This Past June
Last spring, Don and I made reservations for this hotel and many others.
Just days before we were to set off for Colorado, we cancelled the trip.
Suddenly we had to make plans for a different kind of journey... that we weren't excited about. My breast cancer diagnosis put a halt to all the crazy road trips and travel.
Don and I weren't used to sitting around, but suddenly we were sitting around for a month, waiting for test results and doctor calls and insurance answers. And then there was an open weekend before surgery. Why not go to Big Spring and stay in the tallest building of the small town, Big Spring?
It was fun to know that even though we were missing our big trip, we could enjoy a tiny piece of it, at Hotel Settles.
This 15-story Art Deco beauty, opened in 1930. The solid concrete structure was built by W.R. Settles, after he discovered oil on his ranch in the late 1920's. The oil boom was attracting lots of attention in small towns like Big Spring in West Texas. This hotel had 150 rooms, a restaurant, ballroom and pharmacy. It was quite the focal point of Big Spring.
The Letter "S"
Don and I drove 7 hours from Houston. It seemed a little silly, since there's really not much at all to do in Big Spring.
But it was a treat to have a city style, glam hotel in a small town. We parked right on the street walked up to the entrance, with the giant "S" above the door. There were a lot of S's in the hotel!
There were S's on the railing, going up the stairs! And lots and lots of gold! It's hard to believe this hotel sat empty for over 30 years.
Well, not totally empty. Pigeons made the hotel their home during some of the years between 1982 and 2006.
G. Brint Ryan
Luckily the community cared about the old hotel and pushed to replace windows in the abandoned building.
And then Mr. Ryan, who grew up in Big Spring, purchased the hotel. He made sure it was impeccably restored and placed his mother's portrait above the stairs.
There were no events on Saturday night when we stayed. But the ballroom looked worthy of some of the famous guests who have stayed in the past, like Gregory Peck and LBJ.
Lawrence Welk was also a visitor, back when. I could picture him filling this green and pink room with champagne bubbles and conducting his orchestra. Elvis stayed here in the 1950's after performing in the Masonic Auditorium, next door. He probably never even stepped foot in this elegant space.
The rates are cheaper on weekends, so we were able to get a suite for a decent price.
Since the hotel reopened in 2012, the rooms were pretty nicely remodeled. Our sitting room, with couch and TV was comfortable, but nothing outstanding.
I kind of liked the desk nook with the wild west image of a cowgirl!
I'm pretty sure our suite had once been two guest rooms. Our bedroom was nice, but not large.
I would have rather had one large room, actually. We aren't picky about having a King bed, but many are. So it was a surprise to have a queen bed in a suite.
The view was not terribly exciting, but it was intriguing. In fact most of the area that surrounds the hotel looks a little like this, with ads for bail bonds etc.
But this strip of old buildings, sitting on the old Bankhead Highway, may become something pretty nice before long. Mr. Ryan has bought many of the sad looking buildings around the hotel. I'm sure there are plans.
From the 14th floor there was a much better view of the patio and pool area.
It was amazing how far we could see across the flat land... wind turbines on the horizon!
Relaxing at the Pool
We were determined to make use of all our hotel had to offer.
We packed up our own drinks in thermal mugs and headed to the pool for happy hour.
We could have grabbed one of these, but the air was too pleasant and once the Girl Scout troop left, we had the pool to ourselves.
This was my favorite part of our stay. We just sat there in the balmy breeze, feeling incredibly lucky that we were getting to enjoy this one night trip.
We had lots of unknowns ahead, but we were able to set them aside and live in the moment... watching the flowing wall of water across the pool... and the birds gathering on the roof behind the wall. Nice.
We cleaned up and headed for the Pharmacy Bar and Lounge. It was pretty quiet when we first arrived. The lounge with pool table and fireplace was empty and only a couple seats were taken at the bar.
Don and I sat down for a drink at the bar so we could learn more about this bar that had once been a pharmacy and the town of Big Spring itself. But our young local bartender knew little. She had no idea if there really was a spring somewhere in Big Spring.
On to The Grille
We moved onto The Grille dining room after a bit. The bar had begun to fill up with a younger, local crowd (mostly on cell phones) and the music style and volume clearly hinted to all elders that it was, "Time to move along, now!"
The appealing reaturant at the other end was classic and casual. The kitchen was in view at the back and there were lots of booths for cozy dining.
Our food was Big-City-Good and our service was Small-Town-Sweet. Our young server made me smile when she announced our plates with non-silenced H and L
"Here is your "herbed", grilled chicken with cheese grits and kale... enjoy your salad with "salmon" Then she added that extra syllabal that is often added... "Here is your sald with vinegar-ette!" She was beyond cute though. She didn't know if there was a spring in Big Spring either, but she told us lots about her kids! Good meal!
After dinner we strolled around the pool some more and it was fun to see the water wall changing colors.
We walked down the street to get a good look at the building with the glowing words on the roof.
We turned in late that night and would have had a good night's sleep had there not been a storm. Our phones set off flood alerts twice. The power went out once, which we might not have noticed, but the humming fan was so quickly silenced. And then the thunder started and rain slammed against the windows.
I woke early and not so rested, but I had the fitness room to myself. Wow, very nice, clean and well stocked! Off by 10!
This hotel was an oasis in the middle of nowhere. I so wish I could go back in time and see what the hotel was like when Big Spring was a hopping place!
Our stay was perfect. We needed nothing else but the hotel to lure us. But maybe someday, the town will recapture some of its charm and help attract guests, as well.
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!