#81 Hotel El Capitan
Van Horn, Texas
This is yet another example of a Henry Trost designed, Texas hotel.
I love the style of El Capitan... and I kind of love the name, too.
Where is Van Horn?
The hotel with its fine neon roof sign, sits at 100 West Broadway, two blocks off I-10... somewhere between Big Bend National Park and Carlsbad Caverns.
We saw a lot of signs to help guide us to important places, which was good, since there didn't seem to be a person in sight who might have pointed for us.
It's been 3 years since Don and I stayed, but I figured I should write this up since I just finished sharing about Hotel El Paisano in Marfa, TX. They were both designed by Trost and opened in 1930.
I usually dislike the lack of surprises in today's chain hotels, but comparing these similar buildings from 85 years ago, is fun. Both are U-shaped structures built around courtyards. Both have glazed tile, stuffed creatures and lots of leather and wood.
It was fun wandering the lobby for hints of the past. Where do you find an awesome tiled water fountain toady?
I loved knowing my grandmother would have been charged only a couple dollars if she had stopped here when she was a young woman. Evidently there are many more treasures... like passages and secret rooms.
Our Corner Room
There are less than 50 rooms and the deluxe ones open onto the courtyard.
But Don and I (as usual) were passing through and going for the cheap. Our tiny upstairs, corner room was "right sweet" as my grandmother would have said.
Shiny Clean Bathroom
And the bathroom was spotless. That's because all new bathrooms were installed in 2007. The old bathrooms had been removed when the hotel became a bank in the seventies.
That worked for us since we got a nice vintage-look without the cracks and creaks and dingy stuff that often comes along with things called "Historic". Plus, they used great hexagon tile on the floor to once again cause me to remember my grandmother... and her bathroom!
Room with a View!
Those higher dollar rooms might have had terrace views of the fountain in the courtyard, but lookey here! We had a view of Broadway, (Which seems to be broader than needed) and a dusty truck...
... and would that be a peek of the Guadalupe Mountains behind the low buildings?
What's Happening in Van Horn?
I love a hotel where you can get out and explore on foot. Well... we had hoped to find a good cafe for dinner, or a quaint shop. But mostly there were quiet storefronts and a couple water towers.
It's our own fault that we chose to ignore the hand made invites taped to numerous poles and walls. I can't believe we passed up the opportunity to "Get down with the groove" and to "Party and Dance" at the Van Horn Community Center. Shame on us.
Another Fine Courtyard
We were lazy. we went back and enjoyed the courtyard before dinner.
It was May and the weather was quite decent. There were fewer people watching opportunities than at El Paisano. In fact we were the only folks enjoying the patio.
We did find some good food in the dining room. A few were sitting at "The Gopher Bar" which used to be in the basement. The bank vault from "bank days" had become the wine cellar.
My Pistachio Fried Steak with Jalepeno Gravy (mashed taters & asparagus) was as rich and tangy as I had hoped for! And our waitress had some pretty interesting stories about life in a town of 2,000 when your husband is a border patrol agent.
Fellow Guests at Breakfast
The dining room had a different vibe in the morning, with no white cloths and a serve yourself breakfast.
The biggest addition to the room was a table of cowboy hats. I couldn't hear their conversation, but their positive tone and body language made me want to pull up a chair!
Poet and Wife
As we loaded the car before heading off, we got to talk with one of the fellas with hat and beard. He and his wife and friends had just attended a Cowboy Poetry Fesitval, which we had evidently missed the night before.
Shame on us twice! We missed the Community Center Dance AND the Poetry Festival. We stood and talked for at least 20 minutes and were pretty much convinced to attend next year. Well, we would have...had it been closer!
What is Notable?
Unlike Paisano, this building has the smooth adobe look of the real southwest! There is something about this fabulous, balanced structure, sit-in non this wide road in the middle of sort-of-nowhere!
The isolation of this gem of a hotel is what makes it special to me. I wish we'd stayed longer to get a feel for the travelers who come through. That could be just as interesting!
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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!