From it’s founding in the mid-1770s, the Orkney Springs community has been welcoming visitors. Surrounding it was a plethora of springs that reportedly had healing powers. People from around the country flocked to the area to find a cure to their ailments or to simply rest and relax.
To house these individuals several hotels have been built in the area. The first of these was an 18th century log building that also served as the area’s Indian trading post.
In 1845 it was named the Naason Bare Log Hotel after its new owner, Nasson Bare. Research has discovered this hotel had a large dining room, dance hall, and running water supplied by wooden pipes that ran from some local springs. This structure survived until 1900 when it was demolished.
By 1829 Valley Historian Samuel Kerchval reported it had been joined by between ten and twenty buildings that served as hotels or support facilities. This number would grow in the 1840s when the Howard’s Lick Turnpike connected Mt. Jackson to Orkney Springs and other resorts in West Virginia. This road intersected with the new railroad and allowed travelers to reach the area much easier.
In 1848 the Tenth Legion newspaper in Woodstock, predecessor of today's Shenandoah Valley Herald, ran an advertisement for what was then known as Yellow Springs Resort. In the advertisement Bare and Brenner, the site’s owners, observed they had a "bar with liquors of every description." Alcohol most likely had been served there from the beginning as travelers during the period expected such refreshments at every stop. As a well-known resort, what is now Orkney Springs would have certainly provided high quality spirits. These were especially popular at the numerous dances and parties held at the site. Spirits would have been served until this area of Shenandoah County voted to go "dry" in 1904. The bar and liquor service would never return.
Around 1850 a new construction program would result in the completion of the first portion of the current Orkney Springs Hotel. Called the Maryland House, this structure was designed to be the first part of a magnificent resort owned by a joint stock company. However, the Civil War interrupted construction and Maryland House served as a hospital for recovering Confederate soldiers.
Construction resumed in 1867. By 1873 four new buildings and seven cottages had been added. Owners at that time were J.W.R Moore and Joseph Perry. They also oversaw construction of the main hotel building, called Virginia, that same year. This five story building originally featured a ballroom, grand parlor, six “retiring” parlors, a billiard room, reading room, reception room, and barroom. This hotel would host numerous major political and social events.
In 1925 the Episcopal Church, under Dr. Edmund Woodward, dedicated the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration nearby. This continued a long connection between religious services and the hotel. Eventually this led to the creation of Shrine Mont, an Episcopalian retreat that today owns the Orkney Hotel and surrounding structures. Regularly this site hosts hundreds of camp attendees, church conference participants, and individuals seeking to relax in the mountains.
Locals also continue to use the site, its recreation facilities, and many of the festivals it hosts each year including the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival. It also provides much needed jobs.