Lewistown, Montana in September 2015
This odd little hotel has a curious history. In fact our whole stay at the hotel was odd and curious.
We found the recently renovated 28-room hotel tucked into a neighborhood. There were flowers to greet us and a nice awning which covered the stairs going UP to the lobby and DOWN to the bar & grill.
This is how the lobby once looked with curved archways. Before it became a hotel in 1928, it had been a dorm for high school students.
In 1917, the county built the "Fergus County Improvement Corporation Dormitory" to house students who lived in the country, too far for daily busing.
This view across from the very modest lobby desk, shows the original archway. There are still two sets of stairs leading up from the lobby, to the same second floor hall. At one time girls were housed upstairs and boys were down. Then after the building was enlarged, the boys and girls were separated on east and west sides of the second floor. Each had their own stairway. Don and I dared to use the same stairs!
I'm glad they kept many of the original details. Even the new hexagonal tile is in keeping with the period. But I didn't care for some of the framed artwork, which looked like it had been purchased at one of those "Kirklands" stores at the mall.
Our "King Spa Room" was comfortable enough, but there was an unfinished feel. The sheer curtains opened to an odd bricked in space. From the front, you can see the "new addition" built over the awnings.
I'm not sure why they added that little "porch", because there wasn't really room to sit out there and make use of the windows. There was a portable-looking steam room at one end, but it had an "out of order" sign taped on the door.
This is what our guest room might have looked like, back in the day.
Then we could have at least looked out the window from the room.
From our windows on the spa porch, we could see the elementary school across the street and a nice mountain range in the distance. All was quiet on a Saturday evening.
What was nice?
The bed and linens were actually very comfortable and the TV and bathroom were decent.
I thought maybe we would feel more at home once we went down to the lobby and chatted with the young woman at the desk. She might fill us in on the town and hotel history.
What's the History?
I tried to strike up a conversation with the girl at the desk, but she was too young to be interested... and she was new to town.
The biggest disappointment was finding out that the Onyx Bar & Grill was not open.
How could the hotel restaurant be closed on a Saturday night? We saw the sign down the street and the Onyx name on the door under the awning.
The girl at the desk had no ideas about where we could eat in town. She offered up some soup that she had cooking in a crockpot. What?
A Basement Tour
We noticed a woman with keys opening the door to the basement restaurant. She happened to be the owner and was heading down to the restaurant kitchen to cook her husband some dinner. (I kind of hoped to be invited)
She was sincerely apologetic about not having a chef anymore. She explained how impossibly hard it is to keep a good chef in such a small town. She let us go down and have a peek.The courtyard was now enclosed, with a skylight and seating. The native brick was impressive and it looked like it would be festive to sit there at night with strings of lights. Darn.
The Onyx Bar
The basement bar and grill felt comfy with the glowing onyx and sconces.
There was an old cash register and a colorful vineyard wall mural and cozy booths underneath the copper ceiling. What a sad waste.
Even without the onyx bar, it would have been a a fun atmosphere...with the old southwestern decor. So we sighed at what we couldn't enjoy and then felt incredibly lucky when another man came to check in. He had once lived in Lewistown and he recommended the only place he thought might be open... The Wagon Wheel Drive In.
Our "wagon wheel" burgers and tots went well with our wine and beer, back in the room.
Oh my. It was delicious.
Our room was clean and comfy enough, but there was something missing. The hotel was lacking guests and warmth.
There was history, but no one was offering it. Usually it's the run down towns and hotels that remind me of a Twilight Zone episode. How odd that you can get that Twi-Zone feeling in a nice little hotel, in a nice little town.
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!