#55 Crescent Hotel
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs is a pretty unique town, with lots of unusual options for overnights.
The Crescent had the most bizarre history of any of them. In fact I'm pretty sure the history was more curious than any of the hotels we stayed in, on our 22-day Midwest Road Trip!
The Crescent was also the oldest and largest, of all the hotels on our journey! We're talking 22 hotels!
Way Up There
After entering town, we detoured on a narrow, scenic road that wound through some tiny neighborhoods.
We pulled over to take in the view from a pretty, little roadside gazebo. Across the valley and perched on the highest part of Carroll County, we spotted our hotel. It looked more majestic than the photos.
Balconies and Chimneys
I was glad it was a nice fall day, because rain or ice would have made the drive up to our hotel tricky.
We parked and moved towards the entrance, sort of gasping at the enormous structure. There was no way to capture the whole building in one photo. "So many chimneys and balconies!" I noted with a grin.
They do not want you to forget this hotel was built in 1886. It's written on every sign.
They also answer the phone. "1886 Crescent Hotel!"
1886 is on the website. It's sort of silly, even if it's part of their name. Then again, it helps people like me, who can never remember dates!
Of course it would help if the 6 on their sign, didn't look like a zero.
I love historic hotels, especially when they've preserved the old structure. The Crescent has some cool stuff, like an old safe and the original lobby desk.
But when we arrived, all the wonderful features were hidden behind cotton cobwebs and haunted house banners. That is so irritating. It made the place look a funhouse or a stage set. On the other hand, I don't have to waste time trying to remember that our visit was in the month of October.
I found myself questioning the massive fireplace, that divided the lobby into two sitting areas. It looked like it could have been part of Disney World's Haunted House. After some study, we determined the stonework was most likely from 1886. It was the nearby cluster of noisy tourists, that brought me back to 2015.
My photo makes the lounging space look rather peaceful and grand. But when we arrived, the sofas and chairs were taken over with very loud and colorful tourists. I'm usually pretty open and cheery with fellow travelers, but it was 19th day on the road. I was tired. So were the noisy loungers who spread their bodies and luggage and Big Slurpee cups, all over the furniture.
What's the Story?
The Crescent opened 129 years ago, as a grand Victorian resort, catering to wealthy guests year round.
But that only lasted 15 years.
The hotel was too expensive to run and had to close its doors.
It reopened in 1908 as a Women's College and lasted a little longer. Evidently, the ghosts of 3 young women still roam the hallways, since their fall (and death) from the hotel's roof.
Norman Baker is the millionaire who turned the 15 acre resort into a Hospital and Health retreat in 1937.
He called himself a doctor, although he had no medical training. His attempts to cure patients of Cancer and other illnesses, finally sent him to prison.
Eerie Stairs and Hallways
We didn't spot any ghosts when we climbed the stairs and wandered to our room, on the second floor.
We did encounter one of the 2 hotel cats. He was taking a bath and wasn't a bit impressed by us. The black woodwork and dark, orange-y walls seemed to fit into the Halloween theme quite well. Black trim and black banisters and black radiators. So many lumpy coats of shiny paint!
Black was covering our door and even the window glass in the transom, above the door. Note the round knob, in the center of our door! And the knocker below the door's number.
We were delighted to find out that Room 218 was the most haunted of all 76 guest rooms. Room 218 also happened to be right next door to ours!
Our room was quite decent, for a 127 year old hotel.
I never even hope for a king bed or flatscreen in an old hotel. But there were some odd renovations going on, with exposed brick and beams. Again, it felt like a not quite finished, stage set.
I haven't gotten quite old enough to be bothered by levels. In fact I really liked the idea that part of the bathroom, was down a few steps. The toilet was behind a door (with frosted glass windows) on the upper level.
So in the night, I paid a call and avoided the light switch, which might wake sleeping Don. When I stepped down to the lower level, to find the sink in the dark... I forgot there were 3 steps, not 2. I took a tumble and suddenly became that old woman who complains about levels.
The entrance to the veranda, was from the lower bathroom.
It was a charming idea to bathe while enjoying the view through the pulled back velvet curtains. But we actually shared the veranda and you couldn't be too sure when someone might wander down our way.
We had no complaints about the view! I wonder how many rockers they have, for the 76 rooms that are still in use.
At one time, the hotel had horse stables on the property. There were 100 horses available for those who liked to ride! I can't even imagine.
And Another View
On the upper level, we found the Sky Bar & Gourmet Pizza Cafe. It's hard to find a better view, for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening.
The distant view of The Ozarks was lovely, with just a hint of fall color.
We also had a little blue and green directly below, with the pool and gardens.
After returning from dinner in town, Don and I made good use of the empty veranda.
A storm was moving in and gave us a little light show. I failed to capture any of the sky drama, with my camera.
But I did remember to pull out the Ouija pointer, that I'd stuck in my suitcase 20 days earlier. (Just 1 of the many props needed on our road trip)
I didn't have the board, but I made a Yes/No version, with paper. Then, we asked Ouija, if our room was haunted.
Don doesn't have the delicate touch that I learned, from years of slumber parties. I had to lecture him to ease up... so I could secretly move the pointer towards yes.
In the morning, we enjoyed a complimentary buffet breakfast in the Crystal Ballroom, with a view of the drizzly garden.
The piano was playing on its own, so I'd like to assume that was one of the hotel's well known ghost guests. We sipped our coffee and discussed our luck at staying at one of the most haunted hotels in America... on a night with a thunderstorm! Too bad the storm hadn't been loud enough, to drown out the partiers in the hallway. Or maybe they were ghostly guests?
I was impressed by the grand scale of this place. I believe every inch of the old hotel, deserves to be preserved. But, there was something that made me sort of made me sad, staying at the Crescent.
It reminded me that you can never really bring back the old. It's just too costly to do it properly. I wish I could just go back in time, to 1903. I'd pack up an old steamer trunk and pay a proper visit! That would be the way to experience The Crescent!
#54 Sheepherder's Wagon
Crystal Creek Ranch in Missouri Ozarks
When I stumbled across this ranch on the internet while trip planning, I became intensely giddy!
Spending a night in a sheepherder's wagon could possibly be the most unusual of all Notable Night accommodations! I couldn't relax until I reached someone on the phone and had reservations in place!
Built for Real Sheepherders!
This was not a playhouse on wheels. This was mad (then modified) by an actual shepherd. We were happy that our cozy home for the night had electricity, so we could use the small air conditioner and refrigerator.
But we had to hike up the dirt road for running water and restroom. No problem, since we're used to that in campgrounds.
There were even sheep grazing on the hillside!
And Real Farm Critters!
We checked in with our gracious host, Bill, who told us we would be the only guests on the ranch that evening.
I'm not sure where he and his wife live, but he gave us a good welcoming before he headed home in his truck. But we weren't alone. There were 3 precious kitties, at least one llama and one cow. There were horses and a peacock, some guinea hens, chickens and about a million ducks who all went into a quacking and clucking frenzy at about 6:00. (I think Bill came back to feed them)
I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. This is one of the prettiest parts of Missouri and we were hitting it on a balmy October afternoon.
Bill told us to feel free to explore since there were no other guests. We went up to enjoy a spectacular view from a hilltop cottage and we sat on the porch of a lakeside cabin.
And we fished! We had heard before starting our 22-day road trip, that the ranch had a fishing lake.
Don was prepared, with a rod and some tackle. He caught a few bass and blue gill in a matter of minutes.
I however wanted to fish the way I remembered fishing as a kid, so I used a bamboo stick and bread for bait. I did manage to catch a couple!
It got dark before we could use the canoe or rowboat that was available.
But we were excited to use the fire pit, even though a light drizzle started up after sundown. The clouds made the night sky even darker and the nighttime sounds even eerier.
While a soft rain hit the canvas cover of our wagon, we had a light dinner of cheese, crackers, nuts and vino in paper cups. Since we had no neighbors to annoy, we brought out the ukuleles, That seemed like a pretty good instrument for a sheepherder.
We played some Yahtzee and then I read some exciting bits from some of the books on the shelf. I particularly loved the illustrations in Sheepherder Family! What a hoot!
We woke to a damp morning and 3 kitties, sitting on our wooden step.
I grabbed my toothbrush and soap and headed towards the building to wash up. The kitties hurried in front and led the way.
The cats were pretty amused by the puddle.
One stopped on the fence post, encouraging me to notice the windmill and a garden with cornstalks and pumpkins.
Don joined me after a bit and we played a game of ping pong before packing up.
So many things we didn't have time for, like tether ball and archery and studying the huge collection of work and farm tools. Next time!
We had a fun chat with Bill and Steve (who works for Bill) on the office porch before heading off.
Bill got quite a chuckle out of the idea of our road trip. Steve made sure to have the kitty wave good-bye since he knew I'd gotten quite attached.
A ranch to ourselves! I will never forget that feeling... like we owned the whole place. We had been given a warm welcome and then we were peacefully left alone to enjoy.
I imagine the ranch in July is swarming like a summer camp and that would be a whole different kind of fun. But what a treat to hear nothing but wind and a few birds and rain! Ahhhhh!
#53 Wagon Wheel Motel
Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri
It was early evening by the time Don and I reached this gem! An 80 year old tourist court!
There were quite a few checking into the motel, which has become pretty popular with folks traveling old Route 66. We lucked out and seemed to be sharing the experience with some low key travelers. Places like this often attract a lot of cycle groups... who might be low key people... with noisy motorcycles.
Yet Another Sign
There was another sign at the other end of the drive. Gotta love those wagon wheels!
Sign with a Vine
The old office sign was held by a pole, decorated with a crawling vine.
I just loved the whole setting of motel cottages, sitting on a big green lawn!
Cut Rock Buildings
There might be a rusty old car parked nearby, but this ain't no rundown motel. Look at the pumpkins and potted plants! The place was bought and renovated about 15 years ago and all seemed well maintained.
Pumps and Gifts
They still have a couple pumps outside, since there used to be a gas station. The office, where we checked in was once a restaurant. I would have loved to have had breakfast in the morning next to the fireplace.
Now, a gift shop shares the space, with lots of Route 66 merchandise and dazzling purses and such. Not my thing, but I'm just glad the place is here!
The Cutest Cottage
This cottage was the cutest one, with arched entrances and some pretty awesome lawn art!
Stone with White Trim!
There's just something incredibly cozy and nostalgic about these little buildings.
Evidently the structures were made in 1935, with the help of local farmers who transported the Ozark stone in their trucks. Originally there were some garages and car shelters, but they were converted into extra rooms.
Our door was pretty adorable with glass windowpanes and the original doorknob.
We put our green chairs to good use and had a nice chat with a fellow guest who took our photo. She and her husband were traveling from Chicago all the way to LA on Rt 66. She was exhausted on day 1 of their journey!
A Bit Odd
There was a little black and white "soda fountain" thing going on in our room.
I would have preferred a room that was decorated the way a motor court would have been, 75 years ago. But I'm not complaining. The place was clean and reasonably priced at $68.
Our soda fountain table had a coffee maker, which certainly wouldn't have been happening in the 1940's. We wouldn't have had a flat screen TV either. But we would have been warmed by that awesome radiator and we would have turned a glass doorknob to open the bathroom door!
We didn't spend much time in the room since the weather was nice. Our chairs on the lawn had a view of the Cuba water tower and the deck addition on the back of the office.
There were actually a number of areas to lounge under shady trees. And we were able to just get up and walk next door to "Missouri Hick" for BBQ. Very convenient and tasty enough!
It's not surprising that we had a full moon during our 22-night road trip. Too bad we wasted a full moon at this little motel, since at least 7 of our previous nights had been at historic hotels, known for being haunted.
However, the convenience of a motel with no elevators, meant we could stagger out of bed at 5:45 am and view the eclipse in the sky... free of city light pollution!
I'm going to try to forget that we woke to a foul smell in the morning. Connie, the owner was very apologetic and it was determined there was probably a dead critter involved... and a crawl space.
I probably should have just left that out. But really, my memories will be about the neon sign and the pretty stone cottages and the peaceful evening! Those are all good things!
#52 Hotel Savoy in Kansas City
Odd and Eerie
It was oddly peaceful for being downtown in a city, on a weekday at rush hour.
The Hotel Savoy is a well known Kansas City landmark, so I expected more tourist traffic around this 126 year old hotel.
The Hotel Savoy opened as a luxury hotel in 1888, so I imagined somewhat of a spotlight on this grand building.
We wandered to find the entrance, then walked through the brass doors into a dimly lit hall, that felt more like the entry to an apartment building than a hotel.
The retro tiled floors took us past an old slotted box, directly below a broken clock, held up by two angels.
Found the Doors
Towards the end of the hall we found doors that brought us into a large 2-level space.
Pale light lit up cloth covered cafe tables beside a wall of Art Deco stained glass.
Up a Step
The upper level of what had once been the spacious elegant lobby, held the desk and a few lounging chairs beneath a stained glass dome.
A ponytailed man working behind the desk, looked more like a professor than a hotel clerk. He continued to play the role of intimidating teacher as he checked us in and gave us our key and assignment.
The assignment was to review the breakfast menu, check off our choices for dishes, fill in the time we would be arriving for breakfast and return the completed form before 10 pm.
The "professor" suddenly became less intimidating when he gave us a hint about how to fill out our test, "Well, usually people pick about 4 items each!" We loved this insane news! These food options were a little more exciting than choosing between oatmeal or eggs!
As Don finished getting us checked in, I started absorbing details.
The glowing dome above us seemed pretty spectacular. It seemed odd that we were the only guests standing underneath. Where was everyone?
The patterns of the tiled floors made me want to get down on my knees like a little kid and touch! It was like looking at snake skin, all shiny and hypnotic!
We stepped back through the lobby doors and found the elevator. We debated for a moment whether we trusted the old thing, but our bags were heavy.
The elevator rumbled us to the 4th floor without any mishaps. Although we chose the very impressive marble stairs for all other trips.
The doors opened and we looked left down a hall with newer carpet and light fixtures. However, our "Victorian Suite", 402 was to the right... down a darker hall.
A Bit Drab
My camera flash made our hallway look much cheerier than it seemed. We were clearly in an area that made no attempts to impress.
The door beside ours had a name plate on it, hinting that there was a long term resident as our neighbor... which would have been fine at The Plaza in NYC. Our door looked more like an old office door with a wood panel, filling in what might have once been glass. I liked the fact we had a real key.
A Sweet Old Suite
We chuckled as we entered our spacious suite. It was hard to figure when the updates had occurred since 1888.
The black sofa (at a jaunty angle) and a few other pieces of furniture welcomed us with the lived in look of a student apartment. The cloth covered table with its coffee maker and cups and saucers, felt like a gracious old folks home.
But honestly, we were delighted with our funny hotel room. The price was just around 100 dollars, which is pretty darn good for experiencing an iconic hotel and getting a humongous breakfast feast.
I would rather find lacy curtains, metal venetian blinds, a.c. window units and Grandma's quilt in my hotel room, than Marriott decor when I'm trying to enjoy the past.
1880's Meets 1980's
The bathroom amused me with the mixture of old and new. I'm guessing the old tub and sink and honeycomb tile were all original.
The wallpaper and mirror made me think 1980's, which is when the hotel became a "Bed and Breakfast". And not far from the sink was small table with starched white cloth to hold all the junk I lug from hotel to hotel. How cute and retro is that?
A View and Some Phones
When I parted the bent metal blinds, I could see the parking lot (which offered free parking) and the flat horizon beyond some smoke stacks. I've seen worse views.
And when I explored a little more, I found myself quite intrigued by all the doors and phones in our suite. I counted 6 doors and 3 phones. And a coat rack. Gotta love a hotel room with a coat rack!
The Savoy Grill
If we had been hotel guests when the Grill first opened in 1903, Don would have dined alone. No women were allowed at that time. But the Grill wised up and women have been enjoying the restaurant ever since. It is the longest continuously operating restaurant in Kansas City.
You can enter through revolving doors from the street or follow the "Snake Floor" from the lobby towards a beastly buffalo head mounted on the hall wall. Simply look in the direction of the buffalo's gaze and enter the double doors to the Grill.
The dark and cozy space was jammed with tables, set with pink and white china and water carafes.
Some of the cozy booths were decorated with Western murals, painted by Edward Holslag for The Grill's opening in 1903.
And Stained Glass
Other booths had the soft glow of light from stained glass windows. Harry and Bess Truman had a favorite booth at the Savoy. I'm not sure if this was it, but it would have been a nice one.
A different Harry visited the Savoy long ago. When Houdini was here, someone played a joke and locked him in a phone booth.
Don and I needed to experience the cozy oak bar before disappearing into our booth. We had martinis in curious, vintage glasses and spoke with a number of chatty wait staff wearing white jackets and bow ties.
Most had been working at the hotel for decades. Our young bartender was the newest, but his parents and grandfather had all worked at the Grill before him.
We slept well despite a number of train whistles in the night. (You just have to learn to love train sounds if you want to enjoy old hotels!)
At 8:30 we headed down to the breakfast parlor, which was once the barber shop.
Breakfast was ridiculous!
Or rather, we looked ridiculously greedy, since we had ordered 8 dishes! We were barely seated when coffee, juice and sweet rolls appeared.
Then, without laughing or rolling his eyes, our white jacketed server began appearing every few minutes with a new dish. Lobster Bisque, Kippers with Scrambled Eggs, Eggs Benedict, Lamb with Sautéed Artichokes, Baked Oyster Rockefeller, Corn Beef Hash, Scallopine Veal Marsals and finally, Smoked Salmon with Caviar!
It is almost not safe to eat that amount before hitting the road... but we had a lot of caffeine!
I will always remember The Savoy as being an odd mixture of worn and classy. The stained glass, old dishes, the tile floors and the even the food felt classy and elegant. I didn't mind seeing the peeling paint or even the yawning staff. I was just glad The Savoy still existed. I was especially delighted that we enjoyed out oddball Savoy Stay, when I later learned that the hotel closed its doors a couple weeks after our visit.
A kitchen fire was the reason. Luckily the hotel has been bought and will be gutted and refurbished and once again enjoyed. But I'm glad we saw it before a classy restoration. I'm sure it will be lovely and I'm glad it will be saved, but I feel lucky to have memories of our eerie, weary stay at the Savoy.
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!