Don and I have stayed at some wonderful historic hotels in Texas.
We love the small town gems, with easy access and lots of history. This past June, we chose an historic, high rise hotel, in the midsize city of Lubbock. Easy and interesting!
We arrived on a warm and windy, Saturday afternoon. The bricks on the street and the hotel, seemed to be absorbing the sunshine.
The 11-story, Renaissance revival structure, is no longer the tallest building in the old downtown. But it was the most impressive. Impressive and quiet, for a Saturday.
93 years ago, Hotel Lubbock opened up downtown, on the corner of Broadway and Avenue K. At that time, there was lots going on in the city, which was experiencing a boom due to the cotton industry.
The hotel didn't look much different back then... except it was 5 stories shorter and there were Model Ts parked nearby, instead of SUVs.
Last spring, Don read about the new hotel on the internet. The once abandoned hotel had made a comeback and there was an interesting twist! I was curious.
What was with that name? Evidently, Hotel Lubbock changed ownership, in 1961 and became Pioneer Hotel.
The "Pocket Hotel" term is a new thing, I guess. Googling didn't help much. We booked one of the 10 guest rooms and decided to find out. Yep, this 11-story building, only had 10 rooms for guests.
We arrived and parked in the lot, next door. Yay! You don't get free parking with big city hotels.
Then we headed towards the side door and Don pulled up the code from his phone. The Pioneer Pocket Hotel was a fully automated hotel! We weren't exactly sure what that meant, but we were eager to give it a try.
This is how the lobby would have looked, 50 or more years ago.
There were 142 guest rooms and lots of people to take care of those guests.
This is how the lobby looked, when we walked in on Saturday afternoon.
There was no desk and no bellman. We knew that ahead of time, but it was still odd.
There was nice seating, in the modern space. But there were no people using the tables or velvety chairs.
That's because most of the people who walk through this lobby, are coming to dine or drink. Others are heading up to their homes, since the building reopened with condos, in 2012.
Up We Go
It felt strange to breeze through the lobby and head straight for the elevator. There were two.
One was for the condo residents. The elevator with the vintage hotel image, was for hotel guests. We headed up.
307 - The Pioneer Room
The 10 hotel rooms were on the 3rd floor. It was oddly quiet when we walked down the hall. No cleaning carts or hints of hotel life. We punched in the code to our room.
Each room had a name and theme. Vineyard, Windmill, Cotton... Our Pioneer Room, had no covered wagon or bonnet decor. Instead it was filled with wonderful vintage photos of the Lubbock area. From the days it was called Pioneer Hotel?
We chose the cheapest of the rooms. There were 8 suites and 2 rooms, to choose from. Ours was cozy, with only 310 square feet. But it felt fresh and clean and was less than $100.
I would suggest getting 2 slim tables and moving the queen bed into the center.
There was really no view. I had to stand on the bench to look out and all I could see were the windows and walls on both sides and a roof below.
Oh well, the people who live in the condos need the view more than I do.
All the Extras
Luckily, our room was well equipped. There was a Keurig coffeemaker and a fridge and room sink. There were nice Poggesi bath products and even a toothbrush kit.
There were extra pillows and linens. If we'd decided we were needing something, it would have been a little trickier, since there was no front desk to call.
By 4:30 the lobby was brighter.
The sliding doors to the West Table Restaurant were open. The restaurant looked classy and comfortable.
The Italian marble floors were glossy and dramatic. The original staircase invited even more drama. I headed up, to try to find the ballroom.
I had read about all the events that had been held in the glamorous space, over the years. But there was no access. I peered down from a railing and enjoyed the lobby view, instead.
Curious About History
I love exploring old hotels and usually the desk staff can point me in a good direction. It was a little frustrating, having no one there. But, I let the wall art, with old downtown images, give me some hints about the past history.
It was fun imagining the downtown, before the businesses moved out towards shopping centers and malls. I wondered what the area looked like in 1975, when the old hotel building became a low income retirement center. Or in 1994, when the 11-story building was in disrepair and closed down for good.
Hungry and Thirsty
By 5:00, Don and I were ready to make use of some of the food & drink options, in the building.
The Coffee Shop was closed, but it looked like a pretty fun space.
The Brewery LBK
Don loves a local brewery and this one was right off the lobby.
The atmosphere was inviting, with some fun table games and dartboards. I helped Don sample a flight, but mostly I loved the complimentary popcorn.
We had a view out the door, of the patio area, with a pair of loose chihuahuas that had arrived on their own. The tiny dogs were cute, but not nearly as cute as the entire worried staff, that kept appearing from the kitchen in their aprons, fretting over the poor lost pups. The dogs' stressed owner, eventually arrived in her car and everyone quietly cheered.
We read some stellar reviews about the hotel's restaurant. But the menu was a little pricey and we weren't hungry enough to indulge.
We decided to head on down the street, to get something lighter.
We headed north on Avenue K, in search of what we thought, was the Arts or Depot District. I'm guessing, we took some wrong turns. We passed a couple wig shops and a tattoo parlor... a boarded up Kress Store.
The hot wind was whipping up dust. Paper trash and plastic cups were tumbling down the street. We turned at one point and headed back to our safe oasis, standing tall in the glowing evening light.
One Quick Pic
Just before crossing over to our hotel, I had to pause to admire the old brick in the alley.
There was something a little unsettling about our wandering, but it's nice to know, this area is being rejuvenated. I'm so glad they have held onto the brick.
The West Table Bar
It was fun to see how lively the restaurant, bar and brewery had become. Hungry now, Don and I took 2, of 4 stools at the bar, where "Cousin" and his amazing mustache, served us well!
Best of all, we enjoyed the good humored service of Cousin and his sidekick, Jameson, while they worked behind the bar. What a great team they were. I loved hearing stories about Cousin and his youth... the land he grew up on, changing from cotton to peanuts to vineyards. From Jameson we learned about Lubbock's dramatic weather. Specifically, a recent wall of dust, (known as haboob) that struck the town! What entertaining talk!
We slept well in our cozy Pioneer Room. I rose early and headed out with my camera to take one more photo of the hotel.
Besides the wind, which was still blowing, all was quiet, that Sunday morning... until I heard a voice yelling. I looked up to see a man staggering down the sidewalk. He was waving some kind of sign, as if it were a flag.
I gulped and aimed myself towards the entrance. "Don't panic. Don't panic." I reminded myself that I needed to remain calm, or I would fumble with the code and not get the door open. (I know myself) I got safely inside and pulled the door behind me, before the creepy man got to the corner. Whew.
Off We Go
Don and I packed up and headed out by 8:30. It was quiet in the lobby, as expected.
There was no one to ask about our stay. No key to hand over. We drove out of town, through the Depot District, down Buddy Holly Avenue. All was quiet and empty. I wish we'd found this area, the night before.
Our Pocket Hotel experience was easy and comfortable, clean and attractive. But I guess I'm old fashioned. I like to connect with our hotel hosts. Airbnb has made the automated check in more common, but I still prefer having someone available at the desk... when I'm chased inside by a creepy stranger.
I wish I could have learned more about the hotel's history. Did the Pioneer name mean something? I Googled for info and ended up with some gory news stories, about a number of past hotel murders, specifically on the 4th floor. Yikes! I guess I'm glad I didn't have that notable bit of information, before we stayed.
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!