Rescued Hotel in Fort Collins
It had actually been much worse than that, for a number of decades.
This is how the building looked in 1936, without a wall of tree growth. There was no outdoor cafe, but the corner of the building did hold a coffee shop, just as it does today. The hotel was built by Charles and Carolyn Mantz on the property owned by Carolyn's father, Andrew Armstrong. They named the hotel after him.
The Hotel Today
When we arrived on a beautiful Saturday, things were bustling in the Old Town area. The hotel showed no signs that it had been a flophouse in the 1990's. The peaceful crowd sipping coffee outside, didn't reflect the rowdy characters that became associated with the place in the '70's or '80's, when the Old Town area had begun to suffer.
The cozy lobby greeted us with festive, purple walls and a few leather chairs. Luckily we had no use for the collection of available umbrellas.
Checking in with Oreo
Don and I always adore the extra bonus of a hotel pet, when we're on the road. 12-year-old, Oreo seemed aware of that and put up with our cooing and petting. After a while, she skillfully distracted us with the complimentary Pixie Stix, on the counter.
Before climbing the stairs, we peeked at the intimate lounge area with chessboard and books. The glow on the table, was an iced margarita machine. They were of the non-alcoholic variety, but it was a fun change from the usual pitcher of water.
Our Room on College Avenue
I loved the big window in our bright and simple room, facing College Avenue. Standing beside the freshly painted radiator and peeking out through the trees made me feel like I was a kid back in Grinnell, Iowa. Seeing the awning above the window, reminded me of my grandmother's house in Springfield, Missouri. Mostly I liked the college town feel as I looked out at the activity... busy, even in summer.
Vintage or Modern
When the Levinger Family purchased the hotel in 2002, they made some good decisions. They chose to renovate the 40+ rooms in vintage and modern styles. Don and I always prefer hotel renovations that capture the era from when the building first opened. But some people prefer modern, new accommodations. What a treat, to have a choice.
Vintage, but Fresh
We of course chose a vintage room. But, I was happy not having to deal with vintage plumbing and claw-footed tubs. They did a good job making the bathroom look old, without feeling old.
Ace Gillet's Lounge
We wandered the spacious basement area, following the sound of laughter and music. When we found the entrance, it felt like we were entering a speakeasy, for those who were in the know. We found 2 open stools at the bar and hoped no one asked us for a password.
The lounge was once again, the perfect retro/modern mix. It felt like we were stepping back in time to have a few drinks with Dean Martin, minus the cigarette smoke. However, our bartender was not a bit out of the '50's or '60's. Ray was utterly amazing the way he whipped from one end of the bar to the next, mixing, visiting, tidying, pouring. In fact the entire staff seemed choreographed in their efficient moves. On top of that, the whole team seemed pleasant and happy to be there. That's different!
I ordered the Pinker Pussycat, without laughing. It was made with pineapple rum and coconut sake. Don thought we were in New Orleans and ordered a Sazerac. It was about twice the size of the Nola version. We sipped and took in the atmosphere.
The live jazz trio made it hard for us to think about getting up and searching for a restaurant. We decided to stay put and Don and I both ended up making requests. My choice, "The Girl From Ipanema" fit the 1960's vibe.
Since I was not blessed with the ability to drink all night, (thank goodness) we needed food if we were going to enjoy more music. We kept our bar seats and enjoyed a huge hummus plate and an order of crawfish beignets.
I always appreciate a hotel with shady past. I'm so glad the Levingers rescued this hotel and respected the history. I'm glad they didn't modernize every nook and cranny.
The cozy guest room, lobby and sitting areas, were pleasant but not as memorable as the basement lounge. Gillet's Lounge and Oreo the cat, may be what I remember most!
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!