A Grand Victorian Hotel from 1892
On road trips, Don and I often drive way off course to stay in a place like this.
But in January, we were simply looking for any hotel between Savannah and New Orleans. Don's internet search revealed this gem, right on our route.
We booked a room and began to wonder about the town of Americus. We found out there was a lot going on, around the oddly named town. Americus was the headquarters for Habitat for Humanity and some other interesting organizations.
It was also very near Plains, the home of President Carter. We decided to leave Savannah early to give us some exploring time before check-in.
We had quite a stunning view when we entered the 3-story lobby with balconies and arched ceiling. We hardly needed any more excitement for our day.
We'd already lunched in good old Plains, just 10 minutes away. Then we wandered and visited a museum. Then it was off to President Carter's childhood home, where we had the whole farm and his little house to ourselves... except for a cat.
The Carter's Presence
At the hotel, we half expected to bump into the former President and First Lady. The Carters have been strong supporters of preserving the old hotel and there were reminders of them everywhere. There was Rosalynn's Tea Parlor and the Carter Presidential Suite, but we weren't able to peek in either.
That's okay, we knew the next morning we would be seeing the Carters for sure. We had been informed the day before that President Carter does a "Sunday School", inspirational talk each Sunday, at Maranatha Baptist Church.
Travelers from around the country and world are encouraged to visit the church. We had a feeling the hotel had quite a number of guests, staying just for that purpose. Even if it meant lining up in freezing temps at 6 am to assure a seat in the small church.
The lobby was empty when we checked in, although there was quite a line up of motorcycles in front.
It was fun exploring while it was still peaceful. I imagine it was a bustling place at the turn of the century. I also imagine a lot of dust collected on those railings and chandeliers when the place closed down in 1972 for almost 20 years.
Fire and Floors
I could have used a real fire, since cold winds were gusting outside. But the Christmas lights on the logs tricked me for a moment. I loved the patchwork of marble on the floor...
...and the curious designs, in the pine and maple wood floors. I don't even now what to call that metal and glass inlay?
Cozy Arches, Creaky Stairs
I just loved the feel of the stairs that took us to the upper levels that overlooked the lobby. The wood was warm and smooth and the stairs felt slant-y and fun.
They did have an elevator, but our room was conveniently near the top of another set of stairs.
Here I am at the top of the "our" set of stairs. The floors and walls all had a crooked funhouse feel that made me feel a bit tipsy.
In this photo, I am demonstrating (with exaggeration) the dizzy effect and how you might want to remember how low Victorian era railings are. Of course Don is a foot taller and could have demonstrated this better.
The Moorish Influence
The real fun of this hotel design was happening on the top level near the rounded ceiling.
I loved the flame shaped arches, cut into the angled walls. This exotic revival style made its way into American architecture in the later 1800's.
The little balconies that jutted out above the lobby, were corded off. A wise move, since their slanted floors looked unsafe.
But I felt that if I stood near, long enough, I would be inspired to recite some Shakespeare, write a mystery thriller or paint an image of Rapunzel letting down her golden hair!
Just staring at the swooping arches and beams made the imagination go to work. I didn't have time to write or paint or put on a play.
But why didn't I at least have a little fun with one of those balconies and a paper airplane?
Oh if only the wind hadn't been so chilling. I love outdoor terraces and the hotel had two levels of them...
...wicker rockers, cafe tables and cooling fans for the warmer months...
... and a sweet little downtown view. This was a curious town and we didn't really have the time to explore it!
One More Balcony
This little balcony wasn't corded off and I could step out onto the rounded space and peer over the metal railing.
There were more quaint buildings down the street, but the best view was obviously the turret. What fun to study the cone shaped roof and rounded windows and the steep roof between!
From the street I could look up to the right and see the balcony, where I stood before. It looked a little like the Stature of Liberty's torch!
I loved how the gables looked like tiny houses, jutting out from the roof. Our room was on another side of the hotel, with an identical gable for our windows.
Our Room for the Night
Our hall was cozy and so was the room.
I loved having the windows in the gable, reminding me of my grandmother's house.
We chuckled at the ceiling with lots of pipework jutting out from the decorative border. I'm glad the latest renovations of 2010 did not remove all of the old charm. The bathroom had the original tile floors but there were proper updates elsewhere.
Not only did we have a sweet little view of the storefronts, we had an old window and shutters to frame it!
The sun set over those buildings and there was a nice evening glow!
The lovely Rosemary and Thyme Restaurant looked classy and comfortable. It was good enough for FDR years ago. At least I heard he made a speech here.
But we figured we'd just get a burger from the hotel pub. However, by the time we were hungry, the bikers had taken over the chairs outside the pub and a big crowd in cowboy hats was approaching. We got our food-to-go and enjoyed eating in the room with our own wine.
The voices and laughter of the bikers, echoing in the lobby, finally came to an end around midnight. We woke early, dressed in layers and headed to the car in the dark. A few other hotel guests were doing the same, but our biker crowd seemed to be skipping church.
Eager travelers lined up to make sure they got one of the 300 seats in church. Luckily, there's a seating area for the 35 or so active members, so they don't have to suffer this weekly. But the long wait and cold, didn't end up being so bad. There was a fun energy as the travelers got to know each other. The sun was rising, while a full moon was lowering. Plus, there much to watch. The Secret Service checked us over, the bomb sniffing dog was very frisky and Organizer-Jan was a hoot, as she snapped commands and also made us laugh... very much the way she probably did as Amy Carter's teacher years ago.
But, What's Notable About our Hotel Stay?
I will never think about the Windsor Hotel without associating it with President and Mrs. Carter. Posing with them after church, (as all guests were invited to do) was the icing on the cake. They are an amazing couple, still giving to their community and the world! What a memory!
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!