Last Stop Salado, TX
Last June, it was 99 degrees at 4:00 on Father's Day. Don and I pulled up to the Shady Villa Hotel office feeling hot, tired and curious. It was the final stop of our 18-day road trip.
A minute before, we'd pulled into Salado, knowing little about the town. It looked surprisingly lively, on a hot afternoon. Tourists roamed the shops and picnicked in the nearby park. We pulled into the lot and I headed inside the Registration Office, where the a.c. worked well! I was given a key and a very chilly metal pail, filled with ice. Ahhh! But where was the hotel?
The Original Inn
Just steps from the office, (but fairly hidden behind trees) was the hotel's restaurant. The wood framed building, was the original, Shady Villa Inn. It opened in 1861 as a stagecoach stop, serving travelers on the Chisholm Trail. (This was not our hotel for the night!)
In 1943, Dion and Ruth Van Bibbers bought the property and opened a sophisticated southern style tea room. It was renamed the Stagecoach Inn. They stopped accepting lodgers at some point and focussed on adding dining rooms. We made reservations for the evening!
In the late 1950's, the Van Bibber's nephew took over the business and added motel-style quarters on the west side of the 6-acre property.
We drove our car from the office, to a shady building in the back of the grounds. Our accommodations were in a post WWII motel, not a Civil War era inn. No problem.
As soon as we hopped out of the car, we could hear the cars whizzing by on I-35. I wandered towards the sound and found the original motel lobby and coffee shop. Now closed.
I also found a stagecoach, sitting on some dry grass. Even with bright yellow and pink paint, it looked sort of lonely and forgotten. I'll bet it must have delighted kids back in the day, when they spotted it from the highway. The front of the hotel once faced I-35. That was back when the highway was brand new and much quieter.
Love the Neon
From our parking area, the trees nearly blocked the iconic neon sign. But the cars flying by, had a good view.
It was only a couple years ago, that the Stagecoach Inn was taken over by Austin based "Bunkhouse Group". They reverted to the original Shady Villa name. I'm glad the old neon sign still glows!
Scattered on the property, there were several buildings holding 48 rooms. All were connected by pretty walkways. As we headed towards our building, I wondered how this structure looked when it was built in the '50's.
The Bunkhouse Group has done a great job rescuing numerous historic hotels. We've stayed at a few in Texas. I felt like I was spotting their style as we climbed the steps. The white brick, chickenwire with vines and interesting light fixture... All seemed to have a little Austin Hipness.
The outdoor hallway revealed painted doors, but no windows. Each upper unit had an entrance on the north, with glass doors and balcony on the south side.
The lush landscaping offered lots of privacy, to the patios on the lower level. I was glad to be higher, with a view.
Our spacious room with Saltillo tile floors felt cool on a hot day. The shiny floors made me feel like we were staying at a hotel in Mexico.
The whole room had a cool, mid-century vibe. We had our naugahyde daybed/couch with lounge pillows and a hip swag lamp and a wall of glass, inviting us to the balcony.
The daybed actually was not a bit comfortable, but the king bed and linens felt heavenly. And we had a very relaxing photo image above the bed. (Big Bend National Park?) All rooms featured photographic scenes of Texas.
I so appreciate having side tables and shelves and lamps, when we travel. I never expect to have a sound machine, but we had one.
The tile work in the bathroom was extra bright and fun. Reminded me of minty, Chiclets gum!
The modern sink was sleek and the towels were thick and soft. What did the bathrooms look like 2 decades ago, when the hotel was run down and truckers were the usual guests? Those tired drivers would have loved making use of the giant showers, with great water pressure!
Back in the '50's and '60's, travelers never expected a fridge in a motel. Microwaves weren't even in homes then. Our mid-century motel room had neither of those. I was fine with that.
We did have an interesting coffeemaker, though. I fussed with it a while, but couldn't get my water heated. The cans of still water, were much cuter than plastic bottles. Color television? Luckily we didn't have a retro model with rabbit ears. We had a nice wall-mounted TV, with good picture and decent stations. Yay for TCM movies!
The balcony was almost perfect. Especially with canvas butterfly chairs and an exotic lamp! There was just a little bit of stain on the fabric, from roosting birds. Balconies and birds...we've had this problem before.
But we had a perfect view of the pool and grounds. Not too close! And we had the perfect amount of trees for shade. But, it was still 99 degrees!
We had a couple hours until dinner. Don cooled off in the room, gabbing with the kids who called to wish him a Happy Dad Day!
I braved the heat and wandered the grounds, enjoying the shade of live oaks and the sounds of splashing in the pool.
I headed down Main Street, towards Salado Creek, then returned to make sure we had time to hit the pool before dinner.
Something about the trees and jungly growth and the retro motel building, took me back to my childhood years living in Florida.
I was reminded of neighborhood pools, near my family's home in Tallahassee. Something about those retro chaise lounge chairs, resting under mod sunshades. But most of all it was the grass. It felt like 1967 and we were gathering with other families for a Father's Day BBQ!. There was a homey, or even camp-like atmosphere.
Happy Hour on the Balcony
After a little pool time, we headed back to our room in wet suits.
We made use of the light, "serape robes" (that we've seen in other Bunkhouse Hotels) and covered our chairs. Our wet suits kept our bodies cool, while we sipped iced drinks and toasted to Don's 36th Father's Day. I promised we'd celebrate back home, the next day.
On our way to dinner, we took our time checking out the brand new, spacious pavilion.
There were lots of games that made me wish our kids were with us. Ping Pong, darts and giant Connect Four.
Best of all there was lots of seating. Chairs and tables and couches, all in little gathering areas. For cool months, there was a fireplace built into the stone wall. For steamy summer days, there were big fans hanging down from the rafters!
On the opposite side of the covered shelter, we found the Western Club.
The inviting bar, was just steps from the pool. I was surprised that it wasn't open on a busy "holiday", but maybe the new space hasn't fully opened yet. I can see how this whole resort-camp vibe might be catching on very soon.
As we approached the restaurant, I had fun imagining this place back in the '50's when the Van Bibbers kept customers coming back for more deviled eggs and hushpuppies and Mrs. Van's Strawberry Kiss dessert!
We could spot some obvious additions. Many were added by the Van Bibbers. The ramp with more chickenwire, looked new.
In the 1800's
It was fun to imagine what the inn was like, even further back in time.
The south side of the building offered a good view of the chimney and veranda. We heard that Jesse James once stayed here. No proof of that, I'm afraid.
The growth surrounding the inn, was lovely. The property claims to feature over 60 plant varieties.
I'm guessing this live oak (that seems to be growing in 2 directions) was probably around before the inn.
Don and I headed inside and took a quick trip upstairs to peek at one of the original rooms. 180 years ago, travelers made good use of that stone fireplace in the winter.
Local folklore says that General Sam Houston once stepped out onto the veranda to give a speech against secession from the Union..
We peeked in another upstairs room with the same appealing wood and stone.
Dining on Sunday Evening
The first floor of the inn is usually available for diners, but there were a.c. issues.
I would have loved to have eaten in this room. I have no clue about the man in the portrait or the cash register. There seemed to be many images of Mr Van Bibber in other rooms.
Lunch with the Ladies
The Van Bibbers added dining spaces gradually in the 40's and '50's. I love the way they built around the oak tree!
I wish I could go back in time and have lunch with some lady friends. We'd remove our white gloves and have a little iced tea with our sandwiches.
I wish Don and I could have enjoyed our dinner in this room, overlooking the grounds.
It was full of diners when we first arrived, but it would have been a fun choice.
The main dining room didn't have the historic charm of the old inn, but it had a nice open feel, with books and fireplace, a couch and a bar.
But we were happy to have a table at all, on a busy Father's Day, in a touristy little town. Don celebrated well with pan-seared salmon, served with squash and zucchini. He was perfectly pleased.
My traditional chicken fried steak barely fit on my plate. It had an incredibly crispy, flavorful crust and sweet onion gravy!
Back We Go
We didn't linger long. It had been a busy holiday at the hotel/restaurant and the staff had clearly put in a long day.
We left happy and meandered back. The pavilion looked inviting even though the bar was closed.
All to Ourselves
And maybe it was lucky for us that the Western Club wasn't open.
We had the pavilion to ourselves. Don got some wine from our room and we shared a glass, under a whirling fan. We were no longer bothered by the heat or the roar of I-35. What a fun and comfy space.
In the morning, Don and I rose early and headed off in search of coffee.
The air had cooled and Main Street was quiet! We found a coffee shop and wandered with our cups, in both directions. There were lots of little photo ops and I clicked away.
Here are a few from the evening before. Click to enlarge.
And way too many photos from our morning walk!
What a fun and artsy little town!
We booked a room for about $150, and got plenty. We enjoyed our retro-hip-fifites motel room. We had dinner in a 181-year-old inn, with a totally different vibe. It was an interesting combination of 2 eras!,
The jungly setting kind of tied it all together, with a casual resort feel! Cheers for a little pool time and quiet pavilion time and walking in town time.
We will definitely hit this place again! Hopefully before room rates rise high!
Hotel Garza in Post, Texas
This sturdy little no nonsense hotel, was our home for one night in June.
The old railroad hotel has been sitting in this tiny Texas town for over 100 years. It's been on our Hotels to Try List, for just a few.
Post is a curious place, but not exactly a vacation destination.
But, since the town was right on our route home from Colorado, we booked a night.
Drive-by in 2019
Most of the hotels on this blog were introduced to us by word of mouth or the internet. But The Garza showed itself to us, when we drove through Post 3 years ago. I snapped a photo from the car.
This year when we pulled into town the hotel looked pretty much the same, except for a missing tree and a room addition.
We parked right in front and headed for the obvious entrance, with the awning. Small town hotel parking is such a treat!
I noticed the door to the right, and guessed it belonged to our hosts. Owners who live onsite sometimes have good stories!
Glass Block in 1916?
As we headed to the door I realized I knew close to nothing about this old hotel, except that it opened in 1916. Before we headed in, I took a photo of the simple entry, wth lots of glass block. It prompted simple questions. Did they even have glass block in 1916? Did they add that in the '30's?
I read later that Gustave Falconnier patented the first hollowed glass block in 1886. I love collecting little historic tidbits!
Inside The Garza
Don and I stepped inside at about 4 pm. We were greeted by some soft classical music and a strand of glowing lights. But no people.
In the corner behind the desk, I spotted a camera, which most likely announced our arrival. A small sign told us to text, or press the buzzer for help. We buzzed.
While we waited for the host, my eyes followed the shiny wood floors past the sofas and dining tables.
I could see stairs heading up to what looked like a cozy, loft-like space. I later learned that hotel's lower level, originally held a general store and dining room, with hotel rooms above.
Looking at this image with 14-foot pressed tin ceilings, I can imagine shelves holding dry goods...coffee, cornmeal and flour. I picture bolts of fabric and tools. I picture glass jars full of penny candy. I don't picture those two enormous chandeliers hanging down, though! They were very, very odd.
I was studying the old organ when Ms. T appeared wearing gym shorts and tee shirt. Our host's laid back look, made me hopeful that we might chat a while and I could get some hotel/town history. But Ms. T was reserved and efficient as she checked us in.
She was quick to hand us our key and give us the scoop on wifi and breakfast. She walked us to the hall, pointed us towards our room, then disappeared into her private residence.
Our first floor room was one of 11 guest rooms. It was clean and neat, with its own pressed tin ceiling. Decent for $118.
I appreciated having a ceiling fan and 2 bedside tables with lamps. There was a nice little craftsmen style desk and mirror.
Room with a View
The king size bed took up most of the room. There was another chair, but no real place to sit comfortably. Don sat on the bed and noticed right away that there was an odd tilt to the mattress. But we managed. We've camped on hills and slept in rocky boats...
Our window had a view of the side garden. It was 98 degrees that afternoon, but I was still glad to know we had use of the patio. What was that black tubing?
Don and I had nothing but time. In fact we weren't sure how we could use up all the time. It was a little too warm for exploring town, so we set off to explore inside first. We left our room and headed for the stairs and loft.
The stairs took us to the second story, with a stop along the way.
I'm guessing that at one point, this little area was just built into some open ceiling space.
I wonder why we didn't curl up and read a book or play checkers? The space looks inviting in my photo, but the room had an odd feel. Was it the low ceiling?
Ceilings and Hall
Surely we could have have eased into that space, if we'd given it some time. Now when I study the photo of Don, I fantasize about the creative fun we could have had, with those ornate ceilings! We could have misbehaved like the vandals with spray paint, who invaded the hotel during the vacant years. Don was tall enough, he could have played Michelangelo with a brush and a pallet of bright paint. He wouldn't have needed scaffolding or ladder!
But Don and I are courteous guests. We just wandered down the second story hallway and studied the antiques. I regretted not taking an upstairs guest room. This is the floor where guests slept 100 years ago, after arriving to Post by train. It was fun to imagine.
We peeked in a few open rooms. I spotted a claw footed tub under a chandelier. That must be what the website meant, when they used the word elegant.
The little kitchen area wasn't elegant, but it had a few retro features and a handy microwave and fridge. I sort of kicked myself that we hadn't chosen a second floor room. I wouldn't have minded being the only guests, if we'd been upstairs.
We gave up waiting for the weather to cool. I stepped out to check on the garden and Don gathered some ice and beverages.
The brochure said, "Time outside is pleasant in the lighted waterfall garden." That sounded nice.
But I could see the host family's addition had invaded on some of the guest space. I wasn't totally clear if the patio was for the owners or the guests.
I noticed festive lights, wrapping the trees' trunks and branches. I hoped the garden would be pleasant when the sun went down. Sadly, the waterfall was dry and the patio chairs were covered in bird droppings. I headed down towards the less shaded deck. I almost tripped over a black hose that snaked over the walk... and that's when I noticed dog dishes the messy gravel. It was clearly a dog poop zone. I felt like I'd walked into someone's private backyard.
I headed down towards the newish deck near the rear of the yard. I spotted more hanging lights. That made the idea of sitting out after sunset, more inviting.
I noticed an open gate on the back fence. I peeked in and saw an above ground pool, which is a little odd for a B&B. But I was wilting at that moment and the water looked welcoming. Then I pondered over the confusing words on the small sign. I determined that the pool was off limits to guests. Oh well. Don would be arriving with cold drinks soon.
Cheers to Post!
Don and I rarely turn down a hotel patio or porch, even in rain, or scorching heat. We were determined to make a toast to our hotel's history, which we knew nothing about.
We snapped a photo with the camera timer. If we'd waited a moment longer, we could have asked Ms. T to take the photo, when she appeared from a backdoor. She seemed a little startled to see us on the deck. Or maybe she was perplexed, that we'd moved the chairs into the shade. As our host headed into the pool area, I quickly asked an important question. "Will the front door be locked if we come back late from dinner?" She answered without pausing. "It will be unlocked till 10." As she closed the gate behind her she added, "If you're later, just knock."
Hmm? Luckily we had no big plans in Post that night.
Don and I enjoyed our cold beverages while we listened to splashing sounds behind the fence. (swimming or pool cleaning?) We were amused by the flies that enjoyed Happy Hour with us. They reminded us that we were out in Texas cow/ranch country.
10 minutes later, Ms. T exited the pool area. I slowed her down with another question about the waterfall. As I feared the water feature was out of commission. Oh well.
Post in the Evening
Don and I actually had a great time on the deck. We did some history research on our phones and I got more curious the town. As the sun lowered, we headed off down Main Street. We had the Post to ourselves.
Post actually has a somewhat bizarre connection to C.W. Post, of cereal fame. In the early 1900's Mr. Post bought land in the area, with some of his fortune. He attempted to create a Utopian community, with tidy homes and trees. The town would have no liquor or brothels. He worked at his dream for less than a decade, but ended up taking his own life in 1914. Sometimes history is sobering.
Buildings and Bricks
We had a fun time wandering the quiet town. We didn't see any perfect little houses anywhere, but we found interesting buildings. The old Post Dispatch looked like it had the same rounded glass block, as our hotel.
The Tower Theatre looked like it had the similar brick work as The Garza. The town had a lot of tan brick, because Mr. Post's Scottish stone masons evidently liked working with them.
We wandered to dinner and admired the impressively wide brick streets. A job done by WPA during the depression, I believe.
It was 7:30 on a Saturday night. Stores were closed and we saw no one. I wanted to see a tumbleweed roll over those bricks!
To & From Dinner
We paused so I could pose with the colorful sign and an oil pump. We were reminded why the town had a pungent oil odor.
We ate at George's, which was the only open restaurant. Greek-Mexican-BBQ! We meandered back to down the empty, lonely street. The hotel was just as quiet. I peeked out to the garden and saw only one glowing strand of patio lights. We opted to enjoy our a.c. and a little TV.
By morning the temps had lowered and our moods had lifted. We were up and showered by 7, but the breakfast window was 8:30 to 9:15. We arrived 10 minutes early to grab coffee. I hoped the morning vibe would feel more relaxed and we could end up chatting with our hosts.
But Ms. T was busy setting up the buffet. She looked up and I assured her we were just grabbing coffee. We left the table alone and happily took our mugs to the couches.
We were not the only guests as it turns out. We met Bill who was getting early coffee just like us. He looked like someone we just needed to have a chat with. We introduced ourselves and he gave Don a firm handshake and solid eye contact. (Don noted) I reached out and Bill took my hand and tipped his hat. I was honored.
Turns out that Bill was "born and raised" in Post and was back visiting with his wife. He was the perfect person to fill us in on history. Not only did Bill have years of memories (he was about a decade older than me) but he was enthused and personable and definitely stylish, in his ostrich boots!
Bill chuckled about how wild Post was, back in the day. He teased that he knew that, since he had been one of the outlaws. He later got into law enforcement and knew quite a bit about our hotel in its darker years.
I looked at the tidy hotel and tried to picture the space when it was vacant. (1970's?) Then I imagined the folks who made the empty hotel their home. Bill said that at one point, a "Lady of the Night" moved in. (He made sure I knew what that meant) Then the teenage boys in town started coming around and the law had to get involved. The hotel became vacant again. Eventually the hotel had a rebirth when the Plummers bought the property in 1991. Current owners have been here about a decade.
After a good chat, Bill's wife joined him for breakfast. Don and I enjoyed ours, while we thought about all we'd learned. We pictured the town as Bill described it. He told us stories his parents had told him. What a fun connection with a local!
We wondered what would have happened to CW Post's town, if he'd been happier and healthier and lived longer. That's something we didn't discuss with Bill. Oh how I wish I could have had 3 hours with Bill.
Good-bye Garza & Good-bye Post
After breakfast we headed off. There was no formal check out, but I called to Ms. T behind the buffet table partition.. Told her we had a nice time and were on our way. I hope she heard me.
It was a pretty morning and we drove all over town. Post has about 5,000 residents, but I actually don't remember seeing one. We drove all over the little town and I felt myself oddly connected to the curious place.
We saw the old train station and the Sanitarium, which is now a museum. We stopped to see the old site, where Postex Cotton Mill had been! We learned of a random family connection, when we read about Ely Walker Dry Goods buying the mill in the 1940s. "Ely & Walker" is part of my family history, as well as both Bush presidents. My Triple Great Uncle, Frank Ely was in business with G.W. Bush's Great Great Grandfather, David Davis Walker! There you have it.
Initially I felt a little disappointed. The hotel was actually fine, but there was nothing that made it stand out. When that is the case, it's the people you meet that make the hotel stay memorable. I wanted some inside scoop to help me remember our stay. Or something funny or thought provoking! But I wasn't getting anywhere with our hosts. That's okay. This is the third pandemic summer. I'll give them a break. We never know what's going on in people's lives.
I do know that I'll have fond memories now. Our visit with Bill did the trick. So, I'll remember The Garza as a simple and decent hotel, where we met a wonderful local and absorbed some entertaining history...that led to family history!
Victor, Colorado 2022
We arrived in Victor, on a sunny day last June.
It was the 15th day of our New Mexico/Colorado road trip. I was sort of grumpy when we arrived at the Victor Hotel.
I took this photo from the car in 2019. It was at the beginning of a road trip and I was not grumpy. The cute gold mining town with a few dirt roads, looked inviting.
It seemed odd to have such a large hotel in such a tiny town. But when The Victor was built in 1889, there were 18,000 people living in the area. It seemed like this hotel might offer up a Notable Night experience in the future. It went on the list.
We put the Victorian Victor on the itinerary for this past June.
It was around 4:00, when we arrived on a Thursday afternoon. There were more cars on the street than I expected. We learned that the community was gearing up for the annual Gem & Minerals Festival.
Lots and Lots of Messages
We parked and headed towards the corner entrance. The windows distracted me with lots of messages, taped to the glass.
Some notices were curious. "Oddities Alley" ?? The sign on the brick amused me. "WATCH OUT FOR FALLING ICE/SNOW". One repeated message was a bit worrisome. "House Keepers wanted!!!" All those exclamation points were alarming.
As we approached the front door, I took my eyes off all reading material and admired the brickwork. It was easy to miss the historic charm of the building with all that window clutter.
Then I went for the door, but it was locked. I realized we might find some assistance from one of those window signs. On one of the paper notices, I found check-in instructions, for arriving guests. After some fumbling with my cell phone, I finally got the needed info.
In the Lobby
I punched the proper numbers into the keypad and we found ourselves inside. The quiet lobby wasn't exactly welcoming. A fat beam of sun was spotlighting the exposed foam cushion, on one couch.
I've adjusted to the world of self-check-in. I don't expect to be greeted by friendly staff at each hotel. But there was an odd feel to this place. And an odd arrangement of furniture.
Bank Block Building
We looked around a bit and found a couple interesting things in the lobby space. The bank vault in the corner looked like something from an old horror movie.
The vault was a reminder that this building was originally called "The Bank Block Building". It housed the Victor Hotel & Restaurant and other businesses over the years... a photography studio, jewelry story, soda fountain and grocery store,
Piano and Bar
By the side entrance, there was an old piano and a view of the restaurant and bar, above.
For a period of time, The Victor became a rooming house for miners. The piano didn't exactly look like an old ragtime piano. But it was fun to imagine miners hanging out in the hotel's saloon back in the day.
The New Victor
Above the piano there were some historic photos, that helped me imagine Victor, back in the day. The vintage image of the hotel looked much like today, except for awnings and telephone poles and a horse and buggy heading down the unpaved street.
Back when this photo was taken, the hotel was called, The New Victor. The original (built 1894) was destroyed in the big 5-hour fire of 1899. The hotel and business district was rebuilt quickly and now most buildings have the year 1899, written on them.
It was clear from more signs (propped up on the lobby counter) that no one was around to answer our questions.
"...If you need anything, text me. The Management"
It was tempting to text my most nagging question, "What's with the very odd furniture arrangement?" Why in this large lobby, did I see a couch and 10 chairs awkwardly gathered near the office counter? An intimate book club gathering? A bible study? An AA meeting? I noticed the 2 speakers and thought of live music... but for a crowd of 12? Or maybe a puppet show in that window?
Then came the really important question. "If we get trapped in the old elevator, how long will we have to wait to be saved?"
Since my cellphone hardly worked in the lobby, I had a good feeling my cell wouldn't be useful inside the birdcage!
Don offered to stay put and let me test it out. He promised to get help if I got trapped. Haha. But honestly we were both excited about the vintage elevator. Oldest working one in Colorado, I believe.
I've been in elevators like this before, but they've all required staff to run them. I was amazed that we were allowed to operate this ancient thing. It made a lot of clanking noise, but seemed to work well.
We could have been more cautious and used the stairs, the rest of the time. But we were on the 4th floor and the 9,708 foot elevation was tough on us old geezers from Texas.
It was comforting to know we could race down the stairs or fire escape, if there was a replay of the 1899 fire!
I was happy to be on the 4th floor, for views and quiet. Nice to have no squeaking floors above us. However the 4th floor might have been the noisiest floor... according to some guest comments on the internet, about ghost behavior.
Evidently, the top story operated as a hospital in the early 1900's. Not only did sick people travel up the birdcage elevator, but deceased folks as well. The 4th floor was also a morgue and sort of a holding cell for the bodies. Burial was impossible during the many months of harsh winter. What a thought!
Our Corner Room
Our door code worked and we stepped into our spacious room. My eyes were drawn to the light. The arched windows were impressive! The bed making job wasn't so impressive. I cringed to think about the House Keeper notices.
But that was my grumpy self reacting. The room looked clean and there were fun little accents like the golden radiator! I worried less about the sloppy bedspread when I pictured an overworked housekeeper rushing to make our bed. I stopped to sympathize and to appreciate our room price. Around $100. for this big room.
Headers and Stretchers!
When we entered the room, the windows were open and a table fan was humming away. I love open windows and I love fans with a good sound. I also love interesting artwork above the bed. I'm not being sarcastic.
I was totally entertained by the comical jumble of brick and mortar. Especially after observing the meticulous exterior brickwork. Were these bricks once covered with plaster? If the wall was exposed with renovation, I'm glad they did the work. I was so intrigued that I studied up on bricks, when we eventually found cell service. Those headers and stretchers created some unique patterns! I love new terms!
Tub and Sink
I'm guessing when miners inhabited this building, they had shared bathrooms and probably few tubs for all those hardworking (and very dirty) men. I'm not sure when our tiny bathroom was added, but I tried to be grateful for the tub.
There was no room for a sink in the bathroom, but we had a very old school sink in the room. Not much room for ditty bags.
I loved the view. The late afternoon light was pretty on the distant mountains. Morning was lovely as well.
The windows allowed me to keep an eye on Victor Avenue, below. The town was gearing up for the festival and I could spot road block materials. We ended up moving our car, although I doubt they do any car-towing in Victor.
Sitting a Spell
While I pondered parking, Don checked out our sitting options.
The nearby wardrobe was actually pretty handy, with its hidden TV, microwave, fridge and coffeemaker. That was helpful, since we were uncertain about dining options in the small town. We at least new there was a small general store with food.
The Victorian chairs nicely fit the hotel's history. But after a few minutes, Don realized the chairs did not fit his needs.
Don's become pickier about chairs, in past months. Victorian furniture does not help with healing a fractured back. Even I was groaning a bit, when I sat and felt a metal piece poking up from the cushion. So I made a sneaky swap with some hall furniture.
Food & Drink?
I attempted a search on my phone for restaurants, but cell and internet coverage was too weak. I grumbled, then headed out on foot.
It was actually wonderful wandering down Victor Ave, with all the tidy 1889 buildings lined up. I made some fun discoveries, but no open restaurants. I wondered where the 400 Victor residents dined. The saloon next door seemed to have good portion of residents, on their patio. But they were smoking and drinking, not eating.
Side Door Cafe at The Victor
I took a peek into our hotel's restaurant. Luckily it was open and looked sort of cute inside.
The Side Door also had patio seating. The red chairs filled up a little later, with a smoking crowd. Seemed to be a lot of smoking in Victor.
The Bar Loft
Around 6, Don and I decided have a drink and grab some food-to-go, downstairs. We got a seat at the bar, overlooking the lobby. Our bartender Lisa was pleasant to us, but she mumbled and fussed a lot with the locals. I ordered a glass of wine and Don made the mistake of asking for an "Old Fashioned". Lisa didn't know what that was and Don wised up and ordered a beer.
We chatted with a local woman who was concerned about crime in Victor. She said someone had bent the handicapped sign near her apartment and a cat was hit and killed on 4th street. She'd had enough and she was moving to Cripple Creek. Other locals insisted that wasn't a good reason to move...
After a while Don and I asked to order some food to go. Lisa said the cook didn't like doing carryouts, but we were welcome to take the plates to our room. That worked for us.
Elevator at Night
By 9 pm, Don and I had eased into our quirky hotel. Our grumpy moods had lifted with a little TV and a decent burger. I just chuckled and skipped the soupy, cheese-less artichoke dip. It felt like we were back to our flexible traveler-selves. I told Don I'd take the dirty dishes down to the bar.
I rode the elevator down at night, without any disturbances. The ghost of Eddy the Miner, did not appear. Eddy was a miner who lived in Room 301. He fell to his death about 100 years ago, after stepping through the opened elevator door. For some reason the elevator hadn't arrived. So many eerie stories!
Question for the Bartender
Lisa seemed to be in good spirits when I found her cleaning the bar before closing up. She acted surprised and grateful that I'd bothered to bring the dishes down.
I headed down the steps to the elevator and Lisa looked over the half wall, to thank me again. I waved goodnight, then paused and pointed to the chairs, "What's with those chairs?" I asked. Lisa looked at the seating arrangement and seemed to search for the right words. "Oh! There's gonna be an event on Saturday. There's gonna be a show with... what do you call it? You know, crossdressers." Hmmm? I wondered while she tried to jog her brain. "Oh, yeah! Drag show! That's what it is. They're gonna have a drag show at the Oddities Event!"
So I headed up in the elevator feeling totally amused and confused and then I remembered the poster I'd seen in the window. I got my answer, but I still couldn't figure out the seating. A "drag show" for an audience of 12?
Don and I both woke long before 6 am, with light coming through the huge windows. Neither of us minded. It was wonderful to get out early and roam around town.
During our 20 hour visit to Victor, we ended up meeting some nice locals and travelers during our little exploration.
One of our favorite encounters was in the morning, chatting over coffee with a traveling couple, in the bakery. They invited us to come see their hotel, a block away.
It was hard to tell which of us had picked the stranger hotel. They were staying in the Jack the Ripper Room at the Black Monarch.
So our stay at The Victor led us to a fun encounter and now we have one more hotel to add to our list!
Back to Check Out
After lots of wandering, we checked the time and hurried back to the hotel. The door was propped open, so we walked right in and found a lobby full of chairs.
Don and I raced up to get our bags. I did a quick job swapping the chairs back and we headed down the birdcage on last time.
Good Bye Odd Lobby
The lobby had such a different feel with morning light and people... and chairs. Don checked out at the little window with an actual living person.
Violet was the mystery host. Suddenly she was a human, not a texting number. She said she was so excited about all the weekend festivities. She was going depart soon and get into her period costume and enjoy the festival! For a moment I actually wished we could have just one more night. It would definitely be a Notable Night on Saturday at The Victor!
We stayed in a 133-year-old hotel, in a town of 400, during the third summer of the Covid Pandemic, on the 15th day of our road trip. I should have kept my expectations a little lower. I was sort of grumpy.
The town and hotel both need a little boost, but I'm so glad we came and experienced and gave some business. We arrived grumpy but left happy. Who knows, maybe we'll return!
We recently stayed at a Boutique Hotel. The website called the Patterson, an Inn. A wonderful breakfast was included, so shouldn't we say B&B?
None of those fit. I'd just say, we were guests at an Impressive Mansion, for one night! That works.
In 1891, State Senator Thomas Croke built this grand looking, red sandstone home, on Denver's Capital Hill. It had even more embellishments, than it does today.
Croke lived only a short time in the home, before selling to another Senator named Thomas. Senator Thomas Patterson was actually a U.S. Senator in later years, but he and his family, moved into the stately mansion in 1893. The property has changed hands numerous times in 130+ years.
When I first spotted the mansion from across the street, I thought of a French chateau. Then I thought of the beach. I was reminded of an elaborate sandcastle.
Even the carriage house on the right, had turrets and towers.
From our parking spot on the corner, I studied the side of the house and wondered where our room would be. It was perfect weather for sitting out and I longed to relax on the lower terrace.
But, I was pretty sure the terrace was for the use of guests in the DaVinci Room. I viewed that room on the website, when we booked. It was $75. more, but the spacious room also came with a fireplace and a sunroom. The rounded room with windows, was visible in back. Ahhh... next time we'll splurge.
It was a little early for the 3:30 check in, but we headed up the stairs to the arched doors.
The doors were locked, but we were soon greeted by Phoebe. A few days earlier, I'd chatted with her, when she called to welcome us in advance and ask about food allergies. That seemed surprisingly gracious for a hotel in 2022!
We followed through 2 sets of doors. Once inside we were met with a grand, yet somehow homey space. Fresh flowers, stained glass and lots of lovely wood.
It was hard to imagine this home in the 1970's, when it came close to demolition. It was rescued but never renovated properly until recent years. By 2010, the vacant building was under contract to become a group facility for homeless men. That didn't happen,
As we followed Phoebe into an office area, she pointed out the entrance to the breakfast room. It's been about decade since the mansion was gutted and turned into a B&B.
I've seen "before" photos and they did an amazing job. I believe the woodwork and intriguing fireplace are all original.
Haunted Guest Room?
Just across from the breakfast room, I noticed the door to the DaVinci Room.
Could that room have once been the Patterson's bedroom? I should have asked.
I read that Senator and Katherine Patterson both died in the home. He in 1916 and she in 1902. And then there was another resident (Dr. Sudan's wife) who committed suicide in the house in the 1940's. Ugh. I guess we don't need to know more specifics about these deaths. I do know this home is considered one of the most haunted on Capital Hill.
Up the Stairs
Phoebe was warm and chatty as she checked us in. We were told about breakfast and given coupons for free drinks in the basement lounge. Then she had us put our luggage into the elevator. There was just enough room for the bags, so they traveled alone.
We headed up the beautiful stairs to the second floor. Since the elevator only went to the second floor, we grabbed our bags and headed up some more stairs.
It was a more narrow stairway to the third floor. The floor where the servants once lived.
Inside the Turret
The third floor may not have been the most luxurious in its day, but it seemed the most intriguing. Phoebe opened up a door not far from our room and switched on a set of tube lights.
She pointed to the glow from a window, at the end of the odd passage. We were invited to explore. The round room was the inside of a turret.
There was a sloppy circle of carpet inviting us to sit a spell. We didn't, but we did pause to wonder about all the people who have looked out this window over the years.
It was odd to see the crude, wooden interior of the cone. From the outside, the pointy roof looked so perfectly smooth.
As we peered out the curved glass, we hadn't yet heard the story about the dogs who supposedly leapt (or were thrown) from this window.
I learned later about the pair of guard dogs, that fell to their death in the 1970's. The vacant mansion was being renovated and there were problems with theft and vandalism. The dogs were left in the building overnight to scare away troublemakers. In the morning they were found dead below the (open or broken?) window. I can see why we Phoebe avoided that story while we were up there.
The guest room where we stayed was right beside the turret. It was a little confusing, but Phoebe hinted that the somewhat hidden turret, might have been open to our room at one time. Later we went outside and I looked up at the rounded window directly beneath the cone. That's where we'd been looking out.
There was also a good view of the two dormer windows, beside the turret. The windows look much smaller in my photo, than they did inside our room.
Room No. 9
Phoebe showed us to our room with the brass plaque. I didn't think about it until later, but the other 8 rooms had names like "Biltmore" and "Prague" and "Cheshire". Surely there's a reason for the "No. 9" name!
The wonderful angles and bold stripes were a fun surprise when the door opened.
Our dormer window gave the room a little nook for a desk and chair. Love a window that goes to the floor! And more bold stripes!
It was entertaining having our room in the front of the building. I could spot the gold dome of the capital. Did Senator Croke walk to work?
Pops of Yellow
I was happy to have something different than Victorian furnishings. I liked the bold black and white, along with splashes of bright yellow.
There was no claustrophobic attic feel to the room. The steep roofline, gave us a lots of headroom. That pleased Don, who often has to watch his head.
The bathroom was wonderfully spacious and bright.
Having separate sinks was a treat. The hotel we'd stayed in the night before, barely gave us room for a toothbrush.
Four mirrors and lots of light! I could pretend I was in my dressing room, sitting down to apply make up, before hitting the stage! Not bad for staying in the servant's quarters.
I like to make use. I made sure to allow time for a luxurious bath. I loved it that the tall windows had frosted glass and I could happily open the drapes. Poor Don was less pleased. These fancy tubs are tricky for tall people, but the rigged shower and curtains worked well.
I was also happy to realize the "fancy phone" was not just a prop. There was indeed a dial tone. I wanted to make a call... just to make use. But in this cell phone age, that means I'm required to remember phone numbers. I made no calls.
12 Spirits Tavern
There were so many fun and funny surprises during our stay. The basement lounge had some good ones. The sneaky entrance from the street had no sign, so it felt like a speakeasy.
The Tavern had just recently opened to the public. Hotel guests were given a couple comp. drink tickets. Word of mouth seemed to be how other visitors had learned about the place.
Looking Around for Spirits
The Tavern was named for the 12 spirits, that supposedly roam the mansion. Don and I took a quick peek into some areas of the basement, in case any were lingering in the shadows.
We only found an old laundry sink. We found no old cigars boxes or animal cages. We'd heard that Senator Patterson had a cigar lounge in the basement and in later years a vet lived had his office in the basement. Were there any little ghost animals?
Social Time in the Tavern
The basement felt more cozy than eerie. It felt like a neighborhood bar, where a few locals gathered. Don and I felt like we were hotel guests AND locals at the same time, when my local friend Martha, came and joined us in the Tavern.
We actually wore these fine glasses the next day, but we should have put them on while we visited in the 12 Spirits Lounge. These whacky glasses could have scared spirits away... while we sipped on spirits!
After Martha departed, Don and I shared a couple goodies from the Tavern menu. The general manager, Scott served our drinks and recommended the Savory Hot Pie, with bacon, maple syrup, sherry and thyme.
The Grilled Cheese with sourdough, Brie, Gruyere, caramelized onion and cranberry-tomato jam, was equally satisfying and reasonably priced at $6 and $8. A delicious surprise, in the basement!
Owner, Chris and Scott made the atmosphere welcoming. Chris chatted with us earlier about how he'd had his eye on this mansion years ago, but finally became the latest owner, during the pandemic.
He verified what I'd read in a Forbes article about plans to open a licensed "Marijuana Consumption Lounge" in the coach house portion of the inn. And what an interesting conversation that was. Chris was actually open to hearing the concerns of an open minded guest who happens to hate the smell of pot. Not enough space in this blog post, but it was an interesting converstaion.
Evening & Night
Don and I were able to get out at dusk and enjoy exploring the neighborhood on foot. What a beautiful walk, spotting the mansions in the area once known as "Millionaires' Row".
We returned in time to see a "Ghost Tour" standing on the corner. Too bad the group spotted us going in, or we could have dashed up and flashed lights in the turret room.
The yellow walls greeted us in the morning at breakfast.
A chalkboard above the fireplace told us our sweet and savory options.
Where to Sit?
I had my eye on the cute round table in the turret!
But we were actually more comfy at the table beneath a very interesting framed photo. We sipped some coffee (which happened to be extra good) while we enjoyed our surroundings.
Curious Photo and Curious Floor
"Watching the Turtle - Xmas 1893" was written in the corner. Was this photo taken in the mansion? And what was with that turtle activity, anyway?
A close look at the floors was interesting. The design was nice, but the nails were odd. The carpenter must have used 100 nails per foot!
When Chef Wess appeared from the kitchen with our food, we were pretty darn impressed. I went for sweet, with Raspberry Challah French Toast!
Don did the savory. Fried Chicken Biscuit with Sausage Gravy! Man, were these tasty! The colorful gravy had an exotic flavor. Curry? Not even sure, but both were amazing. What a great addition to our stay.
We had our chance to ask Wess about his recipes, but after we raved about breakfast, we were off on other subjects.
Not only was Wess a great chef, but he was another pleasant member of the staff. He was about done with breakfast duties and had time to fill us in on some of his experiences, that got him to this point in his career. A very nice and humble guy.
Good Bye Neighborhood
We were able to late check out, so Don and I squeezed in one more long walk before heading off.
Here are just a few of the amazing mansions that have managed to survive the ups and downs of this historic neighborhood. Love them all!
We stayed on the top floor of a stately mansion, overlooking Colorado's Capitol. That's enough right there.
We also had great conversations and some memorable feasts. The location was a huge plus and the price was surprisingly low, for our Castle-like stay! ($275) Next time we'll go for the DaVinci!
Grand and Mysterious!
This is the beautiful hotel building, where we stayed in June.
The 3-story structure has been sitting in Aspen for way over a century. That's about all I know! The lack of historic info, feels mysterious!
Before we parked, I started snapping photos from the window. The building and setting was even more photogenic than the website images.
For a moment I thought maybe the structure wasn't really historic. The brick and stone looked flawless, as if it had been built to look old. There was a Disney World feel, with the brick walk, street lamps, flowers and shops.
We parked and approached and I was happy to see the sign above the corner window. Independence Building 1889. I prefer old.
Even though the hotel's website had mentioned the word historic, I had begun to wonder if they were referring to the historic location. Their focus was clearly not on the building's past.
The obvious entrance to the building, was at the corner. But not this door!
I very much doubted we would check in at the counter, inside a lovely Ralph Lauren shop. (I did step inside later and found a basic red bandana for $99!)
Down We Go!
To the right of fancy green door, I spotted the hotel sign. We passed by a very curious and steep, stairway.
The green sign welcomed us to a newer set of stairs. It felt like an adventure heading underground, to a lobby. More NYC than Aspen!
We headed down a few steps to a door, which led to more stairs. The windows, hanging light fixture and white-wood walls, kept things bright.
The host, Andrea greeted us from a desk, in the windowless lobby. She was welcoming and relaxed and offered advice about parking and restaurants. But Andrea didn't have too much info about the building's history. She only knew of its more recent years. "Condos..."
Up to Third
We grabbed our bags and headed up, in a modern elevator. There was also an interesting set of stairs. The open stairway seemed to float up from the basement.
The angles and levels seemed so modern. Could these be original stairs? Maybe they had once been enclosed in a stairwell? It was hard to imagine this modern space 100 years ago.
Before heading into our room, I peeked over railings and looked down halls.
There were nice sitting areas on the second and third levels, but not a person in sight. No sounds behind closed doors. It certainly didn't feel like a hotel.
Our hotel location was ideal! We were right in the heart of Aspen. A block from the slopes and right on Cooper Avenue Walking Mall. But parking was less than ideal.
After tossing bags in our room we moved our car from a temporary spot and headed with our residential street parking pass, to find a place to leave the car.
Food & Wine Classic
We had a map showing areas where we could park, but we drove in circles. Aspen was gearing up for their annual Food & Wine Classic.
The festival was a week away, but many streets were already blocked off. Tents were going up. It took forever to find a spot, but at least the walk back was entertaining and pleasant.
Back in our quiet "hotel" we settled into our room.
The high ceilings made the room feel a little more spacious. There was a lot of light wood in that room, from shutters to ceiling.
The room wasn't huge, but we appreciated the incredibly comfy leather couch. Table and chairs are always appreciated.
There was a noisy a.c. unit, but it was only needed briefly. It was pleasant having two windows that opened.
The distant mountain view was nice. I should have taken a shot of the square below. People watching in Aspen is entertaining and we had a fun view of a restaurant patio with lots of fashionable people.
I didn't see anyone dressed in this outfit, but I could have bought it for myself. It was in the shop window below us.
Good for Price
There was nothing outstanding about our room. Queen bed with a triangular table. Cowboy art. There was sort of a 1980's Alpine style, to the room. It didn't seem to be in the same era (or class) as the ritzy shops underneath us.
The bathroom was basic. I had issues with the shower and the sink. But again, we were in the heart of Aspen and our hotel room was under $250. That's incredibly low for Aspen, where nearby hotels were charging over $1,000. for a night. No real complaints.
Besides the hotel's location, the roof was a major highlight of our stay.
The rooftop had a 360 view of Aspen and the surrounding mountains.
Not a soul joined us when we headed up to catch the sunset.
We had the roof deck to ourselves, which made the hot tub all the more inviting.
We dashed downstairs and changed, then made use of the robes in the closet. How could this affordable Apsen hotel be so empty in June?
A little later I made a quick trip down to the street, to see how the hotel looked at night. My first surprise was seeing a nearly full moon above our building. (Looks a little more star-like in my photo.)
As I headed towards the entrance I looked up and spotted our room. I could see our 2 glowing windows, above Maverick's. That's the shop that sold "my outfit", as well as a Louis Vuitton western saddle.
In the morning we headed to the basement for our complimentary breakfast.
There wasn't too much out of the ordinary. There was yogurt and some burritos that could be microwaved. Some fruit and cereal.
We were the only guests sitting at the long table near the big bear. I sipped my coffee and wondered. It was becoming more clear that this was not a a true hotel, but privately owned room/condos that could be rented. Somewhere between a hotel and Airbnb.
By 11 we checked out, knowing nothing more about the historic building. But we left with some memories of great weather and wonderful walks.
We've stayed in 4 Aspen hotels over the years. For the price, this is the one with the most bang for your buck. I'd return.
The building was lovely and the location was outstanding, for $250. The vibe in the hotel was oddly quiet. And why have I found so little on the internet about this historic Aspen property?
After lots of searching I finally found one news article, from 1963. It said the building had just been purchased by a Mr. Robinson, the director of an Aspen skiing corporation. For some time it had been called the Prince Albert building. There had been shops below and dorms above. The new owner planned on keeping the Victorian flavor, when he remodeled. I guess that Victorian disappeared at some point.
And that's it for my research. I give up. I hope if someone knows more, they'll enlighten me!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!