Fort Benton, Montana
Old Town, Old Hotel
The hotel was built during the grand steamboat era, on the Upper Missouri River. Fort Benton was at the height of prosperity at that time. There were no private baths, but each room had its own coal burning stove for heat. But the town suffered once the railroad was completed. Then there was prohibition and the Depression and drought... the hotel suffered as well.
Saved Many Times
The Grand Union was sold, abandoned and refurbished many times in its 130+ years. The hotel looks pretty fine now, after its elegant restoration in 1999.
The view before entering was impressive. The old fireplace chimneys are gone, but the lovely brickwork remains.
You can tell a lot about a place, just by your check in. The desk staff was surprisingly professional for being in a small town, (1,500 or so) kind of in the middle of nowhere.
The lobby felt sleek and classy. It wasn't until we climbed those stairs that we really felt the age of the place.
After reaching the second floor, we wandered some more to find another set of stairs. Then we found the rounded hall that lead to our room, #303. That hall was built with a curve, but there were quite a number of curves, slants, bumps and lumps in the walls and floors that I'm sure came with age. I felt a little woozy as I walked on some of those uneven floors.
Our Little Brown Bathroom
The room was a little on the cozy side, but at least we had our own bathroom. Back in 1899 when the hotel got electricity for the first time, there was 1 Men's room and 1 Women's room on each floor. I was pretty delighted with our tan tile, brown woodwork and porcelain doorknob!
Missouri River View
The view out our window was the treat. The other side of the building looked across Front Street, with a view of some rather run down bars and storefronts. I am confused that Forbes mentioned Fort Benton in their list of 15 Prettiest Towns in America. Besides the river and the hotel, I didn't see much pretty in Fort Benton.
Dining and Wining
I took these photos of the Union Pub and Grill before 5:00. Things started to get pretty lively by the time we came down an hour later. By then, the cozy booths and river-view tables were beginning to fill with hotel guests. Don and I made dinner reservations and took a seat at the old bar where our delightful, young bartender served us, until he became our waiter... later.
We were impressed with the sweet and spicy, Fire Cracker Glazed Shrimp. We tried to make the scallop, served on a bed of lentils last... but it disappeared quick. How is it possible to get such a sophisticated chef in a tiny town like this?
Window at Night and Morning
There was still a glow on the river when we were first seated for dinner. It wasn't until morning when they set out a buffet of breakfast treats, that we got a good view of the patio and river. We were equally impressed by the window itself! You have to study the windowsill for a moment to enjoy the amazing slant that's going on!
I will always remember this hotel stay as a little oasis on our month-long road trip. The Grand Union, on its riverside property was picture perfect. Even the guests and staff seemed sort of special, as if they all had intriguing stories to tell. The whole stay felt classy and relaxed.
I so hope the little town can get a boost of some kind to keep the hotel out of danger. I hate the thought of those tall windows ever getting boarded up again.
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!