Durango, Colorado in Fall
Both hotel and town are beautiful any time of year. Don and I stayed on a Wednesday night this past September.
The hand carved sandstone building was just as impressive as I remembered from nearly 3 years earlier.
December of 2011
The weather was very different when I stayed with my brother and sister, three years earlier. We were in town to attend our half brother's funeral, so my memories are not fun and festive.
But what I do remember, is the warmth and comfort of that grand hotel on two snowy nights. The Christmas decorations and celebrating guests could have had an opposite effect. But somehow, the hotel seemed to soothe.
No Snow in September
We arrived on a lovely, warm afternoon just as couple tour buses stopped to unload their middle aged tourists and luggage.
Oh joy. I wasn't ready for crowds. The night before we had been the only guests at the Creede Hotel. Of course there were only 4 guest rooms at The Creede... and 93 at The Strater.
Remembering the Lobby
Once the bus crowds moved on to their rooms, I was able to look around the quiet lobby.
I remember how it once looked in December, with wreaths and ribbons, Christmas music and the fireplace glowing.
But it was more fun imagining the hotel 128 years ago, when a pharmacist named Henry Strater built the spectacular, red brick hotel.
He ran his pharmacy in part of the building and attracted guests by filling the hotel with parlors and pianos and wood-burning stoves in each room. It even became a winter retreat for many locals, who closed up their homes to move in.
When I wandered around it was clear that someone (besides a company) was taking great pride in this hotel. Everything from the Victorian walnut furniture to the sweet old phone booths, looked well tended. There were a lot of complications with ownership, when Mr. Strater ran the hotel for only about 12 years. But, since 1926 the Barker family has been involved in the ownership.
Rod Barker is the current president/CEO of the Strater. It would be fun to know what he remembers. His parents ran the hotel for 30 years, modernizing with TVs and phones and heating. I wonder if Rod knew his grandfather, who bought the property in 1926, when the hotel was 39 years old.
So Many Patterns!
I first learned how to be entertained by ornate decor, when I was a small child during Catholic mass. I could stare at light fixtures and study decorative patterns and play little games to amuse myself.
Maybe that's what I loved about all the crazy designs and textures I could see in every nook and cranny, and on every floor, wall and ceiling of this hotel! It was mesmerizing!
I just love a staircase that has a proper spotlight! New hotels hide their stairwells behind walls. But if I'm going to trudge up a flight or two, I like some stylish columns and railings!
I also like climbing towards a skylight! They did have an elevator, which helped with luggage.
I loved our cozy L-shaped room. The bed was small, but the frame was grand. The rich, Victorian style can sometimes make me feel a little claustrophobic.
Thick drapes, dark woods, heavy furniture... But when it's done well, I love it. Don is a foot taller than me and he didn't even complain about the small bed.
Staring Out Windows
I guess I am just one of those people who is content to stare and daydream. So give me a window where I can peer down at some old store fronts or out to the mountains.
Or give me a million patterns on the papered wall and ceiling! I'm happy.
Wall & Ceiling Paper!
I never had wallpaper next to my bed as a child, but I did love finding images in drippy layers of paint, on the walls next to my childhood bed.
As I kid, I don't think I ever could have gone to sleep if I'd had such wonderful designs above my bed!
As always, I'm grateful to have a bathroom in an old hotel. When the Strater was built, every guest room had its own washstand and a cabinet, which stored the bed pan!
There was also a 3-story privy. I assume that was outside. I can't quite visualize that!
Food and Entertainment
The Diamond Belle Saloon was one option in the hotel, for food and drink. Yes, it was a little touristy. There were servers dressed like dance hall girls and there was a honky tonk piano player.
But the tourists brought their money, which is why the hotel is still here. Besides, the piano player was fun. And I could imagine Room 222 right above us. That was the room author, Louis L'Amour always requested. He said the honky tonk music from the saloon below, inspired his western writing.
Later in the evening, Don and I sat up on the second level of the other hotel lounge, to enjoy some of the live entertainment. We couldn't see the performer from there, but we could keep an eye on the woman by the fireplace who was whooping it up after numerous martinis.
She had a piercing whistle and she told the singer she'd pay him 20 dollars, if he could guess how many divorces she and her husband had between them. The singer's guess of 10, was too low. The correct answer was 11. Maybe there would have been fewer divorces for this woman, if she laid off the martinis!
An Old Phone
Don and I enjoyed the sounds and sights from above for quite a while. Then it became clear that no one was waiting on the upstairs tables. I noticed an antique phone and picked it up to announce, "Hello!
I would like some drinks, please!" It turns out the phone I thought was a cute prop, really works.
We didn't end up eating at the saloon or the lounge or the hotel's, Mahogany Grill. We ate elsewhere, but did enjoy the Grill for a breakfast buffet in the morning. The buffet options were decent and the cost was only $6.00 for guests.
But mostly, I enjoyed just sipping my coffee and enjoying the stained glass, woodwork and tile surrounding us.
I could reheat my coffee as needed, since each table had its own thermal carafe. I love that.
I missed seeing the snow this time. And I didn't hear the Polar Express whistling behind the hotel. But everything else was how I remembered it.
Yes, it is touristy. But that's why there's money to maintain and renovate as needed. We have seen so many neglected historic hotels. It's nice to see one that's filled with happy guests.
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!