July 4th in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Don and I stayed at The Bell Tower, last month. It was about 90 degrees outside, which was about 50 degrees warmer than when we stayed, 15 years before.
It was Easter weekend, when our family stayed the first time. We had chosen the hotel, since U of M's campus was right across the street. Our daughter was taking a college tour. That seems so, so long ago!
Even Longer Ago
Even longer ago, I was a high school student, living in Ann Arbor. I remember this hotel, with its formal, almost European appearance.
Don also lived in Ann Arbor then. He was a student at U of M, but we didn't meet until a few years later, in St. Louis.
My Dad worked at U of M and it seemed like my parents were always meeting up with special guests for drinks or dinner, at the Bell Tower. It sounded like a ritzy place. Was it?
Dad's office was just around the corner from the hotel. I have fond memories of wandering around that familiar area. I didn't exactly hang out at the Bell Tower Hotel, but I wondered about it. I imagined important people staying there... like Arthur Miller or Leonard Bernstein. I'm not sure that they ever did.
When we arrived on July 4th, the street had just opened up, after a morning parade. We lucked out and got ourselves some free holiday parking, right in front.
I took a good look at the 3-story stone facade, with flags and window boxes. I'm not sure what they were thinking in 1967, when they added that oddball 4-story structure, with balconies. I'm pretty sure the angled building on the left, wasn't there before.
I don't actually remember what the lobby looked like, when I first peeked in, as a teenager.
But it probably had the same, proper English-looking decor.
Luckily, the upholstery and carpet seemed fresh. The fireplace wasn't needed on this July 4, but the a.c. was. It worked well. The woman checking us in was very pleasant. I asked if she had any idea how old the building was.
She didn't know, but happily looked for a history printout, that she recalled seeing once. She couldn't find it, but offered to do a Google search. That was actually very sweet of her. I thanked her for offering, but I'd already tried and failed to come up with anything. We finished checking in and carried our bags 5 steps up, to the elevator.
The elevator, was in the "new" building, beside one of the mod, 1960's glass windows. I had to smile at the curious mix of styles, in the space between the old and "new" buildings.
The sparkly ceiling fixture, drapes and spotlighted oil painting, seemed connected to the old building. The interesting artwork and the glass shelves with chess pieces, seemed a little more connected to the modern building.
Burton Memorial Tower
I had hoped we could get a room with a view of Burton Tower, across the street.
Since we were staying at the Bell Tower Hotel, it seemed fitting, to look out and see the 83 year old tower, that houses a grand carillon! But those rooms were higher in price. I settled for a photo, from the window near the elevator.
The second floor hall was quiet and clean. Our room on the left, was in the older building. I was suddenly glad we were staying at the 66-room Bell Tower Hotel and not at a Holiday Inn, on July 4th. Bell Tower had no pool, which meant there were no kids running down the hall in swimming suits.
There also weren't any parents with high school or college students. I'm sure the atmosphere will change, when campus is busy in the fall.
Our room was tiny and clean. Very tiny. But it was our choice to pick a room with the lowest rate.
The decor was slightly updated since our last visit, but it looked a little worn.
There was no bell tower to be seen from our window. In fact our view was about as bad as it gets. But, there were drapes and we could close them and imagine a better view.
The TV worked well and the bed and pillows were comfy. The closet shelf held the coffee maker and glasses. The bottled water was not complimentary, but that made it easier to be Green and not partake. I did appreciate that our small room, had 2 end tables with lamps. Yay for simple things.
The maid left the TV on in the bathroom, or we never would have known it was there. Out of 230 Notable Nights, this is only the second time we've had a TV built into our mirror. Not needed, but fun!
In past write ups, I've complained a lot about trendy bathrooms that use glass in their doors. Our nice, but small bathroom had a frosted glass window, in the door. Why? That little detail means... If you want to get up early and shower, you have to share your bathroom light, with the late sleeper. Oh well. It really wasn't a problem, this time.
The best part of our stay, was the location! Besides hearing beautiful sounds from over 50 bells, in the limestone tower, we were just steps away from campus.
We wandered in the evening and morning, spotting familiar buildings and a few we didn't recognize. We saw Heidi's first dorm and Don's old dorm... The Power Center where my dad directed plays... Hill Auditorium, where I watched my brother graduate from law school... And in the evening we joined my dear high school friend, Lorie, for some July 4th festivities on the lawn.
I was disappointed that our hotel no longer had a restaurant at all. I wanted to sit in the dining room/bar, where my parents once sipped Manhattans...
But our hotel was within easy walking distance of Main Street and State Street, with lots of food options. We wandered later that night and found some pizza and beer, which hit the spot.
Seeing the old theaters lit up, brought back memories.
I remember an organist performing before the movies, when I went to The Michigan, years ago. I remember cringing over "Jaws" at the State Theatre!
On Friday morning, Don raced down to put money in the meter by 8:00. Then we headed through the lobby, to the area where our complimentary breakfast was waiting.
In 2004, this area had been the Escoffier restaurant. I actually found the brochure from our last stay and had a good time comparing! We didn't have a chance to dine in that dark and formal room 15 years ago. But in 2019 we enjoyed a little breakfast. The bright modern look was an odd, but refreshing contrast to the rest of the hotel.
I wasn't hungry enough to sample all the hot and cold options, but I got the perfect amount for me. I was thrilled to grab a complimentary New York Times and the coffee was extra good. It was a nice end, to our easy stay.
On the 4th of July, we got a reasonably priced hotel room, just steps away from the U of M campus AND that wonderful Art Deco tower. Our memories won't really be about the room or the lobby. Mostly I'll remember our hotel as a cozy and quiet home base, surrounded by the heart of Ann Arbor and U of M. How easy it was to step out the door and head off in any direction, to wander and remember.
It was such a treat spotting places and buildings, that triggered memories. And how crazy that Don and I each had stories to share from the same years... when we both lived in Ann Arbor and didn't know each other.
So, we explored, we remembered and we discovered! That's notable. There's also a notable fact I learned about that sweet clock tower. But I won't share, because it just makes me sad. Too much knowledge is not always a good thing.
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!