Old Hotel in a Florida Oyster Town!
This curious old hotel, sits in an equally curious Florida fishing town.
I've wanted to be a guest, for many years.
Lots of Porch
I'm drawn to all historic hotels, so that's nothing new. I'm also drawn to porches, so of course The Gibson would attract me.
But I was extra curious about this hotel, because of what my mom once told me. Mom said that long ago, her daddy stayed at The Gibson while doing some kind of work. My grandfather worked for the Public Transport Authority of St. Louis, so I can't imagine why he spent time at this Florida hotel, back before WWII.
I love staying at hotels with a personal twist.
Seafood Festival in the 1960's
This is how the inn looked in the late 1960's, which is about the time I remember visiting Apalachicola, with my family. By the sixties, the hotel had been vacant for decades, but we had come for the day, to experience the Seafood Festival.
It was 1967 and my family had just moved to Tallahassee from Iowa. Eager to jump into our new gulf culture, my parents ushered the 4 kids to the car and drove to the town with the funny name, for a little oyster fun. I was pretty disgusted by all the oyster hoopla. There were competitions for shucking and eating. I grimaced at my parents' enthusiasm. I was intrigued by the eerie mountain of oyster shells, near the shucking table. I was 10 and had no interest in eating the slimy things, but I proudly wore my blue seahorse pin.
Arriving in January
This past January, Don and I spent the last night of a 2+ week road trip in the little town known as, The Oyster Capital of Florida.
We drove on Gorrie Bridge, over the Apalachicola Bay and suddenly, there it was!
The hotel looked pretty well cared for when we pulled up and parked right in front. The business recently had changed hands and renovations were underway.
The renovations had nothing to do with Hurricane Michael, which caused devastation to parts of the town. Luckily the hotel was spared.
It was about 5, when we arrived and headed through the lobby to check in. I liked the wallpaper and logo, behind the desk. It made me wonder about the wallpaper back n 1907.
It also made me wonder about those Gibson Sisters, who bought the hotel in 1923. They must have felt "mighty grand" back then... which are words my grandmother would have used in 1923. The sisters were 2 women, with enough spunk to buy The Franklin Hotel and change the name to their own. "Pretty bold!" is what I say, in 2019!
Beams and Pillars
The lobby was welcoming with its dark polished pillars and ceiling beams. Our girl at the desk wasn't too chatty, so I wasted no time asking questions about the history.
Instead, I found a photo in the hall that let me glimpse back in time. I could see the same rounded desk and woodwork.
More Lobby Wood
Besides oysters, Apalachicola had an important history as a cotton and timber port.
The hotel itself was built with local cypress and heart pine, which was also shipped down the Apalachicola River.
Cats at the Hotel
I love a hotel with a resident cat or dog, since I sometimes I need a pet fix while on the road.
The Gibson used to have be a beloved, black cat, but I only saw this spotted cat... too high for patting.
Hall of History
The hall beside the stairs was filled with historic photos of the town and hotel. The back hall was dark (without my camera flash) and blocked by chairs, due to renovations.
The girl at the desk said she had no idea how to turn on the lights, so I studied a few pictures in the front.
I glanced around at some of the antiques... a clock here and interesting light holders there.
As I wandered, I became aware that most of the people we'd seen coming in and out of the lobby, were men. They weren't looking around like me and they didn't exactly look like tourists.
Up the Stairs
A few men wearing reflective vests, headed into the bar.
As we carried our bags up the stairs we followed two other men, carrying tools. Luckily our stay did not involve the sounds of saws or hammers!
Our room was on second floor.
Besides the workmen, we never saw another guest.
Old Door Old Room
We opened the door with its dented, brass knob and discovered a corner room, with windows looking out on the porch.
At a glance, the simple rustic decor nearly had a spiffed up Pottery Barn look.
It actually didn't take a close inspection at all, to see the age of the hotel in the woodwork near the bathroom.
There must have been a hundred coats of white and green paint over the wooden walls, ceilings and pipes.
The bed looked kind of cozy with the 2 sconces and farmhouse canopy bed. (Actually it looked more comfy than it was.)
The corner to the left of the bed, was oddly narrow. I do love a room with an unusual shape!
Layers of Paint
Some might have been put off by all those lumpy-layered walls. I liked them. And I liked the worn floor boards, a whole lot better than the worn carpet on the bed-side of the room. The painted wood made me feel like I was a character in a book. Tom Sawyer and Pollyanna, probably had walls like these.
I had my own, oddly painted walls in my childhood bedroom. As a kid, I loved staring up from my pillow at the drippy textures, searching for the familiar cartoonish faces and figures. My wall images never disappeared, like the moving cloud shapes, that I also adored.
The Parlor Bar
The Parlor Bar was fairly quiet, when we stopped in to grab some drinks at 6. The cozy bar had been a lot livelier at 5, when I popped in to get some ice. Shawn, the bartender handed me a bag, then requested 5 dollars. A couple men chuckled, nearby.
After a little playful teasing about the ice, (which was free) I was able to find out some local scoop about Hurricane Michael. It turns out that all the men I'd been seeing, were temporary residents, still involved in October's storm clean up.
Searching for a Spot
Every good hotel has a cozy spot for relaxing with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. If there's a porch, Don and I will make use.
The Gibson had so many choices, with porches on both levels, wrapping all around the hotel. We wandered with our drinks looking for the perfect spot. We even found an area in the center, with a view of the cupola, spotlighted by the evening's sun.
We chose Adirondack chairs over rockers. It was a hard choice, but those flat arms made good tables.
I had to wrap in my blanket poncho as the temps dropped with the sun. We faced the west, where the sun disappeared fast, behind houses.
We were a month too early to dine in The Franklin dining room. It was expected to reopen in February.
We headed back to the Parlor Bar and had a good chat with more locals about the hurricane recovery. I asked Shawn about the hotel's history and told him that my grandfather had stayed for a period, in the 1930's or '40's. He paused, then spoke. "Maybe you're sleeping in the same room where your grandfather slept." That could have been an eerie thought... but I liked it.
Morning in the Parlor Bar
No, we didn't suddenly wake up at the bar, it just looks that way.
The night before, we left the hotel bar and found some good shrimp and oysters on Main Street. After sleeping well in our cozy room, we came down in the morning, for complimentary breakfast.... back in the Parlor Bar. The atmosphere was odd. Liquor bottles were piled up on the bar and workmen were getting ready to paint. But the coffee smelled good and there were a few breads and yogurts to choose from.
Music in the Morning
Best of all there was live music. Cadillac Jack was not performing at the bar, he was just a guest who loves the hotel and loves to play his guitar. He was one of those people who can carry on a great conversation, while making some impressive sounds.
We 3, had the best time visiting and sipping coffee. Jack showed us his guitar skills with some Stevie Ray Vaughan and shared his vocal skills with some George Harrison. C Jack moved to the porch with his banjo, as we were packing up to leave.
The Gibson is still here. That is pretty notable, since the town has weathered some hurricanes and worrisome troubles, related to disappearing oysters. I'm just grateful that the community and recent owners have worked hard to keep it!
I'm so glad we stayed before more improvements. I'd rather have our thickly, painted walls and dented brass knob, than spas and fitness rooms. The cozy bar was welcoming and memorable. The porches were pleasant, even if I shivered a little. And I had the fun of wondering about my Grandpa Carl and his stay, years ago. Next time... we'll allow for more time to explore the town!
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!