Forest Grove, Oregon
The sight of this building was indeed grand, when we arrived on December 22. It was especially impressive to have a blue sky background, since we'd driven through some rain to get there.
Once a Masonic Rest Home
Don and I parked and walked towards the rambling structure, built as a Masonic Rest Home in 1922. In 2000, the complex reopened as one of the many, creative hotel properties, owned by the McMenamin brothers in the Pacific Northwest.
Before reaching the main building, we spotted the Children's Cottage. It opened in 1926 and housed about 30 orphans. That sounds like a good plan to me, but evidently the elderly lodge residents had a "less than harmonious" relationship with the children. The orphanage closed, a year later.
Lots of Green!
After driving through farmland and vineyards to reach the lodge, it was fun seeing the soaring pines, on the grounds. The Christmas greenery that decorated the buildings, was welcoming. The gardens and pathways looked a little wintery, but I could imagine them in summer, with flowers and leaves.
We headed towards the main building with its formal, Ionic columns. The strict exterior gave way to a warm and cozy interior. The sweet little sitting room off to the left, smelled like Christmas! We don't often smell live Christmas trees and wood-burning fireplaces in Texas!
Just past the check-in counter, we spotted a cozy bar and another decorated tree.
The Ironwork Grill
Just past the tree, we peeked in the hotel's main restaurant.
The colorful Ironwork Grill was quiet at 4pm, but lively by the time we dined at 7:30. It was fun to know guests could eat in the very same dining room, where lodge residents ate meals for over 70 years.
"The Aged and Infirm Masons"
The original residents belonged to the fraternal Masonic Lodge organization. I know little about Masons, but they definitely provided for their own. Even the orphans, wives and widows of Masons were cared for.
Here is a photo we spotted in one of the halls. It shows some of the aged gentlemen who ate their daily meals in what is now the Grill. It was fun to spot some familiar details, from windows, to pillar decor.
After checking in, we did a little exploring on the way to our room. Each wing, had its own sunrooms and sitting areas, with comfy chairs and library tables. But where were the old wicker rockers?
Compass Room Theatre
Just off the lobby, Don and I followed a long, 2-part ramp to the second floor. I'm guessing it was original, for folks in wheelchairs. I wish I'd gotten a better photo of the amazing mosaic wall, at the landing.
As we traveled further up, I smelled popcorn! The Compass Room was getting ready for its afternoon movie showing. I was tempted to follow two grinning little girls as they headed in with parents, to watch the recently released, Mary Poppins movie!
Finding Our Room
We had no time for movies, since we were expecting a visit from our daughter and son-in-law. We headed up to the second floor to find our room and unload bags.
The dimly lit hall, had the feel (and a bit of the smell) of the old institution. Luckily Don and I are fine with that sort of thing. I loved the blending of old and new. Original pipes, light fixtures and woodwork, along with decorated walls and colorful artwork.
The Gerry Hysmith Room
We found our modest room at the end of the hall. A corner room is always a perk, with two window views... but our bed blocked the second window. Instead of gazing at the view, we read our wall instead. The room was named for a woman who once lived in Grand Lodge. We learned a bit about her.
Questions for Ms. Hysmith
It was a little eerie having Gerry's face gazing down at us, while I read the words on the wall. I learned that Gerry was one of the residents in later years. She liked to write, so I imagine she could tell good stories. I wish I could have asked her to tell me some secrets about life at the lodge. I'm guessing there weren't many women living at a Mason's Home, so she probably had some strong opinions about that. I asked her. But she didn't answer.
Little Has Changed
I don't think too much has changed in the accommodations, since Gerry lived at the lodge. We had a radiator by the window and pipes above the bed. There was a nice little nook with sink. Just like the elders long ago, Don and I had to go down the hall to find the restrooms.
Once we opened the thick drapes, the room felt much brighter! First of all, we could actually open the windows and that was refreshing. I loved the holly bush, just within reach!
And what incredible trees! The lowering sun added a little drama to the scenery. I'm guessing we were looking at some of the pines that survived the Columbus Day Storm in 1962, that uprooted 20 trees on the property.
My Marble Bathroom
Most of the 90 guest rooms at the lodge, now have private baths. But sometimes, Don and I are up for a bargain room, with the shared common bath experience. Lucky for me, the Ladies Room was just steps from our room and robes were provided. Even better luck, I had the whole marble bathroom to myself every single time. The showers were huge! Maybe, they were made to accommodate wheelchairs?
No Porch Time
Since our room was at the end of the hall, we had easy access to the porch. I love porches, but it was a little chilly. I also love curious porch additions. Was that a playful slide, or a fire escape for wheelchairs?
Around 4:00, Heidi and Jamie arrived from Portland, to enjoy some McMenamins fun. We started our fun at the cute little cottage style building, just across the lawn. It was named in honor of the McMenamin brothers' mom.
By the Fire
We passed a roaring fire pit on the patio and took a seat inside, by the fireplace. 4:00 was the beginning of Happy Hour, so we went for it.
Beneath the ceiling covered in old album covers, we settled in to make drink decisions. Jingle Juice? Christmas Vacation? Mason's Cocoa? They all had good names.
There were drinks with cocoa and candy canes, Schnapps and spiced rum. I was pretty darn happy to see 4 different Wee Drink options, for $4. each. Yay for my tiny little mason jar with ginger syrup and rum!
Off to Wander
After warming up with drinks and fire, we were off to explore the hotel basement.
Earlier, Don and I had explored the space when it was eerily quiet. The mosaic columns and painted pipes revealed many surprise faces and images.
At the base of the stairs we found a water fountain and lots of small tables and chairs that made me think of an elementary school. Later on, a musician livened up the area with his guitar.
Art and Doors
Before 4:00, all the doors were closed, but there was lots of art on the walls to study.
What is Behind the Doors?
The Women's Room was obvious, but the Doctor's Office made me wonder. Later when we wandered with Heidi and Jamie, the office door was open and we found a bar with a pool table and other games. Years ago, this room had been a dentist's office for the residents.
Coming to Life
All the doors were open when we wandered at 5. We wandered a bit and stepped inside Bob's Bar, named for the McMenamin brothers' dad. From there, we traveled through small rooms, connected by arched openings. The cozy spaces were fun, with their original porcelain sinks and tables tucked into corners. But we were ready for something less claustrophobic.
If only we all had swimsuits, we could have skipped the bar scene and spent some time visiting in the saltwater soaking pool.
We did at least find the somewhat hidden pool, after spotting a sign painted on cinderblock, in the basement.
Billy Scott Bar
I developed a love/hate relationship with this sweet bar, named for a rest home resident who had been a poet. It was just down the hall from our room, on the 2nd floor.
The lovely little space was a delightful sitting room with large windows and a toasty fireplace. In the morning I grabbed some complimentary coffee from the closet-like bar in the corner. At night, we 4 let the bartender serve us some cocktails to take with us, while we did more hotel exploring. At bedtime, I liked the bar less, when sounds of roaring laughter, traveled down the hall, into our room!
Off to the Attic!
With our drinks in hand, we set off to explore the attic. Wandering with drinks, is something the staff actually encourages. "It's like adult Disney World!" We were told. So with our drinks in hand, we set off in search of the attic.
There were doors to the attic at each end of the hall. The old gentleman and woman painted on the doors, seemed to be standing guard.
The stairway, with blue walls and tiny stars was just the beginning. When we reached the hallway, with its slanted ceiling, it became even more fun.
Art, Crazy Lights, Window Nooks...
It was like a little fantasy world up there in that attic! We wandered down a couple of halls, admiring the Dr. Seuss-ish lighting and framed art. There were comfy little reading chairs, in alcoves... all too dim for my weary eyes.
Searching for Secret Rooms!
The real goal was to find the two secret rooms that we had heard about. That was extra tricky because there were actual hotel rooms up on the attic floor and not all guests probably wanted us testing their door. But Heidi felt confident when she found a curious panel with a fierce-looking tiger. She pressed on the wall and suddenly we were inside a dark room with glowing mushrooms.
The second room was found and we found ourselves wandering through some kind of cave, with glowing stalactites and stalagmites.
We made it through the cave to some stairs, that were cleverly lit with glowing strips. We found ourselves coming out a door on the second floor, that was locked from the hall. What fun!!
After our oddball "bar-hopping" and wandering, we 4 had dinner in the Ironwork Grill. "The Kids" set off for Portland and Don and I grabbed the couch for a while before heading to our Gerry Hysmith room. That was when we discovered the sound issues and found ourselves tucked into our tiny room with no TV to drown out the party sounds down the hall. Luckily the bar closed at 11 and the sound stopped promptly.
We stayed in an historic Masonic Rest Home, filled with festive decor and happy people. By the time I'm 90, there will be a lot of Baby Boomers in search of safe and helpful places to live out their years. Hmmm. I'm thinking this might be what we all need!!
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!