A Chilling Night in a Haunted Hotel
A lot of people come to the town of Jefferson, because of its history. Most come to the Jefferson Hotel, because of its haunted history. I know that now.
Don and I spent one memorable night in the 172-year-old building. It was chilling. Literally.
A Warm Welcome?
The owner Pam, seemed pleasant when I booked over the phone. We chatted about room options and I gushed with enthusiasm about staying in the curious/creepy Doll Room. I told her how eager I was to meet her and the hotel. But we never had a chance to visit in person.
There were lots of outside greeters when Don and I arrived on a balmy afternoon, last April. The giant metal knight and reclining sphinx won me over right away.
No People Greeters
We were also welcomed by an elephant lounging on a cart and some characters, perched above a door.
We headed to the main entrance, guarded by cement lions. The door was locked so I knocked... while a comical-creepy-eyeball-camera watched us from above. There was no answer, so I called Pam's number. She said she and her husband were out, but she'd send someone down.
Jam Packed Lobby
Minutes later the door opened, to reveal the face of Pam's father-in-law. There was a pause that made me half wonder if I would be asked for a password. (None needed) Richard opened the door and the lobby was revealed. I reacted with a sort of giddy gasp. This was my kind of wackiness! I glanced to the right corner and spotted a gargoyle lamp, a dragon, a hanging acrobat...
I looked left and spotted a somewhat playful religious display. Mary, Jesus, angel, clock... and an ornate confessional. Was this for fun? I was suddenly reminded of playing Communion as a kid, with Necco candy wafers. As an adult, it seemed I could play Confession, at The Jefferson!
Richard stepped behind the caged lobby desk and handed some paperwork through the opening. As he handed me a pen, I was jolted by the sudden sound of music coming from another room. Richard explained that his son Jeromy had rigged the player piano in the ballroom, to play at random times.
The ragtime piano made me laugh. I couldn't wait to meet Pam and Jeromy. I wanted to chat with these collectors of oddball treasures. I appreciated the sense of humor behind some of their clever displays. But when Richard asked me to sign the paperwork, I began to wonder. I skimmed the endless list of rules and thought, No patchouli or strong smelling essential oils allowed? No curling irons? No cooking or trashing the room? Did I actually need to be told that I would be charged for new linens if I threw up on them? Who wrote these rules?
I was glad that Richard offered us a little tour. We followed him down the first floor hallway. (Much brighter in my photos) I had so many questions! Richard pointed out numerous whimsical, curious and creepy objects. There seemed to be a story behind every item. But I found myself getting more curious about Richard's son and daughter-in-law, than all the stuff.
Jeromy and Pam, purchased the hotel during the pandemic. They'd been looking for a house to buy in the area, to hold all their collectables. They ended up buying a hotel instead. Where did they keep all this stuff before?
As we walked, Richard pointed out the carpet. "It's the same carpet that you see at the the Stanley Hotel... from The Shining." That wasn't nearly as curious as the idea that Jeromy and Pam bought this already haunted hotel and moved in with 2 of their 5 kids and ALL their treasures. Living in a hotel would be an adjustment for any kid. Living in a hotel full of ghoulish decor and stories of death? Not sure about that.
I was happy to wander and absorb as a visitor. I'm someone who loves antique stores and flea markets and kitschy stuff and even abandoned, creepy buildings. But I was happy not to be a resident. I was feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed by all the stuff. Maybe if other guests had been in and out, it would have felt different.
I asked if any other guests would be staying. Richard wasn't sure. (We saw none during our stay) Don and I were amused by the quirky-wacky museum atmosphere, but is that what lured other guests? It became clear from chatting, that most guests weren't like us, they were drawn here by the ghost stories! Ghost Hunter Guests. Is that a thing?
As we headed upstairs, I studied the candlesticks holding up the railing. Creative touch!
I turned back to take in the view of the loaded lobby. My eyes were suddenly drawn to the eyes of the man in the portrait, above the white and gold couch. Yep. Those eyes were moving. Love that little gimmick! More fun than scary.
There was a lot happening on those creaky stairs. The upside-down chimp reminded us with a sign, to watch our step. But he should have warned us to wear hard hats.
Luckily the rosaries dangling from the ceiling didn't drop. And what was with all the crosses and crucifixes? I wish I'd asked about all the religion that was tied into the decor. Exorcism maybe? Hope not.
There were 12 rooms upstairs. I believe 4 of them were being used by the family. What would it be like to be a kid living here? Would you ever have your friends over to hang out? I would rather be Eloise at The Plaza.
As we moved towards the rear of the building, I felt like I was in a carnival fun house.
I couldn't stop shaking my head and chuckling as I took in the sights around me. Every direction I turned, offered me a busy eyeful! It was like turning the pages of one of those "I Spy" books.
Every once in a while, I'd spot some nutty, oddball thing that reminded me of my own childhood home. My parents were antique collectors. We had lots of curious old masks and puppets. I'm also 65, so that meant I recognized many vintage toys, from my youth. My brother had a mechanical Charlie Weaver Bartender figure. He had ONE. I spied at least 4 in the cabinet.
I Spy Moment
My brain could only absorb so much. I let my eyes be drawn to the fun things, that connected me to my own past.
My favorite I Spy Moment, was when I noticed a wooden giraffe standing beyond a row of wooden seats. I had a giraffe just like it as a child. I remember hanging my pjs on the giraffe's lollipop tail.
Richard showed us stairs leading to the attic. I think he said something about using ghost hunting equipment, up on that third floor. Don and I weren't invited up there, but we weren't exactly ghost hunter guests. I was beginning to believe that maybe Don and I were the rare guests, who are more interested in history than horror.
I learned that Jeromy has made good use of his electrical engineering background, at the hotel. By combining technical skills with paranormal passions, he and Pam have worked to make, sell and rent their special equipment, like night vision cameras. They've welcomed many ghost-hunting experts and enthusiasts in their 1.5 years, in hotel biz. Interesting.
Many of the hall treasures were displayed in cabinets and cases. How did Jeromy and Pam acquire all these things? Suddenly I felt like we were spending the night in a Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum.
Richard was serious and soft spoken as he shared stories about objects and props. He also told stories about the ghostly encounters his family had experienced in the hotel.
Props from Films
There were quite a few "film stars" in the hall. Richard was eager to show us the doll, inside the giant gum ball machine. It had been in a slasher film called "The Funhouse". Haven't seen it.
High on a shelf, was a carving of 3 children. Their eerie expressions were almost spookier than the encased skull, below. The trio of heads had been been purchased in some Hollywood auction. Another prop, used in the movie, "The Haunting".
Faces Peering Out
Inside a popcorn machine, a red light glowed on some other movie prop. I hope someone will recognize it and tell me what it is. I couldn't absorb all the info Richard had to share.
A sad looking doll looked up through the glass, from a hole in the floor. This figure was no movie star. Jeromy and his daughter found her, when they were renovating a couple years ago. She was hidden beneath some floorboards and the name Rose was written on her back. Rose was put back in the floor, but she can see out now.
Surprises on Different Floors
My head was swimming with so much info, by the time we reached the room with the trapdoor. We were on the second floor and I was trying to make connections with what we'd seen on the first.
So the trapdoor, is connected to the hidden stairs, that are accessible through the wardrobe, that we saw in the downstairs hall? Oh my brain!
We'd seen a phone booth on the first floor. Richard had invited us to use the phone, to talk to the dead. We didn't try.
On the second floor we found a sneaky little viewing screen that Jeromy had rigged, so you could watch people in the phone booth below. There was a way to hear the person on the phone and speak back to them... and freak them out, I guess.
At the end of the hall was Room 19, the room with the most paranormal activity. Again, I don't even care or worry about that stuff.
But it was a little more worrisome to know that the wedding dress on display had belonged to Lydia, a young bride in 1912, who hung herself on the 12-foot high bed, after she was jilted. There are more stories of death related to this hotel, but this is the only one backed up by a newspaper story.
#7 Magic Showcase Theatre
We were able to peer into a few of the other rooms. The doors were open, but velvet ropes kept us from getting too nosy.
Room 7 seemed a lot happier than #19, unless you're scared of clowns. About half the population claims to be afraid of clowns. So not a happy room for them. I didn't get a photo of the Mirratorium Room, with 3 queen beds and about 100 mirrors. Who books a room like that? Maybe the kind of guests who need to be given a long list of rules about how to behave?
Room 14 Finally!
Eventually Richard showed us to our room. The lettering on the sign, made me feel like we were entering a magical little toy shop. The objects that greeted us outside the door were magical all right.
The smiling Eddie Doll inside the glowing cabinet, looked like he might just jump out of that case. The bonnet-wearing-babe on the tricycle, looked harmless. But she had been a bit rigged. If you stood and watched her long enough, her head turned with a surprise jerk! Doll magic at work!
Don and I stepped inside, where we were suddenly surrounded by 4 Pepto-Bismol-pink walls and over 100 dolls. Before Richard left, he told us to feel free to move the dolls around if we liked. I laughed at that suggestion.
Richard stood there a minute while I hooted over this doll and cringed over that doll. I cracked up when I spotted the doll standing with her face in the "corner" of the bed. "Oh she's been a bad girl." Richard said. With a hint of a smile. Yikes.
Richard left us to enjoy our room. The first doll we moved, was the door-guarding doll on roller-skates. She was in our way.
Then I slowly closed the door and turned to react with Don. "Holy cow! This is SO MUCH CRAZIER than I expected! The internet pictures didn't come close..."
Just Us and the Dolls
It was nice to be alone and take in our surroundings, without anyone watching. (except those dolls) We looked and laughed and shook our heads. Our little 181-sq-ft room, was filled with about 150 faces.
The doll on the horse was probably the friendliest. There were more sober faces than smiling faces. But even smiling dolls look scary when they're hanging upside down.
There were a number of angry dolls and at least 4 that appeared to be ventriloquist's dummies.
There were dolls in weird places. One was in a little bed, jutting out from the wall. A little tot was swinging above us, on the light fixture.
A laughing doll was attached to the inside of the bathroom door. A Chatty Cathy doll climbed across the ceiling. That made me laugh, because I had one as a kid. My Chatty Cathy talked, but she had no climbing skills.
There was a sickly doll, that I can't explain. Over the doorway, a babydoll with dollhead-hands, burst through an old frame. Clever and terrifying.
Don & the Bad Girl
I continued to examine each doll, while Don took a break to ease his healing back. (fracture issues) I paused from "admiring" the dolls, so I could admire my incredibly sweet hubby, surrounded by dolls. He is such a good sport.
Weeks before when I had told Don about The Jefferson, he'd been such a trooper. "Sure! Why not?" I can't think of anyone else who would have done this hotel/doll room adventure, with me. Even with a bad back Don was game. But his smile didn't last long, when he turned and noticed "The Bad Girl" doll nearby. He frowned and stood up to move the doll to a more honorable place in the room. "Did you notice that the Bad Girl doll is black?" He asked. Disturbing.
After a short while, we stopped focusing on the dolls. We were tired and the room was just plain uncomfortable. There was only one chair and I had to move dolls to sit. Then Don announced what I'd already noticed. "It's freezing in here!" There was no thermostat, so I headed for the window to let in warm air. But I couldn't get to it, with all the dolls.
I hunted for an extra blanket, but found the closet and dresser drawers empty. Except for a pair of men's underwear. I'm not kidding on that. I was not amused.
Where to Sit?
I left Don in the refrigerated room and searched the hotel for a warmer place to hang out, before dinner. There was a lovely throne in the downstairs hall.
There were chairs around a Monopoly table. But they didn't look ideal for a man with a back fracture.
Crystal Palace Ballroom
All was quiet in the hotel while I explored. The ballroom actually looked pretty bright and inviting. The French chandalier and the German stained glass panels were impressive.
If only we'd had friends in town, we could have had a quick party. The ballroom rents for 50 dollars an hour on weeknights. Bargain!
The painted walls were curious, with blue sky and puffy clouds.
The player piano was quiet as I passed. But I could see the music sheets, suspended to the ceiling. Another Jeromy creation.
Activity Near the Tree!
It was about 5:30 when I heard a little activity near the front of the ballroom. The door to the right of the giant tree opened.
Suddenly Jeromy and Pam entered from the street, carrying a few loads from their car. They acknowledged me, but never paused from their work to chat. I raved about the doll room and gushed about all the surprises. Suddenly I felt like a teen hoping to get an autograph. There wasn't going to be a conversation. They were focused on their new purchases and I was sort of in their way. I moved on, without mentioning the cold room.
I dashed upstairs and headed down the hall, past the rooms that belong to the family and I found the veranda. Ahhh! A blissful 80 degrees.
I got Don and we grabbed drinks and cheese from the car.
We sat on the metal glider and thawed out. Stepping outside gave my brain a chance to recover for a bit. Without all the stuff, we were able to relax and wonder about this old building, back when it had been a cotton warehouse 170+ years ago.
What was this place like, when it became a hotel in 1910? How about when it was a funeral home or a speakeasy or a brothel? It even held a roller rink at one time. I love old buildings and historic hotels. It was good to thaw out and appreciate again.
Don and I found a great Irish pub for dinner. We returned after dark, feeling much more positive. We stepped inside and I saw one of the teenagers asleep on the lobby couch.
We passed by the Crystal Ballroom and could see it had become the family hang out for the evening. The big screen above the stage was showing an episode of Ghost Hunters. Lights from a disco ball, danced around the room. I wish I'd been brave enough to snap a photo of the odd scene. But I did greet the family when they looked up. There were no invites, but it was tempting to ask, "Do you mind if we sit on your pews and watch with you a while? Our room is freezing!" Or I could have gone further with a list of complaints... thin bedding... no cups in the bathroom... discarded underwear... But we just escaped upstairs.
We opened the door to Room 14 and a blast of chill nearly knocked us over. I begged Don to let me go complain or at least get hot coffee. But Don was ready to just crawl under the covers and let morning come.
I headed for the bathtub and turned on the hot water, hoping to fill the place with warm steam. I was too cold to be amused by the bathroom delights.
I didn't find the head at the base of the toilet, at all comical. The mouth spurting water into our sink didn't get a laugh from me either. I was just annoyed.
Mermaid & TV
The heated water warmed the space slightly. Don grabbed the remote from the crocheted doll and got the TV working for a while. The internet was too poor for success with Fire Stick.
Then I remembered the mermaid doll I'd bought at a gas station the day before, in anticipation of our stay. At the time, I thought I would leave it behind. It would be a playful surprise for the housekeeper or owners, when they discovered an additional doll after we left. But I'd lost my playful humor. I went ahead and tossed the doll in the tub for a photo. But I didn't leave it behind. No one earned my silly mermaid joke.
I'm a hot sleeper, but I wore socks and sweats to bed. I ignored the doll staring at me when I turned off the light. These dolls weren't scary or funny anymore. I was too cold.
We woke before 6 and threw on our clothes. I had Don take a photo of me with roller-skate doll, before we tiptoed out of the room. The website says there are 50 security cameras in the hotel. I wonder if those cameras captured our expressions as we headed out, rolling our sleepy eyes.
The hotel was full of curious and creepy surprises. I was game for that. I didn't expect a comfy bed or a Keurig coffee maker. The icy cold room wasn't even the real problem. We should have confronted them about that. But the whole stay felt confusing. We were enthused and delighted guests at first. But before long, we felt like we were imposing guests, who had invited ourselves into someone's home. They were putting up with us.
Maybe on another day, things would have felt more positive. Maybe on weekends, they put on their hosting hats and engage a bit. Or maybe if we'd been eager ghost hunters wanting to rent equipment...
Well, we just won't know because we won't be trying this one again. Glad we went. Glad I slept in a doll room once. Glad Don and I can laugh about it now. But no need to return.
Don and I spotted this sign in 2021, when walking through Eureka Springs after dinner. It amused me to find a neon sign, in a town that didn't even have a stoplight.
When I snapped the photo that night, I knew nothing about the hotel/bath house. I didn't know about its history as a brothel, either. (Although some say the sign's shape should be a hint.) Later I learned that the sign was installed in the 1940's, when it became the first neon sign, west of the Mississippi. True?
A year after taking the photo, Don and I planned a road trip through Arkansas. I was thrilled when I learn there was an operating bath house and hotel behind, that neon sign. I called and booked a room, the old fashioned way. I wanted to know more about the curiously decorated rooms I saw on the website.
The tourist town was eerily quiet the day we arrived. The Vacancy portion of the sign was glowing. We were able to park just steps from the entrance. Lots of flowers and plants welcomed us from windows and doorway.
In the daylight, with no tourists cluttering the walk, we had good look at the hotel's exterior!
The Palace structure was completed in 1901. It actually looked more like a castle or fortress, with its blocks of chunky limestone. The mansard dome in the center, made me think of a Synagogue.
Around the side of the building, we found a winding wooden walkway, leading to various sitting areas. If only the weather had been more inviting.
It was a surprise to see the building from the back. The 2-story hotel seemed to have a few more levels below. Eureka Springs is full of amazing structures, built to fit into the hilly landscape. The town was once called "Stairstep Town".
It was around 3:30 when we headed inside. The grand arched doorway made me feel like I was stepping to a classic railway station.
Just inside, the lobby felt a little more quaint than grand. Mary Lana greeted us before we had to ring the little bell. "ML" (as she said she was called) was as enthused as she'd been on the phone when I booked.
The Old Stuff
ML eagerly pointed out some of the hotel's oldest features, like the original tile floors. I think she could tell we were the kind of guests who appreciate history.
The reviews I'd read from other guests were positive. Most raved about the bath house treatments. Others sighed about the romantic guest rooms, with jetted spa tubs... for two! She figured we were the History Lovin' Guests, I guess..
The original Otis elevator was impressive. It was so original that it wasn't safe to ride.
We were allowed to step inside though. I liked the old wheelchair sitting in the corner. I chuckled to realize the sign on the chair wasn't telling me to keep off. It was a "Time Out" chair with wheels, which could be a special treat for a misbehaving child!
ML was excited to show us to our room. She had eagerly suggested the Blue Room, when I booked. We headed up a narrow set of stairs to the second floor.
The view of the lobby and door was nice from the landing. Love that light fixture!
We reached the second floor sitting area. All 4 guest room doors were open, inviting us to peek into vacant rooms. There were 4 more guest rooms on the first level. Originally the hotel had 16.
ML was excited to present the Blue Room. We walked through the doorway, beneath the curtained transom. We followed the red carpet into the spacious suite and let our eyes absorb the unique decor.
Peacocks and More
Don and I were genuine with our responses. "Wow this is great! It's huge!" We pointed out the things we loved, while ML showed us the comp champagne and the robes we could use, if we booked spa treatments.
I waited until she was gone to really study those peacocks and the crocheted blanket on the bed... tied with a crocheted rope. It was an inviting touch. I think.
Cool and Warm
The bar area was actually pretty convenient, with real glasses and mugs and corkscrew and a sink. Inside the mini fridge there was a little treat waiting for. Cute and complimentary!
Our corner room had lots of windows for fresh air and light. I'm glad we didn't need the window unit. Rumbling ac units are annoying. It was a little chilly in the room until we cranked on the heat. The glowing "firebox/table" was really something. All for looks, not warmth.
Taking a Moment
ML departed and Don and I got to chat about our room without filtering. Don tried out all 5 options for seating. He has back issues so Victorian furniture is not his favorite right now. But he really didn't complain.
While he rested, I counted. 8 windows, including bathroom. 10 decorative pillows, arranged on bed and chairs...
I started to count the wall art, but got distracted.
Nothing spotlights art better than a little swag of material or a tied bow.
I didn't attempt to count the crocheted items either. I know they had a lot of lace in Victorian days, but I sure can't picture any of these crocheted pieces a century ago.
There was something a little worrisome about the cleanliness of all this yarn. It was hard to picture the housekeeper, dealing with so many layers of stuff. So I didn't think about it.
Leopardskin, Lace and Peacocks
I kind of loved the whimsical mix of textures and patterns in this little set up. Just having a table with chairs was a treat after many cramped hotel rooms.
I could sit down and write in the little guest book. I could read what other guests have written. But mostly I didn't want to think about the guests who had enjoyed the Blue Room's romantic tub or comfy bed.
A Century Ago
I preferred studying the really old stuff in the room, that reminded me of the guests back in 1901. I imagined the kind of key that opened this old door.
This was a ritzy place a century ago. Early ads boasted about having electric lights and steam heat in every room.
I also focused my attention out the windows. A glimpse across the street, shows Victorian homes, built into hills.
More steps and lots of porches and balconies. It felt like I was in both New Orleans and the Ozark Mountains.
The Bath House
I'm really sorry we didn't book a mineral bath or eucalyptus steam, ahead of time. But we were able to go down to the basement and have a look at the old Bath House.
An advertising booklet from the 1920's, lured guests to The Palace with these words. "...one is able to bathe away his ailments or afflictions as the Indians did of your, but in as convenient, comfortable and scientific, a manner as the present age permits."
Soak and Steam
In the early years, we could have had a Turkish bath for 50 cents. Today a mineral bath is $25. I could have soaked and been calmed by the institutional green walls.
The old steam cabinet cracked me up. Why oh why did I not go for a Eucalyptus Steam? 100 years ago, it was only a dollar. But 40 bucks today isn't so bad for a steam experience, worthy of guests like W.C. Fields! I heard he was a guest here once. True?
We did enjoy our crazily decorated room, but we spent most of our stay wandering the town and dining at nearby Rogue Tavern. The town of about 2,000 was once named The Magic City.
This funny little Ozark town does seem magical. Especially on a cool spring day, free of summer tourists. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. There's a 5-mile loop of winding, hilly streets and endless Victorian cottages, shops and manors. These photos are all just steps from The Palace.
Back to Our Own Spa
We booked our hotel stay for Wednesday, to be sure The Rogue Tavern restaurant was open. After a fabulous dinner we had a one minute walk back to our hotel. There was no calorie burning with that, so I decided to burn calories in our own hot "spa" tub.
Our crazy bathroom set up, wasn't quite as epic as the soaking tubs in the basement, but it was memorable. In a curious way.
Besides the crocheted Kleenex holder, there were other helpful goodies. There were robes, but I think they were only for folks who booked spa treatments. There were lots and lots of mirrors in that bathroom. I counted 6 large ones plus a make up mirror. I did not need those mirrors.
There was also a burlap pouch holding something. I was a little hesitant to peek, but it turned out to be a battery operated glowing light... that I would need to recharge if I used. I liked the rubber duck family better. No batteries required.
I didn't get a very good photo of the big blue tub. It was large. Sorry Don, but I figured there wasn't room, once I added the ducks.
I was a little disappointed that the provided bath wash created no bubbles. I should have brought my own bubble bath. But there were bubbles in the champagne... although I just used it for a prop. I was too full from dinner.
We slept well, even with a huge crashing storm in the night! Next morning we tiptoed down the stairs early. I don't think we needed to. I'm pretty sure we were the only guests overnight and no morning staff had arrived.
The streets were wet and the air felt refreshing. I took a photo of the building across the street, before I noticed the owner. (not pictured) She greeted me with a huge smile and one word, "Jesus!" I wasn't sure how to respond. Then I noticed her religious flags hanging above. She claimed she had been refreshed and blessed by the storms the night before. I sensed she would have been happy to have shared a tea and chatted longer, but Don and I were on our way. What a memorable town and a memorable hotel.
I'm so thrilled that we were able to stay in the only still operating bath house in Eureka Springs. There are plenty of spas that use the same healing waters, but none that have operated for way over 100 years.
Even though we may have been the only guests, Mary Lana made us feel incredibly welcome. She was proud of the hotel and that made me love it more. We stayed in an historic hotel, in a magical historic town, tucked into an isolated part of the Ozark Mountains... at an incredibly lucky time, free of tourists! I'll soak to that!
The Oddest Odd Fellows Home
Don and I went way off our road trip route, to spend a night at this place!
When I ran across the inn's website on the internet, I was more than intrigued. This place was a winery. (yum) This place was a former Odd Fellows Home. (fascinating) This place once housed orphans. (sad) This place was cheap. (yay!)
I quickly booked one of the 9 rooms for $79 (+tax) then began to wonder. A 650-square-foot suite, with free a wine tasting, for less than 100 bucks. What's the catch?
And why so few rooms, in such a large place? Just guessing that when Belvoir Winery opened (about a decade ago) its main focus was on wine and weddings. The hotel hosting part may have been a "why not?" kind of addition.
As we headed towards Liberty, Missouri, I started getting excited about the hotel+wine combo. But really, I was a lot more excited about staying in this historic building, connected to the Odd Fellows organization.
The history of the Odd Fellows organization, is a curious and secretive one. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F) is one of the largest fraternal orders in the U.S. The main purpose of IOOF is to give aid, assistance, and comfort to its members and their families. The organization also assists people in the community. Back before government assistance, that often meant caring for the elderly and children .
This is how the Odd Fellows building looked after it was completed in 1900. It was built to replace an older structure, which had been destroyed in a fire. This beautiful building was designed by architect, William Ittner, who designed over 400 school buildings in Missouri. I worked at one of his schools in St. Louis, when I was a college student. (I love little connections like that!)
Ittner's schools were known for having inviting exteriors, designed with children in mind. (Schools weren't expected to be inviting in 1900) I wonder if this building seemed welcoming to the children who once lived here. I hope so. This Jacobean-Revival style Odd Fellows Home, once held IOOF offices, classrooms and dormitories for orphans and rooms for the elderly.
Arriving in April
We arrived on a dreary looking day last April. We drove through a set of gates and over a bridge, before reaching this view.
The bare trees made the scene look extra mysterious.
Rain threatened, so I made sure to take a couple photos right away. There was a nearby fountain and gazebo, but they looked sad and neglected. I didn't bother with a photo.
I did get a photo of this fine bench. I tried to imagine a wedding couple seated between the 2 griffins. It would have taken a talented wedding photographer to capture loving bridal shots, on this dreary day.
I took this photo nearly halfway up the walkway. I was so surprised to see all the land surrounding this historic site.
Belvoir owns about 35 acres today, but over 100 years ago IOOF owned nearly 8 times that. After this building was completed, more structures were built to house a hospital, school, nursing home, orphanage and offices. The residents who were able, helped work on the 240-acre farm, which helped to support the complex. Crazy to imagine.
Parking at the Good End
When our car reached the top of the hill, we saw only a couple vehicles in the nearby lot. Where was everyone on a Wednesday afternoon?
I recognized the beautiful brick structure from the website photos. The building on the far acted like a sturdy bookend, holding up a collapsing lineup of books. More on those collapsing "books" later!
A Fine Entrance
Don and I headed towards the front entrance, up some stairs and across a patio. It could have been 1920, except for some party lights and a few flimsy chairs. An eerie gust of wind tossed a couple chairs as we passed.
The stained cement and worn wooden doors made me expect a gloomier lobby. But instead we were met with a happy space, lit by 6 attractive light fixtures.
The entry area was a nice surprise. We walked across the original, black and white tile, then looked back towards the split staircase.
The winery/bar was in a cozy room across from the stairs.
Ashely welcomed us from behind the bar. The room was empty except for one woman at a table, with a glass of wine and a laptop. We told Ashely we had reservations and she gave us a little rundown. "Feel free to explore inside the building." We asked about the vacant buildings on the property. She said it was okay to wander outside the buildings. "But don't go inside. And make sure you go before dark. Security is on duty later."
Clean Quiet Hall
We took our key and rode a very noisy elevator to the third floor, which held 8 guest rooms and 1 bridal suit. The floors and walls had clearly been renovated.
A common area off the hall, was quiet and empty. There was a microwave and fridge and tables for the lucky guests who once enjoyed complimentary breakfast, back before Covid.
#9 -The Chardonel Room
I kind of chuckled when I heard we were staying in The Chardonel Room. It sounded like a name that some "creative" parents chose for their baby... when they'd had too many glasses of Chardonay. But I guess Chardonel is actually a hybrid grape of some kind. Not too well known, because when I typed Chardodnel, my Mac spell-checked me and wrote Charlene instead.
To reach our Chardonel Room, we passed through a sitting area. This airy space was available for us, to share with our neighbors in Room #7. Luckily no one booked that room, so the space was all ours. We didn't end up using it, although I might have been tempted if I'd packed some roller skates!
Once we opened our door, we were met with another hall/entry. A spacious bathroom was off to the right.
My photo shows the size well, but I couldn't capture the odd feeling of this bathroom. They had clearly renovated nicely (in 2018 I think) but it felt unfinished. There was so much space you felt like something was missing. Like a picture on the wall maybe?
We hardly needed all this area! Is "too much space" something to complain about? Of course not, but I found it perplexing. And who decorated this room 4-5 years ago?
It reminded me of our own house, when we didn't want to mess up freshly painted walls and waited forever to put up artwork. But they've had more than a few years.
I had issues with the TV as well. It was on the small side and the pixelating image, made watching impossible. Those silly cords dangling below the TV annoyed me a whole lot. Put a little table under the TV maybe? And a coffee table would have been nice! What a complainer!
Window & View
I know I gripe about the wrong things. Some guests might be whole lot more bothered by the peeling paint on the windows. I was okay with that. I liked seeing the age.
I did appreciate having a corner room, with 2 views. The scenery was a bit gloomy and the glass was dingy, but I wanted to be able to imagine some of the history in this old building. I know some of that history is sad. Maybe it wasn't such a good thing to think of those children long ago, gazing out through the glass... I decided to wonder instead, about how this property looks when all the leaves turn green!
Quiet and Clean
Our suite didn't have artwork, but it was nice and clean and the bed was comfortable. With all the square footage, it would have been nice to have had 2 bedside tables.
But as I said, it was cheap! And it was quiet. I read reviews from other guests and evidently the walls are thin. We lucked out having no neighbors.
After checking out our suite, Don and I did a little exploring downstairs. We found some art in the halls. There was a nice display of photography by local students.
We found a few rooms, that are used for events. Exposed brick here, old fireplaces there... nice floors and a few antiques, some sort of funky drapes.
I peeked in a "ballroom", with a grand piano and some conference tables. Again, it was clean, but the space was missing something. It felt like the character had been washed away.
I did like the old light fixtures.
Most were brought in after renovation. The Odd Fellows Home was empty for years. I wonder how many original goodies were carted away by vandals?
Rain was predicted, so I was eager to get outside to explore the grounds.
This vintage photo must have been taken before the the 1950's. You can tell because the old children's school is to the left of our hotel.
This is how the property looked on a gloomy day in April 2022.
There are still 4 buildings today, but 3 are vacant.
The building next to our hotel didn't fit the row of classic structures. In the old ariel photo, you can see the "original" school building in this spot.
The original school was built in 1904, to educate children of the orphanage. By 1912 there were 111 children and 55 adults living on the property. A separate school was needed.
The number of children in the orphanage dwindled over the years. Programs like foster care, caused a shift in residents.
By 1951 there were no more kids at the Odd Fellows Home, but the number of elder adults had risen. The school was torn down and this modern structure was built as a hospital. The broken windows and metal awning looked sad and eerie.
Don and I continued down the remains of a walkway. Clouds and wind made the scene even more omnious.
This structure was built in 1908. It was called the Old Folks Pavilion.
It was sad seeing the broken windows and overgrown grass. There were signs telling us to stay out, but we could have easily walked right in.
The last building was completed in 1923.
This building was the first hospital. I have no clue how it was used after they built the newer hospital... which replaced the school.
The glass door at the entrance must have been busted long ago.
Again, we could have disobeyed and given ourselves a tour.
But we didn't need to. We could peer through a few glass-free windows and study the artwork, that covered the institutional green walls.
Back of Our Hotel
We circled around and headed back to the main building, approaching from the rear.
I wondered about all the people who once stared out those windows. German POWs were housed on the property during WWII. Was this the building where they were held?
As we came around towards the front, I looked up and spotted our guest room windows, on the corner of the third floor.
I wondered about the old folks who lived here in the 1970's after the other buildings closed down. By 1973, there was no school or hospital. The children had been gone since the 1950's. A nursing facility was all that remained and it continued into the early 1990s.
Time For Wine
After our self guided tour, Don and I were ready to sample some wine. As we tasted a few, we chatted with Ashley, as well the young woman who was still sitting at a table with her laptop.
They both knew about some of the history, as well as some of the hauntings. There was of course no bar or wine back in the IOOF days. But the old fireplace was original. It was oddly pieced back together, with a most unworthy fake fire.
Remembering the Kids
We talked with the young women about the children who once lived here. Both were aware of how the foster care system, pretty much put an end to orphanages. The woman at the computer said she wished there were still good orphanages today. I wanted to ask why, but then she mentioned that she'd grown up in foster care and knew how flawed it could be. She was very fond of this place.
Ashley talked about some of the eerie happenings in the building. Many of the ghostly stories are related to kids. She pointed out the stairs and how worn they were, closer to the railing. I pictured little children holding the railing as they climbed. Boys on one side. Girls on the other. Ashley told a story of a little boy who was a guest. He became distraught about going up the wrong stairs. No one had told him that there had been a strict rule in the past.
Cheers to Past Residents
Before Don and I headed up the stairs, Ashley offered to take our photo. We let her know we'd be staying put for the evening. We bought a bottle of wine to go with our classy chicken salad sandwiches.
Ashely made sure we had her number to call, if we had any concerns. She would be on the property until midnight. (doing laundry or something?) The doors would be locked at 8.
Quick Cemetery Run
Don and I started for the stairs, when I suddenly realized I hadn't checked out the cemetery up the dirt road. I knew it might be raining in the morning.
I let Don take the wine to the room and I headed up the road, just as a soft rain began to fall. I started to jog as the skies threatened to pour.
At the top of the hill I found a cemetery, with around 600 graves. There were names of men and women and dates, going back to the early 1800's. Jay B. Noe was born in 1848. Looks like he lived to be 85.
I walked to the bottom of the fenced area and looked up at the bare tree and entrance. I wish I knew more about these folks who were buried here. Were they all residents of the nursing home? Were there any children? I couldn't stay long. The rain chased me back.
What Was Notable?
We spent a night in a 122-year-old building, that once housed orphans and now houses wine. That might be a first for us. It's pretty amazing how few changes there are in the building's exterior, after so many years.
There have been many changes inside the building. The decor and paint and furniture has changed. But mostly, the people have changed. How I wish I had access to more stories or letters or photos, of the people who belonged to this building.
I think what I'll remember about our stay at Odd Fellows Home, is the odd combination of eerie old building and strangely refurbished room. We met no ghosts, but we did hear weird and constant clanking in the bathroom. If only we'd met a ghost, I could have had many questions answered.
Sleep in a Silo?
I was pretty excited last April, to realize Don and I would soon sleep in a silo for the first time.
Well, we didn't. We slept in a grain bin. I was calling this thing a silo for a while, but now I've been enlightened.
Two Bins on Route 66
These two bins were originally used by a mill in Oklahoma, to store dry grain. Typically silos hold the moist stuff.
The Triplett family purchased and moved these bins to their property a couple years ago. They now sit on Old Route 66, on a spot that has held cafes and lodging, going back to the 1920's.
600 Square Feet
The idea of sleeping in a metal can made me wonder about claustrophobia.
But the bins are large. 600 square feet! And each has two windows, plus an opening in the top for sunlight.
We arrived on a Monday afternoon. I love to make use of a hotel porch, so I pulled a stool outside for a little sit.
I sipped on my Mother Road Black Cherry Soda and absorbed the sunshine. It was April and windy. If it had been a little warmer and calmer we could have used the grill and table.
We stepped inside and I was delighted to find the perfect combo of rusty-rustic walls, with yellow-red color pops!
The kitchen nook reminded me of catsup and mustard... or Shell Oil Station... or actually the colors reminded me of a pair of yellow & red patent leather shoes that I adored as a tot! I love color connections!
Wood & Metal
To the right of the door was a wooden stairway, following the curved wall up to the sleeping loft. I was happy for this. I think the other bin had a spiral staircase. Spiral staircases are fun, but tricky for carrying bags.
I've never been inside a grain bin or silo, so I might have guessed the corrugated metal was original. But all of the interior was added by the owners, Andy and Brandy. I so love their names, btw!
It was nice that we arrived on a sunny afternoon, with beams of light pouring through the opening.
It was also nice that there was a.c. and heat. I imagine this space could get very cold or hot, without!
The sleeping loft was a lot more spacious, than many of our Notable Night hotel rooms.
I'm pretty sure we've never had denim curtains like these before.
When I spotted the overall-curtains, I was tempted to remove them for a quick photo shoot. I've been known to pack props and costumes, for our road trips. (I love a little silly photo time!) Why didn't I pack some farmer outfits for us?
I decided to just admire the overalls and not try to wear them. I also admired the door headboard and the flour sac pillow.
It was hard to reach the window, over the bed. I had to just guess about the view behind the overalls. Fields and trees, I'm pretty sure.
The view over the railing was fun. I loved seeing all the decorative details.
I love the textures of the wood, glass and metal, in that little display. I also love the nostalgia. I wonder about the people who once used the old lunch box or the yellow cooler? What I really loved was that nothing smelled musty or rusty. No smells of moldy grain either. The bins are kept clean, even if they look old.
Where People Get Clean
The place where guests get clean, was also clean.
Andy, Brandy and their kids must have had fun coming up with some of the unique bathroom features.
After exploring the space a little, Don and I took off to explore the area. First we learned that Phillipsburg is small. Very small. There might be a couple hundred people there, but we saw no one. There however was lots to see on our drive. Click the photos below for details.
It was a Monday, so even venturing 15 miles to Lebanon didn't give us many options for dinner. We did however find some candy (for a sweet dinner) right across the highway. The World's Largest Gift Shop and Redmond's Candy Factory were indeed open on a Monday.
We could have cooked a little something in the microwave, but had food in the car. We went for an easy dinner of our cheese, crackers, fruit and nuts. There was no coffee table, so we grabbed a stool to hold the fancy martinis that Don made... using our candy purchase!
Our green-apple and creamsicle candies added an interesting flavor (and color) to our martinis!
We set the camera timer to capture our toast. Cheers to our first stay in a grain bin!
My camera was sitting across the room on the Royal Crown Cola table, below the TV. The bin's diameter is 22 feet, which means that TV was a long way away! My eyes are too old for that. We read some of the interesting books we found sitting around.
Sunset at the Bin
Around 7:30, I was suddenly alerted to the change in light.
I leapt from the couch and dashed out for a sunset photo. I was glad no other guests had arrived, with photobombing vehicles. We had the place to ourselves and I had a fun view of the sun sinking down, between the bins!
So we slept in a bin! For less than 100 dollars we had tons of space, all to ourselves. We could sing as loud as we wanted.
Of course my singing was slightly muffled by the sounds of nearby Interstate 44. That's okay. The car sounds reminded me of the old days of car travel on Rt 66. What a fun combination for a Notable Night...
One night in an authentic grain bin, that happens to sit beside the old Route 66 Highway!
#272 - Queen Wilhelmina Lodge
Notable Night Worthy?
The face of Queen Wilhelmina on the sign, was notable for sure! It greeted us before anything else, when we arrived at this State Park in west Arkansas.
I knew the Lodge at Queen Wilhelmina State Park was not historic. I expected a nice stay, but not a notable one. But our stay had enough history and quirkiness to make the Notable List. Here's a quick glimpse.
The Lodge in April 2022
We enjoyed the pretty drive that took us to the modern lodge, on top of Rich Mountain. 2,681 feet high!
It was cold and windy. I was glad to have sunshine when we stepped out of the car to look at the lodge. It looked nice after its 3-year renovation a few years ago. But not epic.
The First Lodge 1898
If only the original lodge had survived! This is how Queen Wilhelmina Inn looked around the time of the grand opening, in 1898. Rock and timber... rounded porches!
For just over a decade the 3-story lodge welcomed wealthy travelers on the KCPG railroad. The guests likely expected a luxurious stay, at a hotel named after Royalty. The inn was actually named in honor of Queen Wilhelmina, because many of the railroad investors were Dutch. The young Wilhelmina was crowned Queen, the year the inn opened.
This was the walkway beside the parking lot. This was also the view from the lodge's windows and porches.
Even in early spring with no leaves, the view was lovely.
From the lot, I spotted lots of windows and rocking chairs and porches. That was good.
It was kind of sad that there was no round porch anymore. Also sad that there was so much pavement between the lodge and the view.
Back in 1963, there was lots of grass where the paved lot sits today. These kids look pretty happy, playing on the stone wall and running on the grass.
This photo shows the totally rebuilt hotel, in 1963. The original inn had fallen into disrepair by 1910. Sadly the new inn lasted only 10 years, before a fire destroyed it. Sad thought, but a nice vintage photo. So many summertime kids having fun!
There were no kids when we checked in, on a weekday in April. Just a lot of oldster retirees... like us. Kids would have made this place a more lively. They would have loved this bear.
This sweet bear happened to be standing beside some of the original stonework, that was salvaged from the first inn. The current lodge was built in 1975.
We chatted as we checked in about the weather. Evidently we had arrived after 3 days of rain and mud. We got our room key and headed for the stairs, feeling lucky.
Near the stairs, I peeked at the spacious (and empty) lounge area. Again, I felt lucky. It's so nice to be able to travel in the off season. The open space wasn't exactly Old Faithful Lodge, but there were huge windows and lots of seating and no tourist crowds. The carpeted open space reminded me of something. What? I couldn't pinpoint.
I always keep expectations low (for room comfort) when we book at State Park lodges. But our room on the second floor was a nice surprise.
There was no historic charm, but I was impressed with the size and set up. We made coffee in the room at took it downstairs.
The space was still tourist-free, but a large TV was blaring on a back wall. I found the remote and muted it. Don and I found some scrapbooks on the table and settled in near the window to read up on more of the park and inn's history.
After a bit, a couple wandered in and stood nearby. The woman sighed then commented in a booming voice. "Just like being on a cruise ship!" Don and I chuckled at that corny comment as we gazed through the glass ourselves. But then I had to agree. That's exactly how the big open space felt. And when I looked out and ignored the cars, I felt like we were peering down from a ship's upper level... watching the wind whip at the clothes of a few guests wandering the decks below.
History or People Watching
The books were interesting, with history and photos. The far off scenery was nice. But the activity in the parking lot took more of our attention.
We enjoyed some people watching as cars pull up to unload. We studied them and wondered where they were from and if they could possibly be interesting. So many older folks in travel rumpled clothes. A few had dogs and I spotted a cane or two. I noticed binoculars and real cameras hangin on a couple necks. Most of the guests looked nerdy and dull and I was glad to not be on a cruise ship where we'd be forced to dine with them. Then I laughed to picture us. Man, I'm really not sure that we're any cooler than these people.
The Card Corner
Before long, one empty corner filled up with 4 couples. They spread out at a few tables, with a huge coffee maker and mugs and lots of snacks.
There was no booze, just coffee. But they were lively and chatty and sort of annoying as they slapped cards and carried on. They weren't much older than us and all were dressed in "workin' in the yard clothes". Don and I smirked a bit and finally admitted to each other. "You know. That looks like fun, traveling with friends." We figured they'd come up from the RV park to escape the cold for a while. They were harmless and entertaining.
Light Up That Fire!
Every time the door opened, I felt a gust and a chill. I finally asked at the desk if the fake logs in the fireplace could be started up. A sweet lady in "park uniform" was happy to oblige. She grabbed a cushion and headed over to the gigantic opening and removed the screen. Then she placed the pillow on the hearth so she could kneel and reach inside. (I was so tempted to photograph that!) There was a huge blast from some kind of exhaust fan. A whoosh and then flames!
We didn't get a lot of warmth from that gas fire, but we did gain some friends. Once we moved to the chairs near the fire, others started to flock. I've never seen a fireplace on a cruise ship, but it did feel like we were suddenly at some cruise social event, getting to know fellow passengers. Everyone introduced themselves and shared travel stories. It was odd and entertaining and curious. But it was hard talking over the loud fan. We didn't stay too long.
Exploring the Grounds
We made sure to explore the grounds before dark.
Down the hill we found an old putt putt golf course, near an old wall.
Not far from the golf course we found some old track and this fine engine.
I posed like a tourist and then headed across the street in search of something I'd seen in one of the scrapbook photos.
The Wonder House
This storybook cottage was not part of the original hotel property, but it has belonged to the State Park since 1958.
The Wonder House was designed by an amateur builder in 1931. Carlos Hill built 5 houses on Rich Mountain, but only this one is intact. This view of the front shows the uncut stone, found in nearby hills.
I was giddy over this thing! This side view shows the 2-part house was built on a sloping hill, connected with a breezeway. There are evidently 7 levels inside. The windows are all at different levels.
The "Wonder House" was built nearly a century ago as a vacation house! Oh how I wish you could rent the place now. I believe it's just a museum now.
The outside stairs made me wonder about the steps connecting all the levels inside.
The museum was closed so we didn't get to go inside to find out.
Posing in a Story
But, I was delighted to sit a spell at the top of those stairs and pretend I was in some fairytale. Hansel and Gretel maybe?
I loved the way the stone stairway wrapped around the rock chimney. I sat up by the little wooden door, waiting for some granny-witch or chatty-elf, to just let me in! No one came. Don and I let the cold wind blow us back up to the hotel.
By the time we reached the lodge, my cheeks were wet from wind tears. We freshened up and headed to the dining room before it closed.
First of all I kind of love the name. Queen's Restaurant! This photo was taken at 7am. When Don and I arrived it was actually too dark to enjoy the view.
I expected to be rushed a bit since most of the diners had finished and we were the last to be seated. But Stacy couldn't have been more welcoming. She brought us menus and promised we didn't need to hurry.
No surprise that there were no Dutch dishes on the menu. But I was surprised to see the price. $9.99 for the dinner special with 2 sides!
I ate more like a kid than a Queen and I was happy as can be about that. Chicken fingers, mashed taters and gravy... cole slaw and rolls! It was a treat!
Good Night Your Majesty
Don asked for some extra coffee pods at the desk and we headed upstairs.
I said goodnight to the bear. Don said goodnight to the Queen. Evidently Queen Wilhelmina never made it to Arkansas to see this place.
In the morning I peeked out the window and saw clouds, but headed downstairs with my camera... in case.
I opened the door and was blasted by cold wind. I wish it had been warm enough for coffee on the porch.
I glanced at the hummingbird feeders and knew I was getting old...
... when I thought about how entertaining it would be to sit in a rocker and watch those feeders all day.
I walked down a ways and saw the glowing pink sky in the east.
The wind and the sun blocking clouds sent me rushing inside for warmth.
I made it back to the room and peeked out the window to see a break in the clouds!
Sun! I raced back down and waved again to the desk staff and ran out to catch the sun before it disappeared again. It was a Royal Sunrise Surprise!
We were back on the road before 9, feeling pleased with our stay. What will I remember?
I'll remember the crazy wind and the pretty drive. I might forget about the curious guests we met and the fairly welcoming staff. I'll probably remember that the building didn't impress me much. But we really were perfectly content and enjoyed our stay.
I'm sure this is what I'll fondly remember the most. The Wonder House and the sunrise!
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!