#131 The Excelsior House
This past April, Don and I had our first visit to the quaint East Texas town of Jefferson.
The town has a curious history and so does the hotel, from the 1850's.
The New Part and Old Part
I walked across the brick street to get a shot of the whole building. We stayed in the original wood framed structure on the right.
It had been a home and was converted to a hotel in the late 1850's. The white brick structure on the left is the "new" part... added in 1864!
Brick and Wood
The entrance to the lobby is now through the new addition.
I'm guessing they have used that entrance since 1864, since the wooden threshold had a smooth dip in the center, after over 150 years of use. I loved seeing where the old wood boards met the brick addition.
Iron Porch Chairs
Between the old door and the new door, there was a proper line up of black iron chairs... for watching the world go by.
There wasn't much happening on the street, but over 100 years ago, Jefferson was a booming steamboat port. It was then the second largest city in Texas. Today, there are only about 2,000 residents.
An Odd Encounter at Arrival
Just as we headed to the lobby door, a woman came towards us from down the street. She wore plastic gloves and swung a baggy in one hand as she hollered, "Are you coming to see me?"
I assumed she worked at the hotel, but she was really just dashing down from the steakhouse to give her friend (working the desk) a sample of some kind of chicken/jalepeno treat, wrapped in cheese. I turned down her sample offer about 4 times, but finally gave in. Strange way to begin our stay.
Before heading to our room, I took a peek at the grand room behind the lobby.
I wonder if they have to roll up that impressive Oriental rug for dancing. And who has played the grand piano that was on the left of the room... and do they have roaring fires in that lovely white fireplace? I headed under the lit chandelier and made my way to the dining room table, which held 3 flower arrangements.
Blue & Gold
That was quite an unusual chandelier over the table.
It reminded me of a tiny painted porcelain box my great aunt gave me as a young girl... with painted flowers and ladies in lace. I wonder if the chandelier once held candles?
Finding the Room
We headed through a door into the older building.
We found the old set of stairs and climbed towards a painting and another curious light fixture. Down the hall we headed, towards our Rosewood Room.
Room 214 had a brass plaque honoring Lady Bird Johnson, who was born not far from Jefferson.
She supported the Garden Club ladies who took over the hotel years ago. This was the room they decorated in her honor. Once inside I turned to see the row of locks and gave a smile. It might be hard to escape this room quickly if there was a fire... or ghosts.
There are many fans of haunted hotels and I'm sure they've eagerly searched for ghosts in this old hotel.
But we didn't have any encounters. There's a rumor that Steven Spielberg stayed in a nearby room when filming "Sugar Land Express" decades ago. One writer said Spielberg and his wife left in the middle of the night because they were so afraid. Hmm. I don't know about that.
I don't think they had king-sized beds, in the Victorian era.
But, I appreciated this spacious-comfy-canopy-bed.
Lady Bird and Her Flowers
Lady Bird was keeping an eye on us from above the fireplace, right above the clock which she gave as a gift to the hotel.
She was surrounded by flowers on the wall, which I'm sure was no coincidence. Lady Bird is of course responsible for the beautiful wildflowers that grow along country roads in Texas!
More Pink and Lace
I feel so incredibly lucky that I have a fellow-traveler-husband, who doesn't mind sleeping in a room that is dripping in Pepto-Bismol pink! We both were equally tickled by the matching pink glass decorations on the mantel.
I have no idea what you call these. And the wallpaper, along with lace curtains was a little piece of lady heaven. In contrast, I just loved the warm wooden floorboards meeting up with woodwork, lace and flowers.
When I pulled back the lace I was sad to see there was no balcony, just an iron rail prop.
Across the street was an old train car and a pretty home which now serves as a wine garden. Lots of trees! I felt like I was in an old neighborhood.
Veranda in Back
So I did find a porch in the back. There were a few rockers and a courtyard to enjoy below.
The courtyard was quite lovely. There were places to sit out and enjoy the sound of the fountain.
What a fun surprise in the fountain!
I actually thought they were fake at first. They weren't tiny either!
I was pleasantly surprised at how spacious and clean and comfy our room was. But what I will mostly remember about our stay, is the connection of our room and hotel, to Lady Bird.
We've stayed in rooms before with names of famous people, but Mrs. Johnson was passionately connected to the hotel and our room. There were framed letters and photographs in the room. I loved the photo of her with her elf-grandchildren. I loved knowing that she worked with the Garden Club to preserve this building, the second oldest hotel in Texas. Thanks, Lady Bird!
Leave a Reply.
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!