A 150 Year Old Campus, in Missouri's Arcadia Valley
Don and I learned about Arcadia Academy when searching for hotel stays in Missouri. The Arcadaia website showed 5 nice looking B&B guest rooms, but when we arrived we found a 16-acre campus with 8 buildings. What exactly was the history of this place? We approached this building and learned later that it once housed about 100 young women from Ursuline Academy. The dining room had become a restaurant and the dorms above, became hostel rooms.
Once inside, I was happily jolted by some very sweet smells.
We examined numerous Virgin Mary statuettes, then peeked in at "Thee Abbey Kitchen" restaurant, where some diners were finishing up a late lunch. We waited a bit longer until a man in a white apron rushed out from the kitchen to assure us that he had alerted Katherine to our arrival.
As we waited, we studied the cute little nuns on one of the shelves, we wondered who Katherine might be. Would she arrive in a black and white habit and introduce herself as Sister Katherine?
Bakery and Creamery
As we stood in the hall, the smells from the cheery little Bakery & Creamery made things pleasant. But peeking up the eerie stairway to the second floor made me question our decision. As it turns out, the upper floors held the hostel rooms. I didn't even know that had been an option.
Priest's House from 1902
Katherine arrived with a big smile and no habit. She apologized for keeping us waiting and took us next door. She took us past some toy trucks and trikes, that I believe belonged to her children.
She warned us that the first step was a big one and we hiked up to the hefty white door with a doorbell crank in the center. This had been the Priest's House. I'm not sure if that was during the 100 years of Ursuline Academy or later in the 1970'a when the buildings served as a convent.
Facing the Garden
Katharine said she had upgraded us to a suite on the first floor, since they were only using 2 of the 5 rooms. The price of our upgraded suite would have been $60. more, so that was a sweet deal from our sweet host! Our new room was on the corner with windows looking over the porch to the gardens.
Katherine showed us around a bit and took us down the hall where Presidents, George and Abe peered down from frames.
She pointed out the parlor where we could play a hymn on the pump organ. Actually she did not invite us to do that, but we could exit the door near the Jesus portrait and enjoy the porch.
More Hall Goodies
Opposite our room, was the kitchen entrance where we would later eat breakfast. I loved the little prayer desk next to the kitchen door. Maybe it was a writing desk, but how could I be in this place without thinking of prayer? It looked like it was just missing a padded kneeler.
The plastic light switch plates were pretty special. Some people seem to think old B&B's and hotels are eerie. But this little image was downright comforting. I felt sure there would be no hauntings. Only holy ghosts in this place!
Our 2-room suite was quite the mix of old and new. I loved the 10-foot ceilings and rich wood molding. The door was awfully grand, as were the 6 windows. I only wish we could have easily opened the curtains to let in the view of the grounds.
From the Door
From the doorway, you can see we had a mounted flat screen TV with a DVD player, which we didn't really need. It's obvious where the new split wall had made two rooms into one suite.
I doubt the priests ever had the luxury of double granite sinks. They probably would have found the spa tub a bit disgraceful, since it looked like it was built for about 4 people.
Shower and Toilet
The gigantic shower with 2 shower heads also hinted at some unholy behavior. Katherine was eager to point out the large shower and she was kind enough to warn us about the teeny toilet closet, which was behind the door where the robes were hanging. I'm not huge and I had been warned... but I still laughed out loud when I checked out the tiny space. "Holy cow! How could anyone close the door when they're in here?"
We weren't given any drinking rules, so we shook up martinis in a thermal mug and took our happy hour to the second floor porch. What a beautiful evening and setting! As the sun lowered, the frogs delighted us with their evening music!
From our porch chairs we had a rear view of the chapel. What a beautiful cone shaped roof with cross. We also could peer back into the courtyard where a statue of Jesus stood center, and a little red wagon waited under a tree.
More Garden Views
Directly forward from the porch was a lovely little stone building. There was a porch swing hanging from a tree and a few statues and grottos and a pond.
In the evening and morning I wandered the grounds, trying to figure it all out. I walked around the back of St. Joseph's Chapel, build in 1908. It was hard to imagine these grounds in 1846, when the original Methodist school opened, as Arcadia High School.
The pond and gardens came much later after the The Ursuline Catholic Sisters took over in 1877.
Pondering Near the Pond
Or how many nuns wandered in prayer? And even more sobering to imagine... How many Civil War Union soldiers came out into the sunshine to heal... back when the campus turned into a hospital during the Civil War?
This gym, built in 1930 intrigued me the most. It was built when the Catholic Girls School was at its peak. Were those seesaws and swings from way back then? And the front had an Alfred Hitchcock feel... with a pair of cement swans resting on the steps.
The Chapel was built in 1907. We had hoped to get a tour with Katherine before leaving, but there wasn't time. I had to just imagine the beautiful interior.
The main road leading to the Academy took us right by a stone wall and cemetery. I didn't do my own exploring, but we heard that the grave markers had the names of Sisters from the academy. That seemed like too many graves, but then again, the school was open nearly 100 years.
At the end of the drive, there were stone entrance gates. I pictured the buggies that first arrived bringing young girls to boarding school. What thoughts went through their heads as they traveled towards the chapel and campus buildings?
We ate dinner in "Thee Abbey Kitchen" that evening. We pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Back in the Day
An old photo reminded us that not too much had changed. There were no white table cloths for our visit, but we did have a framed Last Supper print nearby.
Our young server, Cassie who had the energy of a hummingbird, recommended Janette's Chicken with a light and savory chicken chive sauce. Man, was that rich and delicious. We tried to eat without making too much noise, since the young girls long ago had strict talking rules. But we did laugh out loud when we saw the high chair in the corner. Don had one just like it, as a youngin'.
In the morning we headed across the hall to the kitchen. The funny stove & oven held the Keurig coffee maker and the rounded fridge had some help yourself sodas and water. The old ice box, was maybe just leftover from back in the day. We sipped on a little coffee, and took in the atmosphere.
Breakfast with Others
We shared the large table with the 2 other hotel guests. They were traveling from Arizona and as we chatted it became evident, we all shared an appreciation for unusual and curious hotels... some good story swapping!
The painting of the praying man made me feel extra grateful for our French toast, eggs, bacon and potatoes. He only had bread. I also felt a little guilty as Katherine rushed through the door, which connects to the dorm/restaurant, carrying our steaming plates. We had seen her bustling around at 8 the night before and here she was serving our breakfast!
We stayed on the outskirts of a tiny town, on a sprawling campus of a hotel... that happened to feel pretty heavenly. That's no joke.
But, you do not have to be Catholic or ultra religious to feel welcome. As a guest, you just need to be open to a little nature and history! What an amazingly, peaceful place. Big thanks to the Katherine and her Oyler family for the huge task of renovating and running such a place!
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!