Don Shoemaker’s legacy lives on with the Historic Summit Inn

A Little Biography about Don Shoemaker

Donald Diehl Shoemaker was born in 1924 in Bedford, PA. He grew up as a farmer but in High School became interested in the Hospitality Industry while working as a golf caddy at nearby Bedford Springs Resort. He listed his ambition in his senior yearbook as “to become a hotel manager.” After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard Don married his high school sweetheart, Eunice. They both began working there way up through the ranks at Bedford Springs Resort. Shortly after their only daughter, Karen, was born Don was promoted to Resort Manager at Bedford Springs. The family moved into the manager house, known as “the White House,” on the resort property.

Don’s reputation of hard work spread through the hospitality industry quickly and it was not long until he was offered numerous jobs. He moved to Farmington in 1957 to manage the Summit Inn. It was during his time there, working for the Abbell Company, that Don realized his new dream was to own his own hotel. He and Eunice saved all they could and borrowed the rest from Mr. Eberly at Fayette Bank to buy the Summit Inn.

During their first years as owners they became very diligent with costs and preservation of the hotel. Don spent countless hours at the hotel watching costs and labor while making guests feel welcomed. Even when Don wasn’t at the hotel he was in his favorite chair in his living room overlooking the hotel. He once stopped a chimney fire from starting by calling the to warn the front desk from his favorite recliner. He was known as a wonderful friend and boss. He felt very lucky that he had lived his dream and was anxious to help others with theirs. He played a key role in saving the Laurel Caverns from strip mining by purchasing and preserving the caverns while the current owner, David Cale, was able to save enough to purchase the property for himself. He was also known as a very honest and hard headed businessman. He once kicked AAA out of the hotel when they asked him to replace the original Stickley furniture in the lobby with more modern furnishings.

Without Don Shoemaker the Summit would not have survived the times. Don was diagnosed with cancer in 1994 and passed the reigns to his only daughter, Karen. Don passed away in 1997 but his legacy lives on through his family at the Historic Summit Inn.

The History of the Historical Summit Inn

The history of the Summit really begins in 1806 when Albert Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury under President Thomas Jefferson, suggested a National Road ” to connect the East with the West”. Albert Gallatin lived only about twenty miles from the present day Summit and may have been prompted by his own need for travel convenience.

Construction on the National Road was begun in 1813 and was made public in 1818. It remained the internal improvement made by the Federal Government until the Civil War and was the principal highway West until somewhat replaced by the railroad in 1852.

The road was justly renowned for the great number and excellence of its inns, or taverns. On the mountain division every mile had its own tavern. Here one could be seen perched on an elevated site near the road side, and there another sheltered behind a clump of trees, many of them with inviting seats for idlers, and all with cheerful fronts toward the weary traveler.

Atop the Summit Mountain of Chestnut Ridge on the National Road was one of the above described taverns. It was known as the Fayette Springs Hotel and sat opposite the road from the existing Summit Inn. Both the National Road and the Fayette Springs Hotel fell into disrepair during the second half of the last century. However, about 1900, the State of Pennsylvania took over the road and the improvements made the idea of a hotel once more inviting.

It was with this in mind that some of Uniontown’s wealthiest men got together and formed the Summit Hotel Company. Their goal was to build a mountain resort of “exceptional quality and durability”. They succeeded with the Summit Hotel.

The Summit Hotel was first opened to the public in 1907. Due to its excellent facilities, location and beautiful view, the resort was an immediate success and has enjoyed continuous popularity ever since a colorful German named Leo Heyn purchased the complex about 1930 and made it nationally famous.

The original hotel register, proudly displayed in the lobby, dates back to 1917 when Henry Ford and Thomas Edison brought the American Science Wizards here to race down the mountain. The German influence of Leo Heyn can still be seen in the Bavarian front entrance and our Baron Munchausen Room, a hoffbrau style pub.

Mr. Heyn served as General Manager in 1918, when the Inn displayed advertising boasting of home-grown vegetables and chickens raised on the property, and the elite table water, from the celebrated “Summit Spa”, used by General George Washington and his army. Taxi service for $.50 a person was available for those wanting to venture into the city of Uniontown to shop, and a “spacious, clean garage” was available for those wishing to house their vehicles.

The present proprietors, the Shoemaker family, have made numerous major improvements to the Inn since they purchased it in 1963. Since that time more sleeping rooms have been added as well as an indoor swimming pool, and hot tub, all included at no additional charge to the guests. A video game room, billiards area, shuffleboard and volleyball keep guests occupied as well as a 9-hole golf course that continues to make “hackers” happy.

While preserving tradition, all rooms have modern conveniences including private bath, individually controlled heat and air conditioning, Internet phone portals and cable television. Service and friendliness are foremost for our guests and our staff is well-versed in the tradition of the great hotels. With this in mind, the Summit Inn Resort is proud of its past and looks forward to the next century as the place “where guests still meet like yesterday’s elite.”

Summit Inn Opening Day 1907

Opening Day at the Historic Summit Inn - 1907

This Historic Photo was taken just before opening day in 1907. These are the woodworkers, masons, plumbers, and general contractors that built The Summit Inn. It is thanks to them, and their quality craftsmanship, that The Summit has lasted over a century.