I was so drawn to the photos and descriptions of this totally unique, 7-year old hotel. I was determined to find a good price online. I did and I booked a night.
Both Don and I were curious. The Moonrise Hotel didn't exist, back when we lived in St. Louis. We had always loved the quirky Delmar Loop area. In 1979, I did my student teaching at nearby Delmar-Harvard Elementary. Don lived just blocks away when he attended Washington U. But neither of us would have wandered east on Delmar Blvd, past Skinker... where the hotel now sits.
Back in the Day
Joe Edwards, who created this whimsical lunar themed hotel, had a big vision and he was good enough to preserve some of that original building. It became the hotel's Eclipse Restaurant.
Floating in Space
As we moved towards the desk, the illuminated stairway changed colors. I didn't capture the movement of the color change in my photos, but it was quite a lively thing to see. In fact the whole stairway seemed alive as it floated upward in the clean, spacious lobby.
I love a theme, but many theme related hotels are just corny. This space theme was so complete and so sophisticated, it did not allow for eye rolling. Just smiling. After all, I was raised on The Jetsons cartoons in the sixties. I love this kind of decor.
Even the desk area was space age. The light fixtures were obviously cool, but even the design on the front of the desk reminded me of something retro and futuristic. Wait, how is that possible to be both?
More Lamps and Lights
Everywhere we looked there were lights twinkling and colorful, glowing fixtures. I felt like I was 6 years old again...all bug-eyed at General Motors Futurama, at the 1964 World's Fair!
There were lots of places for travelers to lounge around with their newspapers or a computers.
The Retro Stuff...
... just made me smile.
The Modern Stuff...
... was just plain cool! I loved this mirror of circles, near the elevator.
Up to the Fourth Floor
Our hallway was glowing and peaceful. Our little moon & stars, door sign greeted us.
Just inside the door I began spotting moon art in our modern room. To the left I chuckled when I noticed the sliding glass door that covered either the closet, or the bathroom...not both.
Glass looks cool... but.
My biggest pet peeve of modern hotels is the glass bathroom door. I don't care if they're frosted or not, the early riser is forced to blast light on the late sleeper in the morning. But I decided to ignore that complaint when I saw the sleek chaise lounge chair! Woohoo! I had me a nice time relaxing on that thing, under the moon photo.
The bed was heavenly. The cushioned headboard was a treat. The huge flatscreen TV and the "sound machine" were extra nice to have.
Our room had a glass corner, which was fun. There was an unsightly roof below, but I chose to look across at the old storefronts on Delmar. The best part was peering up at the rooftop lounge. Even with cloudy skies, we were sure to see the spotlight on the rotating moon after sunset!
Don and I checked out the rooftop bar in the evening. There were some curious crescent moon chairs and a closer view of the funny moon.
New Moon Room
At the east end there was an enclosed bar with planets hanging from the solar panel ceiling. That would have been a good option if the temps had been any cooler.
Evidently they offer moontinis, but we went for some wine. The people-watching was interesting. There seemed to be more young locals than middle aged hotel guests. Don and I were probably the only Baby Boomers on the scene. I was glad it was Sunday, since I had a feeling the place could get pretty hopping on weekends.
St. Louis View
Before heading off to enjoy The Loop, we took in the view. What a treat to spot the Arch, out beyond Forest Park. It was beginning to cloud up or we would have waited to watch the moonrise!
This festive-funky area known as the Delmar Loop, was just outside our door. It was fun to visit our old favorite, Blueberry Hill, where Don and I have enjoyed many a beer, surrounded by rock-and-roll memorabilia. Joe Edwards opened Blueberry Hill in 1972 and has continued building and refurbishing in the area since.
We wandered and enjoyed more new-retro additions to the Loop, thanks again to this mystery man named, Joe. Don and I enjoyed the evening, then had a late Thai meal at a sidewalk cafe before turning in.
I stepped outside early the next morning to peek at the street before heading to the hotel's gym. I was just getting started on the treadmill when I noticed something on TV. I laughed and jumped off the treadmill and dashed right out to Delmar Boulevard.
There Was Joe
I had seen him on TV moments before and there he was standing in the street wearing a flowered shirt and holding a vintage model trolley. He was being interviewed about the fixed-track, trolley that would soon be traveling from The Loop to Forest Park!
The news crew took a quick break and Joe looked up and waved with a big smile. I laughed over to him about how I'd been in his hotel gym and spotted him on TV. "I LOVE YOUR HOTEL!" I hollered. He laughed and got back to his interview.
I love a theme... done well!
Hotel Stay... Packed with History and Memories
For some time it has been my dream to spend a night in this hotel... the hotel, housed in what was once the largest and busiest train station in the world.
I first fell in love with this grand train station when I moved to St. Louis in 1975. The gorgeous Indiana limestone beauty was almost 80 years old then.
Changes Since 1975
Don and I visited the Grand Hall of Union Station two years ago. Before entering, we were greeted by a jovial doorman who had some good whistling talents.
We only had time to enjoy a cocktail in the lounge beneath the 65-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling. I was in total awe as we sipped martinis and watched the glowing colors, gradually change above us. I could barely recognize the hall that I remembered from 1975.
Don and I were also in St. Louis in 2012. We had gathered with extended family at a nearby hotel after my mother's passing. I woke before dawn, the day before her funeral and walked down Market Street, staring up at the dark building. Despite the sad occasion and chill, I found myself grinning at the sight. My mother had grown up in St. Louis and she visited this station often. It was mind boggling to imagine her here in the 1940's when train travel was at its peak and the station handled 100,000 passengers daily. I so wish she had been with me to describe her memories.
That December morning it was a stunning sight with all the red chairs and vintage lamps lined up. It looked nothing like the vacant hall I remembered from the seventies when only 3 trains came a day. It was odd to remember being in the station in 1975, boarding a train with my siblings. But it was stranger to remember the time I met college classmates in the abandoned hall in 1977. Our group of students had met in the echoing space to discuss what we had learned from our urban exploration. As we exchanged info, we shared a picnic lunch with each other... and a homeless man.
This Past April
So, nearly 40 years after that picnic, Don and I entered the doors beneath the "Whispering Arch" and stepped up the stairs...
...into that glorious gold-leafed hall with Romanesque arches and stained glass, bustling with guests. Travelers and tourists lounged in comfy chairs, while sounds of clinking glasses at the bar echoed with murmuring voices.
We headed towards the lobby desk and checked in with a very young woman. She happily greeted and gave us cookies, but she was too young to get it, that we didn't want to be in the new section of the hotel. "I automatically put people in the new part... the historic section is just, you know... creepy." We laughed, but insisted that we liked creepy. We got our key and headed past the most beautiful hallway to get to the elevator.
Stairs & Elevator
The elevator was a delightfully cozy thing, shaped like a slice of pie. But most of the time we took the spiral stairs, that wound around the elevator. We loved the entertaining glimpses of outside, through the skinny old windows!
The elevator took us to the third floor terrace, which opened onto the Grand Hall. We were suddenly right up there with the arches, stained glass and painted columns... with a good view of the crowds below in the Grand Hall.
And if we stepped back to take it all in, we could look directly across and study the mirror image. Don and I were going to do the whisper test between the 2 balconies, but ran out of time.
This is actually a photo taken at 7 in the morning. The lounge was quiet then, but the stained glass was glowing.
As the photo shows, there was nothing creepy about the hall in the historic wing. We opened the door to our Will Rogers Room #326 and found nothing that resembled a haunted hotel. There was a spacious entry with wood floors, a counter and closets. The guest room was sleek and fresh smelling, with soothing gray and brown tones.
I love a theme, but they didn't overdo! There were tasteful, black and white train prints on one wall and a red and black print, depicting the Frisco train that was once named for Will Rogers. The bathroom had some serious luxury with a marble shower and glamorous lighting, but there was a bit of train humor... a sign reminded, "Please Do Not Flush When Train Is In Station"
Toasting in the Grand Hall
It added to the fun having a bartender who was our age and also grew up in St. Louis. Unlike our desk clerk, Todd had an appreciation for the unique history.
There have been changes in hotel ownership since the big remodeling in the 1980's. But the most curious change in 2 years was the hourly show that took place on the vaulted ceiling in the evening. We were a bit amused the first time we heard the train whistle blast on the hour. The lights dimmed and the crowds hushed to watch a light show on the vaulted ceiling, while music filled the echoing space. A little corny maybe, but I was grinning like everyone else, as the animated displays of flying birds and swaying grass... and fireworks, entertained!
We hardly needed a show when there was so much detail around us to absorb. And after so many other visits, I finally had some time to enjoy the details. How I wish I had taken pictures of these beautiful arched windows back when they were covered in soot and dust.
Just looking at doors was a treat! So many arches... long before the St. Louis Arch!
The door underneath the Restrooms sign reminded me of peacock feathers. And the glass doors at the end of the Grand Hall were impressive enough... even without the surrounding gold trim and green tile.
Floors and Walls
In the morning, I took a moment to sit on the empty couch at the top of the stairwell. The stained glass behind me showed 3 women in classical attire, representing the 3 main railroad terminals in the US. (San Fran, NY and St. Louis) At the landing behind me, Don and I later had some fun with the Whispering Arch. We stood at opposite ends of the rainbow arch, each facing the wall. Then we conversed in barely a whisper. It works!
Coffee on Deck
We missed out on the hotel restaurant, but in the morning, we stood in line for Starbucks in the gift shop. We found a nice terrace behind the bar that looked out on what would have once been the Train Shed... I guess. In the '80's it became a festive indoor mall and restaurant space. It's in transition now, with shops sadly closed. More changes coming.
I was captured by the spell of this oldie. I couldn't stop drooling over the past, whether remembering my own visits or wondering about those who crowded the waiting rooms long ago. I was charmed. I also know there were gimmicks and tourists that added a little Disney-feel to the place, now and then. But I was delighted to ignore any of that. I just love the Grand Hall and our lovely room as well. So darn glad to have experienced it!
1929 Hotel in Harrison, Arkansas
We found this dandy little Spanish Revival building, just a block from Harrison's town square.
The smooth brick facade was decorated with all sorts of fun stuff.... tile, terra cotta, wrought iron, arches and colorful paint!
Since its beginning in 1929, the building has had many uses.
After closing down to hotel guests in the '60's, the building was purchased by Christian Faith of Wichita and used to house and feed the elderly. In 2008, the hotel reopened after a 3.5 million dollar renovation.
Finding the Door
There were 3 impressive entries to the hotel. The entrance that opened to the lobby was tucked into the corner of the building, away from the street.
We pulled right up in the drive and walked past two striped columns, towards the arched doorway.
Just inside, the 2-story lobby greeted us with huge squares of floor tile and a glowing chandelier.
A lobby desk window was off to the right. A very pleasant staff member, was waiting to check us in.
There was a Old Spanish flavor to the sweet hotel.
Lots of arches and ironwork! I loved the painted birds and flowers on the walls.
Looking down from the mezzanine, we had a good view of the birds and chandelier.
All we needed was a little Flamenco guitar, echoing in the space.
I like a renovation that doesn't clear out all the old. The wooden telephone door looked mighty sweet, with the white curtain. I just had to peek! Instead of a phone in the cozy space, I saw a chair, desk and computer. Nice perk for hotel guests!
The double writing desk was an amusing reminder, that people once wrote postcards from hotels. There was an old style radio sitting on one half, playing some music from the 40's.
We followed the carpeted hall to our room, # 321.
The room was pretty darn small, but so was the price! For around 80 bucks, we got a newly remodeled room in a charming hotel.
The queen bed, bathroom and flat screen TV, gave us some modern comforts. The exposed brick and an odd little bathroom door, were fun reminders of the past. Brown painted, metal door knob... I love it!
John Paul's Bar & Grill
The restaurant and bar at the south end of the hotel had a totally modern face lift.
We returned later in the evening and grabbed up the sleek, blue sofa in the back of the room.
Food and Music
We were relieved to have a comfy place to hang out, since the downtown was quiet and weary looking, on that Friday evening.
We ordered some appetizers for dinner and enjoyed some good people watching. The crowd was made up of locals rather than travelers and everyone seemed to know the deep voiced singer who entertained us with country ballads. The singer's young wife and baby occupied one table. A local artist seated nearby, introduced himself to us, so we didn't feel like total outsiders.
In the morning we were entertained by a club of Fiat Mini drivers, who had all parked their sweet little cars in front.
The cute cars added to our car fun, since the day before we had shared the road with numerous Corvettes. Corvettes and Fiats , enjoying the annual Corvette Arkansas Weekend. Lots of fun cars in Arkansas!
We sampled some of the complimentary breakfast that was served in a small diner area, on the north end of the hotel.
The food options were fairly typical, but the setting with columns, painted beams and tile work, made my coffee taste better than typical.
The term hidden gem is overused, but it fits for Hotel Seville.
Ugh. Maybe I shouldn't have shared that. That's a notable piece of information that is not fun. But travels should open your eyes to good and bad. Our hotel was great... that bit of knowledge was not.
The New Part and Old Part
I walked across the brick street to get a shot of the whole building. We stayed in the original wood framed structure on the right. It had been a home and was converted to a hotel in the late 1850's. The white brick structure on the left is the "new" part... added in 1864!
Brick and Wood
The entrance to the lobby is now through the new addition. I'm guessing they have used that entrance since 1864, since the wooden threshold had a smooth dip in the center, after over 150 years of use. I loved seeing where the old wood boards met the brick addition.
Iron Porch Chairs
Between the old door and the new door, there was a proper line up of black iron chairs... for watching the world go by. There wasn't much happening on the street, but over 100 years ago, Jefferson was a booming steamboat port. It was then the second largest city in Texas. Today, there are only about 2,000 residents.
An Odd Encounter at Arrival
Just as we headed to the lobby door, a woman came towards us from down the street. She wore plastic gloves and swung a baggy in one hand as she hollered, "Are you coming to see me?" I assumed she worked at the hotel, but she was really just dashing down from the steakhouse to give her friend (working the desk) a sample of some kind of chicken/jalepeno treat, wrapped in cheese. I turned down her sample offer about 4 times, but finally gave in. Strange way to begin our stay.
Before heading to our room, I took a peek at the grand room behind the lobby.
I wonder if they have to roll up that impressive Oriental rug for dancing. And who has played the grand piano that was on the left of the room... and do they have roaring fires in that lovely white fireplace? I headed under the lit chandelier and made my way to the dining room table, which held 3 flower arrangements.
Finding the Room
We headed through a door into the older building. We found the old set of stairs and climbed towards a painting and another curious light fixture. Down the hall we headed, towards our Rosewood Room.
Room 214 had a brass plaque honoring Lady Bird Johnson, who was born not far from Jefferson. She supported the Garden Club ladies who took over the hotel years ago. This was the room they decorated in her honor. Once inside I turned to see the row of locks and gave a smile. It might be hard to escape this room quickly if there was a fire... or ghosts.
There are many fans of haunted hotels and I'm sure they've eagerly searched for ghosts in this old hotel. But we didn't have any encounters. There's a rumor that Steven Spielberg stayed in a nearby room when filming "Sugar Land Express" decades ago. One writer said Spielberg and his wife left in the middle of the night because they were so afraid. Hmm. I don't know about that.
Lady Bird and Her Flowers
Lady Bird was keeping an eye on us from above the fireplace, right above the clock which she gave as a gift to the hotel. She was surrounded by flowers on the wall, which I'm sure was no coincidence. Lady Bird is of course responsible for the beautiful wildflowers that grow along country roads in Texas!
More Pink and Lace
I feel so incredibly lucky that I have a fellow-traveler-husband, who doesn't mind sleeping in a room that is dripping in Pepto-Bismol pink! We both were equally tickled by the matching pink glass decorations on the mantel. I have no idea what you call these. And the wallpaper, along with lace curtains was a little piece of lady heaven. In contrast, I just loved the warm wooden floorboards meeting up with woodwork, lace and flowers.
When I pulled back the lace I was sad to see there was no balcony, just an iron rail prop. Across the street was an old train car and a pretty home which now serves as a wine garden. Lots of trees! I felt like I was in an old neighborhood.
Veranda in Back
So I did find a porch in the back. There were a few rockers and a courtyard to enjoy below.
The courtyard was quite lovely. There were places to sit out and enjoy the sound of the fountain.
I was pleasantly surprised at how spacious and clean and comfy our room was. But what I will mostly remember about our stay, is the connection of our room and hotel to Lady Bird. We've stayed in rooms before with names of famous people, but Mrs. Johnson was passionately connected to the hotel and our room. There were framed letters and photographs in the room. I loved the photo of her with her elf-grandchildren. I loved knowing that she worked with the Garden Club to preserve this building, the second oldest hotel in Texas. Thanks, Lady Bird!
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!