The Dian-Lee House in Bluefield conjures up images of a luxurious past amid a modern-day getaway.
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In southern West Virginia, the Dian-Lee House is a stately, comfortable inn that invites fantasies of bygone splendor. For owner Sandra Hancock, the house holds much more than crystal chandeliers, candelabras, and other trappings of turn-of-the-century glamour. Seventeen years ago, she rescued it—and it rescued her. “I was having some difficult family times,” says the Bluefield native, “and I was thinking of moving away. I would drive past that house every day, and it was so sad. It called out to me.”
She wrote a letter to the home’s elderly owner, Helen Ryan. “She wasn’t ready to sell, but she gave the letter to her trustee at the bank. Five years later, I got a call from the bank.”
Sandra went to take a look. “It was like a big, old, haunted house. I didn’t think I could afford it, but I made an offer, and Mrs. Ryan accepted it. It was definitely the Lord’s intervention. I told myself, ‘There’s my sign. I will never, ever try to leave again.’”
She set about restoring the 1904 Southern-style mansion to its former elegance. Sandra also gave the house its current name, a combination of her own and her sister’s middle names. Once the keystone of a large estate, the home had been occupied by prominent area families and visited by presidents Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy, among other celebrities. But time had been hard on the house. For some years it was used as an elementary school and, after the death of Mrs. Ryan’s husband, a boarding house. “It was really in bad shape,” Sandra says. “It took several years to restore it.” But restore it she did, as attested by the glowing comments many visitors have left in the inn’s guest book.
In the formal drawing room, gilt Louis XIV furnishings are grouped for an intimate tête-à-tête. The inn’s other common areas are similarly luxurious: guests may sip complimentary sherry in a study reminiscent of a magnate’s private lodge, check their reflections in the massive dining room mirror, admire formal gardens, or relax on the wide veranda. In the morning, a sumptuous breakfast is served in a blue-and-white sunroom. The inn’s seven bedroom suites, including two with private entrances, are furnished with period antiques and outfitted with in-suite refrigerators, microwave ovens, and wireless Internet access.
For all its grandeur, the Dian-Lee House is also a comforting place to spend a night. At any hour, guests may help themselves to tea, cider, and cocoa in the breakfast area, or the sherry in the study. With advance notice, Sandra and staff are happy to arrange for extras: a fresh pot of coffee on arrival, a bottle of chilled champagne, a bouquet of fresh flowers, or an appointment with a licensed massage therapist.