Quick Visit to Astoria
Don and I decided to add a night in Astoria, on our Oregon trip. We liked the retro look of the 5-story, craftsman-style Elliott, but the price and location was good too.
We could book a room for $149, conveniently located in the heart of downtown. Actually $169. for a weekend night.
We were excited to stay in the old port city of Astoria. The town is known for being the oldest settlement west of the Rockies. Astoria was already 113 years old, when Hotel Elliott was built.
Luckily they used strong building materials in 1924. Two years before Hotel Elliott opened, the Astoria Fire of 1922 destroyed 30 blocks of mostly wood constructed buildings. I don't know what stood on this block before.
There were no Model Ts, when we arrived around 5. But the entrance canopy and neon letters, looked inviting. I'm not sure when that feature was added.
I liked the odd narrow door, next to the one with the "HE" logo. I'm sure the slim door just allowed for a wider opening. But, it was more fun to imagine the skinny door being used by thin children!
"Grid of Vault Tiles"
These little girls might have fit through the skinny door just fine. They are pictured here, standing outside Hotel Elliott, in the 1940's. The curious thing about this photo, is the thing that the girls are standing on. The photo I took of the entrance, shows the same grid of glass tiles, built into the sidewalk. We spotted many of these in Astoria and they actually had a purpose.
When created years ago, the glass tiles allowed sunlight into the underground basement areas. Clever! In the photo with the girls, the grid looks smooth and sturdy. My closeup photo, shows crumbled and missing glass. The city is working on preserving these grids.
Like many historic hotels, the Elliott had a dark period. For some time, the hotel was used as a flop house. That was before it was rescued and given a 4-million dollar makeover, two decades ago.
I assumed the "Wonderful Beds" slogan was a fun gimmick, added for the reopening in 2003. But when I saw those words embedded into marble floor of the elevator, I realized that must have been the hotel's claim from the very beginning.
A Swift Check In
The lobby was quiet and tidy when we arrived around 5. I didn't really need a livelier vibe, but our quick and efficient check in, didn't seem to open up to casual banter. I should have just been brave and chatty... "I see a brass spittoon on the floor! When was that last used?" Or I could have asked, "Do tell me, what is so wonderful about the beds?"
But I didn't have the energy to come up with questions and those particular questions wouldn't not have gone over well! I was actually just ready to see our room. We'd had some snowy road closures, that doubled our long drive that day. We got our key and headed for the elevator.
Across from the stairs and elevator, there was a comfy leather couch. Moments before, a woman had been sitting there reading. Suddenly she was gone. Should I grab it? It looked very cozy next to the gas fire.
Or should we stop and play chess, before someone else thinks that's a good idea? I waste a lot of energy, questioning how best to enjoy our hotel adventures!
Instead of sitting down, we just lingered long enough to study the framed photo over the mantel. It showed the lobby from years ago. The counter and spittoon looked just the same!
The photo also showed a deer head and a clock and wood cabinet for holding keys and mail. The black and white image also showed a wall, where the opening to the wine bar & breakfast room is today.
Halls & Walls
The old elevator was a little slow reaching us and a little slow delivering us to floor 3. We were glad for the handy stairs on other trips up and down. I like a set of stairs that isn't enclosed in a dark hall. It gave us lots of peeks at the other halls, when we climbed the stairs.
The halls weren't terribly exciting, but I new one of the floors had the Presidential Suite. I wish I could have peeked the grand suite, to see the baby grand piano and spiral staircase!
Our room 308 was at the end of the hall. I was glad to see that renovations hadn't removed the old transoms above the doors.
I liked the Art Deco designs, on the lower part of the wall. New or old?
Queen Guest Room
There was nothing fancy about our Queen Room. It was the cheapest room available. But I will say the bed and bedding was actually Wonderful!
I appreciated having two windows, but wished we had a view of the Columbia River... instead of a parking lot.
Fishing and Canning
On the wall opposite the windows, we had a fun display vintage photos. The black and white images gave a little peek into what Astoria was all about, more than a century ago.
There are no more canneries today, but there were close to 40 around in the 1800s. Salmon was the fish that initially made Astoria rich, but that's a mighty fine "man-sized" halibut, in the photo!
Our room wasn't huge or ritzy, but it had all we needed. We made use of the fridge and microwave. The TV and coffee maker were nice to have. I do appreciate a ceiling fan!
The bathroom had a tub and soft towels AND heated floors. I was happy with that, since the weather was chilly.
In the Neighborhood
We'd planned on arriving much earlier and exploring the city. There was little time for that by the time we got checked in. But there was quite a bit to see, just on our street.
The beautiful Liberty Theatre was just steps away. It opened as a Vaudeville House in 1925. Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington performed there. On the evening of our stay, there was a "Fisher Poets Gathering" at the theatre. The notice near the door explained... A celebration of the fishing industry in poetry, prose and song. I regret that we didn't go for that. When else will we have that opportunity?
But we were hungry. We hadn't eaten porte than a car snack, since breakfast. Plus there was something very tempting, directly across the street! T Paul's Supper Club definitely made our stay at the Elliott more memorable.
We didn't actually sit at the table under the tiki hut, but we could have. We arrived just in time for a very fun "Snappy Hour" with fabulous appetizers and drinks! Cheers for a warm and welcoming Supper Club experience!
Wine or Coffee?
We had hoped to have a glass of wine at our hotel's Wine Bar, when we returned. It was a Friday and they were supposed to serve until 9. Sadly the bar was empty. It probably was open, but didn't have customers. What a shame. Where was everyone?
Instead we enjoyed the same space in the morning, with coffee and o.j. Again, the place seemed to be unusually quiet.
We helped ourselves to coffee and some complimentary hot & cold breakfast options.
Don and I took a seat at a nice window table. We talked quietly about our plans for getting back early to Portland. Our kids had been snowed in and we could stop for groceries... we practically whispered, but I felt like our voices were obnoxiously loud, in the quiet room.
Some other couples had arrived, but everyone stared at newspapers and no one spoke. The man that tried to clear our table (before we were done) didn't even speak. It seemed like Don and I were the only non-sleepy people in the room. I was rested and sort of craving a chatty people encounter at the Elliott.
After we finished up, I took a couple photos and wondered about some of the interesting light fixtures. Were some original? I didn't ask the quiet staff.
I really liked this sunburst mirror. But when I snapped the photo, a nearby couple looked annoyed. Was everyone in the hotel grumpy?
I was in the elevator when I finally spoke with an employee who seemed enthused about the hotel. She was was just what I needed. She invited me to look and the finished basement with the pool table and exposed brick. It was a pretty cute space!
I was so busy looking at the pool table I forgot to look up to see the grids. I should have asked her! I think she would have loved to have shared some info.
Then she told me to be sure to see the Rooftop Deck & Garden. It had been locked the evening before, due to icy weather, but she had just opened it.
I headed up! The first thing I spotted when I opened the door, was the Astoria-Megler Bridge! There was a 360 degree view, but my eyes were drawn to the 21,474 foot bridge, connecting Oregon and Washington, over the Columbia River!
The air was cold, but the skies were blue. I so wished we weren't feeling rushed. There was a gas fire pit and we could have grabbed our coats and coffee and enjoyed the morning view.
A Quick Cold Walk
Instead of sitting in the cold wind on the roof, we decided to head off. towards the equally windy waterfront. We walked past Shanghaied Tattoo, where NO BOOZE, BREW, DRUGS... ANIMALS, WHINERS or PROBLEMS are allowed.
We only had about 30 minutes to explore before hitting the road. We headed towards the Columbia River and wandered down the worn wood plank walkway.
Quick Views of Astoria
We walked past a fun mural painted, on an old building. It helped me imagine the people living and working here years ago. We looked out over the river, where we could see the wood pilings, that once held the canneries.
5,000 ships still travel the Columbia River yearly, but no canneries remain open today.
We headed back to the hotel, passing the Liberty Theatre. We'll check it out next time.
We vowed to come back another time and tour the historic Flavel House, or at least walk up in the hills where there are about 300 Victorian houses still standing! The town reminds me of a miniature San Francisco!
We stayed in a nicely renovated, reasonably priced hotel in a wonderfully historic port city.
We clearly did not make full use of the hotel or the curious city! I wish we'd spoken to some more people or we'd made better use of the roof or explored the basement some more. I wish we'd sat by the fire or given the wine bar a try. I'm sure during the warmer months the stay would feel very different, with more energy and maybe more enthused travelers. Maybe we'll try it another time!
This charming Queen Anne-style duplex has been sitting high above the Oregon coast, for nearly 130 years.
The picket fence and porch looked welcoming when Don and I arrived, last February. The "Closed to Public" sign did not, but it made me grin.... Yay! We have reservations for a night!
It was snowing when we pulled up at 3:30. We were lucky to have made it out of Portland that morning. They'd had their second biggest snowfall in history.
There was just a dusting on the coast, but the sight of the lighthouse on the hill looked extra dramatic.
Don and I were eager to finally see inside the Keeper's House. We were introduced to Heceta Lighthouse decades ago, by my sister and sister in law, who live 2 hours away. I remember pulling off the highway to take a photo, before we got close. The lighthouse and keeper's house seemed so far apart.
Our kids were all young when we visited that summer and spent a day at the beach. The cousins played in the sand near the Cape Creek Bridge. I think Scott is looking towards the lighthouse in this photo.
2023 Visit with Kate & Jennifer
It's been 27 years. The kids are grown and we parents are now grandparents. In February, we 4 had a different kind of lighthouse adventure. Kate, Jennifer, Don and I spent a night in the Keeper's House!
This is the only photo of the four of us, enjoying our less than 24 hour visit. We pretty much never stopped smiling, during our whole stay. And I never stopped taking photos. So, I'm indulging in way more "photo dumping" than usual. Smaller photos can be clicked to enlarge.
Less than two years ago Don and I traveled the Oregon coast and snapped scenic photos. Far away... then closer...
When we stopped near the beach, the red-roofed house was easy to spot, against the green backdrop. We stopped at the beach on this visit, also. My snowy image looks colorless.
First to Arrive
After a beautiful (but often tricky) day of driving, we arrived and parked behind the house. I tried the buzzer at the side door, but there was no answer.
I walked towards the front and looked out over the lawn, where the Head Keeper's house once stood.
I climbed the porch and tried both doors. This had once been a duplex for 2 assistant keepers and their families.
Eventually Brooke heard the buzzer and rushed to let us in. She apologized that she'd been in the basement. Brooke welcomed us into the warm kitchen and let us know that the fridge and dishes and stove were all available to us.
She took us through the dining area, where breakfast would be served. The long table stretched through a wall opening, that wasn't there when the house was used by two families.
Music in the House
As we followed Brooke to the back staircase, I glanced into the 2 parlors, filled with antiques and old photographs. The beautiful burled upright piano was covered in frames.
The shelves on the pump organ held toys and treasures. It looked so much like the antique organ that my sister and I grew up with. (Scary Halloween music was my specialty!) I thought about the families who lived here and how music would have helped with the isolation they must have felt.
Up the Stairs
The divided home had 2 sets of stairs, each leading to 3 guest rooms.
I paused halfway up, to look through the window, with its frame of colorful glass. I spotted Cape Creek Bridge.
It's been less than 2 years ago since Don and I stopped and studied the classic arch bridge. It's been carrying cars over Cape Creek, since 1932.
There was no Route 101 back when the lighthouse and keeper's houses were built. They had to wait over 3 decades for good road access.
Mariner's Room II
Brooke showed us to our room at the top of the stairs. Months before, I had studied the website, trying to choose the best of the 6 rooms. Did we want a view of the lighthouse to the north, or a more dramatic view of ocean?
We usually go for the cheapest, but we paid more to have one of the two rooms, facing south over the ocean. The view was stunning and the room was cozy with fresh flowers and our very own ship's wheel!
We also had the luxury of an attached bathroom. It was small, but only 2 of the guest rooms have connected bathrooms.
Jennifer and Kate chose the Lightkeeper's Room. They had a view of the lighthouse and an impressive tub. They had to step into the hall to reach it, but it was for their own use. Some rooms share a bath.
The View 129 Years Ago
As I enjoyed the blustery ocean scene, I wondered who might have studied this view, in 1884. That was the year they began building the houses.
Before U.S. Highway 101 was built, the families living in this house must have felt so cut off from the world. I hope at least the families who lived here, got along.
For decades, there was only a single lane road and many supplies came by boat. I imagine the lighthouse kids were extra excited when they spotted a boat out on the horizon!
In the Parlor
Around 4, Don and I headed downstairs to check out the parlors, while we waited for Jennifer and Kate. The parlor beneath our room had more seating, so we settled in and read some scrapbooks.
There were fireplaces in both parlors and we were invited to use them. I love a fireplace, even if it's burning pressed logs!
Wine & Cheese Hour
By 4:30, Jennifer and Kate had arrived and we were settled in with a complimentary Happy Hour.
Brooke served us wine and 2 plates of meat, cheese and fruit. Music played softly in the background. Perfect.
There wasn't much hope of a sunset with all the clouds, but we headed out just before 6 to enjoy some sky drama. Looking south, there was steam rising above the bridge. The trees looked frosty above.
We bundled up and and headed on the pathway towards the glowing light.
Dusk at the Lighthouse
On a summer night, we would have grabbed the flashlights in our rooms and visited the lighthouse after dark. But our visit at dusk was ideal, on a winter night.
It was amazing to see the glowing Fresnel lens, with no one else around but us. The sky grew darker and we headed up a path, that took us above the lighthouse.
The beam of light was hypnotic as I watched it shine on the ocean, then the trees...then our faces!
As we wandered back down towards the house, the mix of snow and light became more entertaining.
The snow made the moving light sparkle! How could we have been so lucky, to have a snowy lighthouse adventure?
It was hard to leave that magical place. I was almost ready to get our food and drink and have an icy picnic. But the glowing house looked so inviting.
Seeing the house across the "yard" it was fun to imagine earlier days, when there were 2 houses and maybe 3 families. Did the families celebrate holidays together or separately? Did the kids have schoolwork and chores?
We returned to the illuminated porch. I could see our lit window on the right. Who slept in that room once?
It felt good to get inside the warm house. We headed to the fridge to pull out our champagne and feasting foods! We toasted and ate and gabbed, until we heard the sound of some late arrivals. We no longer had the house to ourselves, but the couple seemed nice. They declined our offer of wine before heading upstairs.
We settled back into the comfy, green room. Jennifer and I eventually headed up (different staircases) to change into our jammies and robes. Extra comfy for game playing! Cards Against Humanity got sillier, the longer we played. We had to whisper and laugh silently, after 10 pm. That's very hard for certain sisters.
We left the curtains wide open to wake us. I peeked out at 6:42 to see this beautiful scene.
The water was a little calmer and I saw a light on the horizon. I imagined a boat bringing food and supplies...
Clear and Cold
An hour and a half later, the window was still icy, but the sun looked warm.
I opened the window and stuck my head out over the red roof. I could see the bridge to the south and the flagpole to the north. The lighthouse was just a pinch out of view.
At 8:30 we gathered at the long lace-covered table, set for 6, with fresh flowers.
We settled in with our coffee and got to know the very nice couple that had arrived late. I didn't ask if they'd heard our muffled laughter the night before.
Barbara was our server for the 7-course breakfast. We began with fresh fruit and cranberry bread.
The portions and pace was actually perfect. Barbara never rushed, but the courses just kept coming. Frozen mango Lassi was like dessert! The small crab cake with capers had a delicious sauce. Then there was an egg soufflé with sausage, followed by a sort of angel food cake with berries! Did I leave something out?
At one point I looked out the window behind me and saw Chef Arianna, snipping something from the snow covered garden. Minutes later, she delivered the last course, of fruit and cheese. She laughed that we'd seen her getting some fennel.
During our 1.5 hours at the table, the grandfather clock must have chimed 6 times. We shared lots of stories with our table-mates. Jennifer shared that she'd actually stayed in the Keeper's House 30+ years ago. She was attending a writer's workshop and guests slept in bunkbeds, not lovely guest rooms.
Tony told about the eruption of Mount St. Helen's. He'd viewed the skies from his office window, in Portland. As we shared and talked, I saw the blue skies out the window. I wanted time to slow down. I hated that we had to leave soon.
My best hotel memories involve great porches! I was eager to get outside and enjoy at least a moment of that wraparound porch. On my way out, I passed a photo of 3 men, sitting on the same porch. During WWII, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol guarded the beaches and lived in bunkers on the property.
Jennifer and Kate had wisely packed binoculars. They actually spotted a whale before I got out there!
The Keeper's House had lots of porch blankets available for guests. I made use for a short time, then pulled myself up from the Adirondack chair and headed inside.
Brooke was back on duty at 10:30, to offer a history talk in the north parlor. After spending the night and wondering about the people who lived and worked here, it was nice to have Brooke's knowledge.
I loved seeing the 1907 photo of Keeper, Frank and his bride Jenny. The first marriage of many at Heceta.
The 30 minute talk was just perfect for our schedule. But, I still needed one more night, to hang out and study old photos and imagine the work that went on, to keep the property running. And I needed more porch time.
One More Hike Up
Don and I had a long drive ahead, but we joined Jennifer and Kate for one last dash up the hill before leaving.
The lighthouse looked completely different, on a sunny morning.
We had hoped to tour the lighthouse at 11, but it was late opening that day.
Instead, Jennifer and I hiked up once again and this time we went a little further up.
We took photos of the view... and each other. Jennifer looks much more impressive, shooting with her Nikon.
I was just happy to be alive, since I had a couple slow-motion slapstick moments, slipping on the steep muddy path. My sister had to rescue me twice, while we both laughed hysterically. I'm pretty sure the people standing below near the lighthouse, enjoyed the show.
This is my only photo from the visit, that shows both the lighthouse and the house. The Lighthouse and The Keeper's House... that's what this stay was all about!
I really can't believe we slept in a house, where lighthouse keepers once slept. I can't believe we got to enjoy 2 hikes up to the lighthouse. One in the snowy evening and one in the sunny morning. And then there's that ocean...!
The really notable part of our stay was that we enjoyed a special place, with special family. I wish we could have rented the whole place and enjoyed it with our kids. Maybe someday!
Of course I'll never forget the view from our comfortable, cozy room! I'll remember that the morning feast was heavenly and the staff was gracious and friendly! But I think my fondest memory will be of the evening we spent sharing and laughing in the green parlor... inside the white & red Keeper's House! Cheers to a shared Notable Night!
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!