Sweet Hotel in a Sweet Town
Last July, Don and I finished up a little Michigan road tripping, in the town of Saugatuck.
The charming town on the banks of the Kalamazoo River, has been attracting summer guests since the late 1800's. I searched the internet and found a place that once catered to those early tourists and I booked two nights.
Built in 1860's
We pulled up on a late Wednesday afternoon, in July. The place looked even more intriguing than the internet photos! I'm not sure what this building was when it first opened, but in the 1870's, it housed a furniture store.
I really can't imagine furniture stores, that long ago. The owner of the furniture store, ended up expanding and transforming the place into a summer resort/boarding house. I'm guessing his old business, furnished the hotel nicely!
A New Greek Revival Look
In 1923 a new owner took over and made the hotel even grander. George W. Maher was brought in to help with a new look. Maher, was a renowned architect, known for blending traditional styles with Prairie School styles. My knowledge is limited, but it's hard for me to see the European Arts and Crafts influence. I think the original building was Colonial and the Greek Columns were added.
My curiosity as always, led me to the internet. I couldn't find any images of the original design, but I learned more about Mr. Maher and his amazing career. Sadly he died in nearby Douglas, just a few years after the renovation. Seems like every time I do a little research I find a sad story. Maher evidently took his own life, due to struggles with health.
Back to Our Visit!
We arrived around 6:00 and grabbed a parking space right on the street! I was extra excited because our 2-day stay was going to be shared with my sister and sister-in-law! I kept fingers crossed as we headed in. I hoped Jennifer and Kate would be okay with our hotel pick.
As soon as we opened the door, I was relieved. It felt like we'd stepped into a cozy home. There was a set of stairs straight ahead and a wood paneled living room to the left.
To the right was a reception desk and another sitting area. So far so good!
Down the Hall
Jennifer and Kate texted us from their room. "We've been upgraded! We have a fireplace and two bath tubs!"
We checked in and found out that we had also been upgraded. That meant no stair climbing, with our bags. We headed down the hall, admiring all the antique goodies.
Lots of Carved Wood
I'm sure there were some good stories behind these fine pieces, especially the one with the curious carving of The Last Supper.
Maybe these were in the original furniture store. Who knows?
Our guest room door had a brass knocker. That's different. My photo does not show just how teeny tiny that door knocker was. Maybe it was just a tricky way to hide the peep hole. Or just a fancy way to show the room number.
However, I practically needed reading glasses to see the engraved number on the brass. More on that tiny knocker, later.
Our room was lovely.
There was no musty smell, which should almost be expected, with a hotel that is a century and a half old!
Maybe we were staying in a newer part. I hope not, since I usually ask for the most historic rooms. But the room was comfortable and classy, with antiques and fireplace.
The Tiffany style lamp certainly fit the era. There were a few framed prints, that I wouldn't have minded owning!
Ahhh for the Bathroom!
Even some of the very nicest historic hotels, have cramped bathrooms. I could have lived in this spacious and luxurious room!
The separate shower was large and the separate sinks were a bonus. The tub (with complimentary bath salts) was heavenly. I've never used a tub with a built in step!
After checking out the room, I wandered a bit.
I found the back stairs near the breakfast room.
I took a trip up the stairs to the second floor and peeked in a few open doors... before coming down the stairs in front. The upper rooms that I saw were nice, with good views. But, it was a treat not having to hike up and down, during our 2-day stay.
The glassed in porch was set up for the daily complimentary breakfast.
The next morning, Kate and Jennifer grabbed us a perfect table, at 8 am.
We had a nice view of the nearby park, while we sipped our coffee in flowered cups. Well, half of us chose the dainty ones, with saucers. I like having a cup or mug choice.
At the dresser, we helped ourselves to fruit, salads, olives and breads. Then our blueberry French toast and bacon arrived! (The next day was quiche)
As we lingered over coffee, a woman wandered in and we began to chat. She turned out to be the owner, Catherine Simon. She relaxed against a table and entertained us with her dry wit for a while. Pretty fun hearing about her nearly 30 years running the hotel... the fun of hosting her own family reunions... Kate told her she was the kind of relative everyone wants! Catherine answered, "You've got that right!"
Enjoying the Shared Space
In the back of the hotel, we found more sitting areas. There were wine glasses available and some fresh cookies. There was a player piano, that we didn't use and a TV that luckily wasn't on.
The first night, we chatted near the wood burning fireplace... which would be nice in winter. It felt like we were in our own home, hanging out. Except that we had to hush our voices occasionally, since rooms were nearby.
Lounging Near the Pool
The second evening, the air was balmy and we sat out on the lounge chairs near the pool.
At one point, I headed inside with my plastic cup to get some wine from the room.
In the hall I stopped to chat with some guests. Then I waved to Catherine, who was heading down our way... just in time to witness my faux pas. I could blame it on all the social distraction in the hallway. But I think I'll blame my goof on that door knocker! If the tiny number, on the tiny knocker hadn't been so tiny, then maybe I would have noticed that I was standing beside the wrong door.
I waved good-bye to the others, inserted the key and turned the knob. I wish I had a photo of the couple, seated in the cushioned chairs, holding their wine glasses... when they looked up, to see me coming into their room.
"Oh no! Oh I'm sorry! Oh I can't believe I did this! Oh... and why did my key even work?!" I just stood their rambling while they stared. Then they assured me it was fine and I thanked them for not throwing anything at me. I started to leave and the gracious, older man asked, "So what room are you in?" I hated to admit we were neighbors and I was staying next door. He smiled slightly, "Well, I guess we'll be paying you a visit, at 3 in the morning." There was a wink in his voice and I know he was kidding... but that comment sort of terrified me.
I had no more embarrassing moments that evening. In the morning I tiptoed out, trying to be a quiet neighbor. I went on a run, heading past the park. Who needs a hotel fitness room, when you've got Saugatuck sidewalks! I looked back at the long hotel, on that peaceful morning.
I asked Catherine later, how to get up to the roof balcony. She smiled, like she was sharing a secret. She told me that was where she lived and then she described her oasis on the 3rd floor. I wish we'd gotten an invitation.
In our two days, we never used our car once and that was a huge part of what made our hotel stay wonderful.
My morning run let me peek at the quiet town, without people.
On the River
Saugatuck was also charming, when it was filled with people.
We took the ferry over the Kalamazoo River, we shopped and dined and watched the crowds gather for music in the park. What an idyllic setting! We couldn't have asked for a better location.
Our 15-room hotel was the perfect size. It sat on a quiet street, in a town of less than 1,000... also a perfect size. Our stay was made extra special because we got to share it with Jennifer and Kate. Don and I are so used to traveling with just ourselves, that we forget how fun it is to enjoy hotel memories, with others.
By the time we 4 got the cars loaded, we were already sighing about our stay and laughing about our host. I told the others that I'd seen Catherine on my way out and I had gushed to her about our wonderful stay. I chuckled over Catherine's brief response. "Oh? Well, bye now!"
I felt like she was my mother, shooing me outside to go play. Was that annoying? Not at all. I just wanted Catherine to adopt us, so we could be invited to the next family reunion.
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!