While traveling 3 years ago, Don and I took a peek at the Eureka Inn. Our son had tipped us off about the place. He knows how much we love historic (and quirky) hotels.
It was October 2018, when we stopped in, while traveling. Don and I were definitely intrigued by the 4-story Tudor hotel, but we couldn't stay. We had reservations elsewhere.
On that October day, we stepped inside to see if we should put the hotel on the list, for future travel adventures.
One look at the lobby lounge area and I knew we'd come back. Maybe we'd come in winter and read a book by the fireplace. Or maybe we'd arrive to see someone playing the grand piano.
But the hotel seemed so large and empty. Was this going to be one of those hotels on our list, that closes down before we ever get to experience it?
Just in case, we decided to check out the Palm Lounge, at the end of the hall past the lobby desk. We've learned a lot about hotels by visiting their bars or restaurants. We could have a mini-experience, before taking off.
Cocktail Lounge Experience
We wandered the lobby, until the lounge doors opened at 5. I hoped we'd step inside and find a bartender in a bowtie, or at least Frank Sinatra crooning on a juke box. Instead, we found a frazzled young bartender, who seemed surprised to see us.
She wasn't quite ready for guests. She had a lot of setting up to do. We made it easy and ordered wine & beer. Then we found a table near a brick wall and a glowing flamingo lamp, where we couldn't feel her stressed energy.
We were the only guests in the Palm Lounge. I have a feeling our experience would have been a little more comfortable, if there had been other guests, or if the lights had been dimmer. We thought things might get lively, when a guy arrived to play piano. But he looked really disappointed to see us, like he'd planned on hanging out with the bartender for a while. When he started playing, I couldn't tell if he was practicing or performing. We finished our drinks and politely left a tip on our way out.
The awkward Palm Lounge visit, only made us more curious about Eureka Inn. What was the story with this sort of forgotten hotel, in the town of Eureka?
So, Don and I made reservations for a night, this past July. The 99-year-old, stucco & timber hotel looked even bigger than I remembered, when we pulled up. The hotel filled the whole block.
When Eureka Inn opened in 1922 it wasn't quite as large. 50 guest rooms were added in 1925.
What a grand place it was, with over 100 rooms. This hotel was considered premier lodging for travelers between Portland and San Francisco. In 1933, they added a cocktail lounge for Ladies and Gentlemen. Was it called Palm Lounge, back then?
Vacancies and Renovations
Like most old hotels, Eureka Inn has had some struggles over the years.
The hotel fell on hard times in the late fifties. It was vacant from 1993 to 2010.
After new ownership and renovations, the hotel opened again, in 2010. That means we first visited, it was just 8 years after reopening. Hmmm? Why had it seemed so quiet then? Would there be more guests during our stay in July?
As we walked with our bags toward the hotel, I admired the white stucco and green trim. The hotel's original colors! I also noticed there were no cars or guests at 4:30. But then again, it was the unpredictable pandemic summer of 2021.
All to Ourselves
I guess I wasn't surprised to find the hotel as empty as before. That was actually fine with me.
Being cautious pandemic travelers, I didn't want to see the lobby crowded with guests. In fact there wasn't a single person in the spacious lobby area.
We headed with our bags to the front desk. I tried to be enthused with a few questions, for the weary looking young woman who checked us in.
I also tried to hide my huge disappointment when she told me the hotel's Palm Lounge and Britstol Rose Cafe were closed, due to lack of staff. Man, I really wanted to eat in that dining room with the high ceilings and beams!
Up We Go
So we took our key and headed for the elevator. The older elevator with its paneled doors, was no longer in use. I was tempted to take a ride.
But Humphrey Bogart glared from his portrait, like an elevator guard. I think Walt Disney was actually egging me on, to give it a try. (I just love old elevators!) But, we were good guests and took the newer one, which was not all that new.
The doors on the third floor had been updated just a bit. I wonder how long ago, they filled in the old transoms with wood? Now and then, we find an old hotel with transoms that still open for airflow.
Our room was a decent size, but had sort of budget hotel decor feel. I appreciate historic hotels and I try not to criticize, but I expected a little more, since Wyndham has taken this one over.
The wallpaper looked a little like contact paper and the framed art was oddly placed in the room. The bathroom door hit the toilet and the updated vanity and tub, was not very impressive.
But maybe I was just crabby because I wanted to enjoy the cafe and lounge. The "fainting couch" was comfy and I loved being able to open the windows and look down on the pool & courtyard.
After making a few snide remarks about our room, I was over it. I was truly happy to be in this curious place and I was ready to explore. Don hung out on the lounge chair and I hit the lobby. First I stopped at the mailbox and thought about mailing my postcards. Then I realized, the postcards could stay in that box forever.
I also thought about playing operator, with the old switchboard. Or is that even what that is? I loved finding these old relics from the past.
I remembered admiring all the framed portraits on our first visit. So many famous guests have visited over the years. Four of those guests surrounded this door to the ballroom.
Just like the doors to the cafe and lounge, the ballroom doors were locked. I hate it when I can't sneak into special rooms. So instead, I paused and said hello to Nancy, Shirley, Ladybird and Steven Spielberg.
The hotel may have disappointed me with their room decor, but they did a nice job sharing their history, in the common areas.
I found numerous corners and hallways, holding displays of hotel memorabilia. There were old menus and pieces of dining china. I loved studying the old photographs and comparing to now.
The Grand Parlor
It was interesting to study this image with the midcentury modern decor. I recognized the wall, with the ballroom doors. No Shirley Temple or Mrs. Reagan, peering from frames.
There was much less furniture back in the day. Hey! Is that Ladybird Johnson near the fireplace?
Grand Parlor Today
Today, the large area is jam packed with furniture. It looks like the hotel is expecting lots of guests.
The flat cathedral ceiling and polished redwood beams, look the same as the old photos. And that massive fireplace, with the painting above! What is the story of that piece of art?
Across and Above
Across from the fireplace, I was excited to look up and see even more seating, on the second floor mezzanine. What was all that gold anyway? It looked like gold foil. Do we call that faux gold leaf? There was a lot of it.
The Palm Lounge was closed, but Don and I always travel with wine. We had lots of seating options for our own happy hour.
After I finished exploring I went back to the room to get Don and wine.
We carried our blue travel glasses and looked for a good spot. Window seat, with view of pool? Maybe.
The weather was lovely, so we peeked outside to see about seating on the patio. Nope, that wasn't quite right.
We did spot our room though. Up in the corner to the right of the chimney.
Next, we climbed the stairs to the mezzanine level.
There was seating along the railing, looking down on the Grand Parlor.
A good start. Don sat in a comfy green chair with a famous director looking down on him. We kept an eye on the space below. I am not kidding when I say we had the place to ourselves.
Beneath the Presidents
After a while we decided the Grand Parlor needed us. We headed down and sampled some spots. I felt like Goldilocks, testing some of the furniture for comfort.
These green chairs were fine, but the presidents (although smiling) were too intimidating.
Sitting Near the Fire
There was no fire in July, but we decided to take the couch directly in front of the brick fireplace.
I clicked the timer on the camera and we posed on that slick, baby blue couch. If we had accidentally spilled wine, I think it would have wiped right off. That was some interesting furniture!
A few more guests finally arrived. We heard them check in and get the same disappointing news we got, about the closed cafe and bar. I was grateful to have some wine and a husband who loves exploring as much as I do.
We looked down a few more halls and I found this display about a movie that was filmed in the hotel. "An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn" We took note and watched this movie on Netflix, 2 weeks later. Very odd! Lots of fun, recognizing parts of the hotel in the movie.
More Famous People
I'm pretty sure we didn't see every single framed portrait. I wish I could see a list of all the famous guests who have stayed... Winston Churchill, Truman Capote, Mickey Mantle, Ringo Starr, Robert Kennedy...
I posed with Shirley Temple and wondered if she had taken the same road trip that Don and I were on. 2 Nights before, we'd stayed at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Oregon, where Shirley had also been a guest.
Don and I could have walked a block or two and found some dinner. But we were also becoming more realistic during our pandemic travels. Short staffed hotels and restaurants can be frustrating. We decided to do the pizza thing.
So I called in a pizza delivery. Even though the old phones are just for show, I stepped into a booth to make my call. Then, Don and I studied a few more portraits, (like good old Winston) and headed up to enjoy our pizza feast.
We slept well in the quiet hotel. In the morning we found coffee and bags with donuts in the lobby.
We had expected nothing, so that was nice. We brought our "breakfast" upstairs and caught up on news... on a very blurry TV. We were bombarded with news about surging cases of Covid. It was a reminder to be patient and smart with our travels.
Heading out of town we drove down by the water and the Old Town area. It looked sort of inviting in the morning. I felt a little perplexed as we drove on. The town and hotel have so much potential. Is it just the pandemic that makes them seem sort of forgotten or under appreciated? I do appreciate the old place.
I'll remember our hotel, with fond memories. The staff seemed worn and some of the most recent updates were odd. But there was so much character in that building! In fact so many character and celebs have visited that hotel in 99 years, that I'm beginning to understand why there were so many chairs and couches! Maybe all these old presidents and movie stars come back in the wee hours to share stories with each other. There's enough seating for all! Hmm? Next time, I'm bringing a Ouija Board!
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!