.

"Knowing his commitment to showcasing the best of West Virginia, I am confident our partnership with Dale Hawkins and Fish Hawk Hospitality will ensure not only Graceland's reputation but also D&E for distinction and excellence for many years to come."

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Fish Hawk Hospitality will manage restaurant and lodging operations at Graceland, which features 11 available rooms.

The mansion was built in 1893 for U.S. Senator Henry Gassaway Davis and his wife and was initially designed by the renowned architectural firm Baldwin & Pennington of Baltimore, Maryland. It was gifted to the college in 1941 and is listed on the .

Dale Hawkins, owner, and chef of Fish Hawk Hospitality, said people familiar with his company's reputation in the hospitality industry had encouraged him to come to Elkins for a long time.

"We're very excited to be working with Davis & Elkins College to bring new restaurant and lodging options to the Elkins community," Hawkins said. "From the first moment we toured the property with D&E, we knew we found the place we were supposed to be."

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Hawkins's reputation for showcasing West Virginia products is known throughout the Mid-Atlantic region for his catering talents and culinary skills. Enhancing the historic property is a welcome challenge, he said.

"We're going to continue doing what we do best — making delicious food from the best local fruits, vegetables, and meats," he said.

"We plan on offering a slightly more upscale menu than at our Buckhannon location. We look forward to having a beautiful space in Elkins to host wine clubs, special dinners, and other events."

Dave Cutlip, vice-chairman of the college's board of trustees, said the partnership is welcome news throughout the college and the greater Elkins community.

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"As chairman of the board of trustees' property subcommittee and a Randolph County resident, I am extremely excited about the partnership between D&E and Fish Hawk Hospitality," Cutlip said. "Graceland ... has had a long history with the City of Elkins, north-central West Virginia, and Davis & Elkins College."

The historic campus of Davis & Elkins College is a centerpiece of the Tygart Valley in northern West Virginia.

Future plans for Graceland at Davis & Elkins College include serving lunch and dinner in the yet-to-be-named restaurant. Baked goods, desserts, and grab-and-go meals will also be available. In addition to expanded food offerings, FHH plans to introduce a new coffee and espresso program in the space, featuring a dedicated area for retail. 

"As a patron of the existing Fish Hawk offerings, I can think of no better partner," Cutlip said. "Under the professional and elevated management of Chef Hawkins and his team, residents and visitors alike will once again have the opportunity to experience this grand mansion that is so intimately tied to the history and culture of this region and the entire Mountain State."

The upgraded will be ready to serve visitors to the , including the official accommodations of "Maid Silvia" and her family, at the event held annually in Elkins in early October.

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