This fall, Don and I stayed in the grandest hotel of Dubuque, Iowa! Well, the tallest and oldest maybe.
The 8-story, 133 room hotel on Main Street, is indeed impressive today.
The history of Hotel Julien, began as Waples House Hotel, in 1839... or 1844? (I've read both) The impressive building was Dubuque's first lodge.
The Waples House was enlarged, refurbished and renamed Julien House, in 1854. (Why'd they remove all the fun stuff?) In 1913, a massive fire destroyed most of the hotel, but it was rebuilt.
It wasn't until we arrived at our hotel that I allowed myself to even wonder about the name Julien. Or the name Dubuque for that matter.
Julien Dubuque was actually a person. Most Iowans probably know that. But I had to wander around to the rear entrance of the hotel to learn a little history.
The sculpture near the back door, gave me a little hint. The plaque above the mighty, shirtless hero, told me that Julien Dubuque was the "Adventurer and FOUNDER" of Dubuque!
We found more images of the the rugged fellow around town! Is that an earring? He looks like Tom Selleck.
It was a pretty fall afternoon when we arrived in Dubuque. We parked in a free lot and crossed Main Street, to the brick and stone building,
The exterior still looked neat and tidy, after a major renovation from 2007-2009.
There were 3 enormous windows. From inside, the lower half offered views from the lobby. You could gaze our the upper half, from the mezzanine.
The lobby was nicely redone with a circular settee in the center, holding a generous display of flowers.
I wonder how the lobby looked when Al Capone once owned the hotel. Or is that true? I read that he owned the hotel for a short time, when he liked to escape to Dubuque from Chicago. Really?
Rats, the Riverboat Lounge was closed on Sunday. I couldn't even peek in through the dark glass.
Since I knew the Mississippi River was just a couple blocks away, I pictured the lounge playing up the Riverboat Theme, quite well!
Letters & Lincoln
It was fun spotting little bits from the past. There was a grand old mailbox, near the elevator. Wish I'd had a letter to send.
There was nice display in the front of the lobby with old photos and news clips. Supposedly Abe paid a visit to the hotel, long before he was president. Long before his beard.
Where to Hang Out?
Don and I are always in search of the best spot to hang out. I knew it wasn't going to be the fancy settee in the lobby, There was a nice area around the fireplace.
And there was another cozy spot behind the stairs. We seemed to have the hotel to ourselves.
We headed up to explore more. The elegant stairway made a dramatic split... where you could pause and ponder which direction to go, while checking your hairdo in the mirror.
The giant mirror was actually salvaged from the Ziegfeld Theatre in NYC. Supposedly many performers from Will Rogers to W.C. Fields, checked their costumes in this mirror before hitting the stage.
I do appreciate a 2-story lobby, where you can sit below and study activity above.
Best of all, I love wandering the mezzanine level and enjoying every angle of the lobby below.
If there had been just a little lobby activity, it would have been more entertaining. I could have spied on the arriving travelers, without them noticing.
There wasn't any activity in the Ballroom either.
If I'd been 6-year-old Eloise who lived at The Plaza Hotel (in my favorite childhood book) I would have made use of all the open space. Actually Don and I have been known to sneak in a quick dance step, in empty ballrooms...
Hanging Out on the Second Floor
We were disappointed that we couldn't make use of the Riverboat Lounge during our stay. So we turned to the empty Mezzanine and let it be our own private lounge.
The railings made us feel like we were on the upper deck of a riverboat.
And the rounded windows, gave us a view!
We made drinks in our room and brought them to the comfy chairs and had a lovely time.
It was fun to see the upper portion of those grand windows, that I'd admired from outside.
We didn't get to view the Mississippi, since it was behind the hotel. But it was fun looking out at the old buildings. A few had curious murals.
The doors to the hotel's restaurant reminded me of a fancy supper club, in the 1960's.
It was 1962 when the hotel changed hands and became the modern "Julien Motor Inn". The term motor inn clearly was attempting to attract more car travelers. My family's Ford Galaxy would have been welcomed nicely in 1962!
Stained Glass and Plates
I took a peek behind those diamond doors and found a rather grand dining table with some curious features. The stained glass on the right, looked noteworthy.
Was that an air vent on the left lower wall? Such curious swirls of metal. I of course loved the illuminated display of plates!
Plate displays can be for sort of cheesy, but these were old china plates from famous hotels. I adore vintage hotel china and I recognized a few hotels that are on the Notable Night blog!
Time to Eat
After wandering a bit (and finding more china displays) and peeking at the menu, we were sold.
The large dining room only had a few guests, but the wait staff made the atmosphere warm and welcoming.
My Cobb Salad was insane! Insanely good! And look at the metal work behind me. Does that match the vent in the special dining room?
Don's Pretzel Crusted Chicken with taters and asparagus was delish. We were pleasantly surprised. Lack of diners was not a reflection of the chef!
8th Floor Room
We had asked for an upper room, in hopes of a decent view. We were happy for an elevator to help get our bags to the 8th floor.
Once again we were glad to have at least one comfy chair, for our one traveler with a bad back!
There was plenty of space and I was pleased to see real coffee mugs and real wine glasses! We've seen so many disposables, since the pandemic.
The bathroom was decent enough, but once again, the frosted glass door to leading to the bathroom annoyed me. I often rise much earlier. Poor Don had to put up with a glowing guest room, when I showered at 6.
But the space was decent enough. Who knows how guests dealt with bathing and toilet issues when this was Waples House!
Our room faced Main Street, so no view of the Mississippi. But I totally enjoyed gazing out our window, at anytime of day!
At 7:30 am, I loved seeing the morning light, glowing on the distant bluffs.
At 11 am, I could watch a little more activity on the sidewalk, along Main Street. Or check the flower boxes and rooftops!
Best of all I could zoom in, like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.
I spotted no murders, but I did zoom in and notice that some workmen were preparing to work on a steeple.
And after a long morning of walking, I was able to recognize the places we explored. I could spot the white building at the top of the fabulous railway, that took us up to the high bluff... with the best view of Dubuque!
We were happy that check out was at noon. That gave us a full morning to explore historic old Dubuque, before loading the car.
We had done zero research before our arrival. No expectations! So our morning of wandering, totally thrilled us with one surprise after another!
There was nothing over the top memorable about the historic building or our room itself. But I will always remember our "private" mezzanine and our relaxed and tasty dinner. I'll remember our view that delighted me, even if it included a parking lot and roof solar panels.
Mostly my memories will be about the connection of the hotel with the historic city. It may not be a huge tourist destination, but there was lots to see. So many curious old buildings in such a small area, between the bluffs and river! Comfy hotel, easy parking and fun wandering!
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!