Railroad YMCA in St. Louis
I don't like staying at hotel chains, but I make an exception for Drury Inns.
This one in St. Louis, is in an historic building, right across from the grand, Union Station.
The station has its own fabulous history and hotel. Don and I once stayed there and it is #133, in the blog list.
But the YMCA Hotel, (as I prefer to call it) is pretty fine. It has an interesting connection to the old station.
Then and Now
The Railroad Y.M.C.A. first opened in 1907, to accommodate traveling railroad workers. Theodore Link designed the building, as well as Union Station, which opened in 1894.
I love the curious YMCA and railroad connection. I also appreciate Charles Drury, who decided to renovate this lovely old building in 1986. Union Station and the YMCA building had both grown weary, as railroad travel declined in the '50's and '60's. The Y closed in 1970 and the Station in 1978. What a treat that both buildings were renovated and reopened in the 1980's
Such an Entrance
Don and I first stayed here 15 years ago, with our kids and another family. That was long before I started documenting hotel stays, but I do remember loving this wonderful entrance.
I think we all grinned as we passed by the decorated tiles. We probably even sang a line or 2 of the YMCA song, as we lugged our bags.
What I didn't know then, was that after the Y's closing in 1970, this building was popular with the gay community. In 1975, the rundown area offered cheap rental options. The Y's building housed a martini bar, saloon, baths, hotel, disco and restaurant. Interesting that the Village People wrote the YMCA song a few years later.
Again in 2012
I remember staying one cold night in December, 7+ years ago. We were with a large family group, the night before my mother's graveside service. It was a bittersweet trip to the city my mother adored. Again, there wasn't time to admire the old brick work or the renovated interior.
But I remember gathering in the sitting area, near an old brick fireplace. Our family had come from numerous states and we welcomed the cozy common area (and the free drinks and food) on that chilly night.
Just a week ago, the old YMCA became a meet up place, once again. I flew in from Texas and my friend Milissa arrived on Amtrak from Chicago.
Sadly the station is a mile away now, so she couldn't just walk over. I checked in early and admired the old lobby desk.
Old Switchboard and Key Boxes
I chatted with the young woman at the desk and she pointed out the old switchboard.
The panel of plugs and lights, appeared to block the old key boxes. I was curious about that.
Wood Paneling and Arches
The view from the elevator door, showed off the dark wood paneling and rounded woodwork.
There were vintage railroad images, etched in the glass panels.
It was very quiet at 11:30 am.
I was able to wander the lobby area and admire the original marble columns and the old photos, without distraction.
This area was later packed, with hungry and thirsty guests at 5 pm. The Drury offers complimentary drinks and "dinner" each night.
Back in the Day
I loved this old photo of the railroad workers, gathered in the very area I was wandering.
This main level once held billiard tables and game tables, plus desks for reading and letter writing. The floor below had contained a bowling alley, a barbershop, an indoor pool and baths.
Trains and a New Pool
I was glad to have a little time to appreciate the wonderful train display.
I stepped through the arch to the area that connects the original building to the newer addition. Below the walkway was an indoor pool that we didn't make use of.
I was lucky to be able to check in so early. I chose the old elevator over the marble and slate stairway.
However, our "6th" floor room, was really only on the 4th, so that doable. Odd that they renamed the floors... to match up with the floor count of the newer building... I guess.
Corner Room in the Old Building
I asked for a room in the old building and we got the top floor on a corner.
That gave us 5 windows, which was great even with glum weather views.
The beds were comfy and the room and bath were fresh and clean. I liked the railroad focused art. But where was the old? Couldn't they have left the old baseboards or windowpanes?
I do love a view of any kind. This was fun, looking down at Union Station... and all the renovations.
I zoomed my camera in on the old Train Shed, to see the workers working... and eating a little lunch.
Yay For Milissa!
After dropping my bags in the room, I headed a mile to pick up Milissa at the Amtrak/Greyhound Station.
Later that evening, we walked across the street to Union Station and had drinks. I showed her where her train would have arrived, 41 years ago.
2 Days at The Y
Milissa and I spent 2 nights at the hotel and so did a lot of other people.
We laughed at the elder crowd that filled the place one night, lining up with their drink tickets. We watched a high school band gather in the morning and luckily they hadn't eaten the entire breakfast buffet.
A Nice Escape
Actually the place felt comfortable and homey, when it was full and when it was empty.
Milissa and I found a cozy spot for our wine and popcorn, even when the lobby was buzzing with tour bus seniors. And in the morning, we got the best seat in the house, for sipping our coffee. We had the table by the fireplace and stained glass window.
This visit like the others, was more about the company than the hotel. Once again, I felt like there was a cozy convenience with the old YMCA.
We could walk to the Arch and the station. We could get a free breakfast and light dinner if we chose. We could pause and imagine the railroad workers, walking to and from the station.
I wish the room had shown more vintage detail. But there was an old Elvis movie on TCM, one night. Mostly, Milissa and I were too busy gabbing and laughing and catching up. It was a good stay!
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!