Quick Visit to Astoria
Don and I decided to add a night in Astoria, on our Oregon trip. We liked the retro look of the 5-story, craftsman-style Elliott, but the price and location was good too.
We could book a room for $149, conveniently located in the heart of downtown. Actually $169. for a weekend night.
We were excited to stay in the old port city of Astoria. The town is known for being the oldest settlement west of the Rockies. Astoria was already 113 years old, when Hotel Elliott was built.
Luckily they used strong building materials in 1924. Two years before Hotel Elliott opened, the Astoria Fire of 1922 destroyed 30 blocks of mostly wood constructed buildings. I don't know what stood on this block before.
There were no Model Ts, when we arrived around 5. But the entrance canopy and neon letters, looked inviting. I'm not sure when that feature was added.
I liked the odd narrow door, next to the one with the "HE" logo. I'm sure the slim door just allowed for a wider opening. But, it was more fun to imagine the skinny door being used by thin children!
"Grid of Vault Tiles"
These little girls might have fit through the skinny door just fine. They are pictured here, standing outside Hotel Elliott, in the 1940's. The curious thing about this photo, is the thing that the girls are standing on. The photo I took of the entrance, shows the same grid of glass tiles, built into the sidewalk. We spotted many of these in Astoria and they actually had a purpose.
When created years ago, the glass tiles allowed sunlight into the underground basement areas. Clever! In the photo with the girls, the grid looks smooth and sturdy. My closeup photo, shows crumbled and missing glass. The city is working on preserving these grids.
Like many historic hotels, the Elliott had a dark period. For some time, the hotel was used as a flop house. That was before it was rescued and given a 4-million dollar makeover, two decades ago.
I assumed the "Wonderful Beds" slogan was a fun gimmick, added for the reopening in 2003. But when I saw those words embedded into marble floor of the elevator, I realized that must have been the hotel's claim from the very beginning.
A Swift Check In
The lobby was quiet and tidy when we arrived around 5. I didn't really need a livelier vibe, but our quick and efficient check in, didn't seem to open up to casual banter. I should have just been brave and chatty... "I see a brass spittoon on the floor! When was that last used?" Or I could have asked, "Do tell me, what is so wonderful about the beds?"
But I didn't have the energy to come up with questions and those particular questions wouldn't not have gone over well! I was actually just ready to see our room. We'd had some snowy road closures, that doubled our long drive that day. We got our key and headed for the elevator.
Across from the stairs and elevator, there was a comfy leather couch. Moments before, a woman had been sitting there reading. Suddenly she was gone. Should I grab it? It looked very cozy next to the gas fire.
Or should we stop and play chess, before someone else thinks that's a good idea? I waste a lot of energy, questioning how best to enjoy our hotel adventures!
Instead of sitting down, we just lingered long enough to study the framed photo over the mantel. It showed the lobby from years ago. The counter and spittoon looked just the same!
The photo also showed a deer head and a clock and wood cabinet for holding keys and mail. The black and white image also showed a wall, where the opening to the wine bar & breakfast room is today.
Halls & Walls
The old elevator was a little slow reaching us and a little slow delivering us to floor 3. We were glad for the handy stairs on other trips up and down. I like a set of stairs that isn't enclosed in a dark hall. It gave us lots of peeks at the other halls, when we climbed the stairs.
The halls weren't terribly exciting, but I new one of the floors had the Presidential Suite. I wish I could have peeked the grand suite, to see the baby grand piano and spiral staircase!
Our room 308 was at the end of the hall. I was glad to see that renovations hadn't removed the old transoms above the doors.
I liked the Art Deco designs, on the lower part of the wall. New or old?
Queen Guest Room
There was nothing fancy about our Queen Room. It was the cheapest room available. But I will say the bed and bedding was actually Wonderful!
I appreciated having two windows, but wished we had a view of the Columbia River... instead of a parking lot.
Fishing and Canning
On the wall opposite the windows, we had a fun display vintage photos. The black and white images gave a little peek into what Astoria was all about, more than a century ago.
There are no more canneries today, but there were close to 40 around in the 1800s. Salmon was the fish that initially made Astoria rich, but that's a mighty fine "man-sized" halibut, in the photo!
Our room wasn't huge or ritzy, but it had all we needed. We made use of the fridge and microwave. The TV and coffee maker were nice to have. I do appreciate a ceiling fan!
The bathroom had a tub and soft towels AND heated floors. I was happy with that, since the weather was chilly.
In the Neighborhood
We'd planned on arriving much earlier and exploring the city. There was little time for that by the time we got checked in. But there was quite a bit to see, just on our street.
The beautiful Liberty Theatre was just steps away. It opened as a Vaudeville House in 1925. Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington performed there. On the evening of our stay, there was a "Fisher Poets Gathering" at the theatre. The notice near the door explained... A celebration of the fishing industry in poetry, prose and song. I regret that we didn't go for that. When else will we have that opportunity?
But we were hungry. We hadn't eaten porte than a car snack, since breakfast. Plus there was something very tempting, directly across the street! T Paul's Supper Club definitely made our stay at the Elliott more memorable.
We didn't actually sit at the table under the tiki hut, but we could have. We arrived just in time for a very fun "Snappy Hour" with fabulous appetizers and drinks! Cheers for a warm and welcoming Supper Club experience!
Wine or Coffee?
We had hoped to have a glass of wine at our hotel's Wine Bar, when we returned. It was a Friday and they were supposed to serve until 9. Sadly the bar was empty. It probably was open, but didn't have customers. What a shame. Where was everyone?
Instead we enjoyed the same space in the morning, with coffee and o.j. Again, the place seemed to be unusually quiet.
We helped ourselves to coffee and some complimentary hot & cold breakfast options.
Don and I took a seat at a nice window table. We talked quietly about our plans for getting back early to Portland. Our kids had been snowed in and we could stop for groceries... we practically whispered, but I felt like our voices were obnoxiously loud, in the quiet room.
Some other couples had arrived, but everyone stared at newspapers and no one spoke. The man that tried to clear our table (before we were done) didn't even speak. It seemed like Don and I were the only non-sleepy people in the room. I was rested and sort of craving a chatty people encounter at the Elliott.
After we finished up, I took a couple photos and wondered about some of the interesting light fixtures. Were some original? I didn't ask the quiet staff.
I really liked this sunburst mirror. But when I snapped the photo, a nearby couple looked annoyed. Was everyone in the hotel grumpy?
I was in the elevator when I finally spoke with an employee who seemed enthused about the hotel. She was was just what I needed. She invited me to look and the finished basement with the pool table and exposed brick. It was a pretty cute space!
I was so busy looking at the pool table I forgot to look up to see the grids. I should have asked her! I think she would have loved to have shared some info.
Then she told me to be sure to see the Rooftop Deck & Garden. It had been locked the evening before, due to icy weather, but she had just opened it.
I headed up! The first thing I spotted when I opened the door, was the Astoria-Megler Bridge! There was a 360 degree view, but my eyes were drawn to the 21,474 foot bridge, connecting Oregon and Washington, over the Columbia River!
The air was cold, but the skies were blue. I so wished we weren't feeling rushed. There was a gas fire pit and we could have grabbed our coats and coffee and enjoyed the morning view.
A Quick Cold Walk
Instead of sitting in the cold wind on the roof, we decided to head off. towards the equally windy waterfront. We walked past Shanghaied Tattoo, where NO BOOZE, BREW, DRUGS... ANIMALS, WHINERS or PROBLEMS are allowed.
We only had about 30 minutes to explore before hitting the road. We headed towards the Columbia River and wandered down the worn wood plank walkway.
Quick Views of Astoria
We walked past a fun mural painted, on an old building. It helped me imagine the people living and working here years ago. We looked out over the river, where we could see the wood pilings, that once held the canneries.
5,000 ships still travel the Columbia River yearly, but no canneries remain open today.
We headed back to the hotel, passing the Liberty Theatre. We'll check it out next time.
We vowed to come back another time and tour the historic Flavel House, or at least walk up in the hills where there are about 300 Victorian houses still standing! The town reminds me of a miniature San Francisco!
We stayed in a nicely renovated, reasonably priced hotel in a wonderfully historic port city.
We clearly did not make full use of the hotel or the curious city! I wish we'd spoken to some more people or we'd made better use of the roof or explored the basement some more. I wish we'd sat by the fire or given the wine bar a try. I'm sure during the warmer months the stay would feel very different, with more energy and maybe more enthused travelers. Maybe we'll try it another time!
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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!