A hotel known as the Johnston House was built in a rural area north of Old Brighton (later Beaver Falls) in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, in about 1852. It was located right alongside the tracks of the Ohio & Pennsylvania Railroad (O&P), which had just recently been laid through the area. With the coming of the railroad the sleepy little area, first settled in 1831 and later christened as Homewood Junction, was about to flourish. The bar of the hotel served as the passenger station for the railroad until a dedicated train station was erected just across the tracks in 1864.
The burgeoning village of Homewood Junction was formally laid out in 1859 and employment was plentiful with the railroad, a saw mill, an ice house, and a stone quarry operating in the area. The scenic Homewood Falls (later Buttermilk Falls) was located just a stone’s throw away as well. The Johnston House was the center of activity and a popular stop on the O&P line – which was consolidated under the new Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, & Chicago Railroad Company (PFW&C) in 1856 and was later absorbed into the powerful Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR) in 1869.
The location became an important railroad junction as tracks branched out south to Pittsburgh, west to Ohio and onto Chicago, and north towards New Castle and beyond to Lake Erie.
The Johnston House continued to thrive and at some point in the late 1800’s was renamed as the St. Cloud Hotel. The village of Homewood Junction or simply Homewood, which later achieved borough status in 1910, got its own Post Office in 1862 (called Racine) and a Methodist Church was relocated here in 1869. Years later, during 1914-15, a two-story brick schoolhouse was opened and an extension of the Harmony Short Line interurban streetcar system was built through the area.
The hotel’s history is a bit murky but it served the settlement of Homewood for many decades. Sometime later, most likely in the early 1950’s, it was rebranded as the Valley Inn. You can find advertisements in local newspapers throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s about dances held at the hotel’s lounge/bar on Friday and Saturday nights. It continued to operate as the Valley Inn at least into the late 1980’s when it closed. It has since sat vacant and is currently in a state of serious disrepair. It is one of oldest surviving hotel buildings in the region and of great historic value.
The Homewood Volunteer Fire Department, known locally for its civic awareness initiatives, attempted to raise funds to restore the neglected old structure into a bed & breakfast and general store. It appears the damage to the wooden building and foundation is too serious for anything to come from the effort.
Several newspaper advertisements promoting dances held at the Valley Inn in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Full Size
(Mar 2012) Full Size