Since 1903, in Palacios, Texas
In 2013, Don and I enjoyed the 3rd night of a Mini Texas Road Trip, at The Luther. 110 years before our visit, the iconic inn opened as the Bay View Hotel.
On our 3-day road trip, we had already enjoyed a kitschy teepee overnight and a somewhat haunted hotel experience. Our final night at The Luther, felt like coming home!
Our Host, Jack
Jack greeted us on the porch when we arrived. I felt like I already knew him since we'd spoken on the phone a few times. That was the only way to make a reservation.
During our phone conversations, I had detected a hint of a southern drawl in his welcoming voice. We had discussed room options as well as some possible storms. But once Jack mentioned the great porch with rocking chairs, I didn't worry about weather. I love sitting on a porch when it's raining.
Jack welcomed us inside and I was delighted right away, to see the old phone booth near the front desk. ( I love old phones!) I don't believe that's the phone Jack used when we spoke earlier, but the old metal booth was much more than a decoration.
Jack shared a little history about The Luther during the 1940's, when the hotel became home to many military families and soldiers, stationed at Camp Hulen. That old booth got a lot of use during those years!
Just like Hotel Blessing the night before, the Luther lobby was not air-conditioned. And it was summer in Texas!
But, there was a breeze blowing through the front door screens and right out the screen doors in back.
July in Texas
It was surprisingly pleasant for a July day in Texas. There was something welcoming about NOT being blasted with chilled air, while we checked in at the desk.
I hate having to wear a sweater every time I enter a Texas hotel, theatre or restaurant, in the summer. But, I was still glad to know the guest rooms were air-conditioned. No worries about sleeping.
Feeling at Home
Entering the lobby felt more like entering someone's home, than a hotel. There was a piano beneath the stairs and photos lining the wall going up the staircase.
Some of the framed photos were a little more exciting than your typical family portraits. There were photos of famous guests who stayed in the past, particularly celebrities who came to entertain the servicemen in the '40s. It was fun to imagine Rita Hayworth walking up the same stairs we climbed.
We headed up the stairs to the Magnolia Room. Since we had an air-conditioner, there was no need to have the airflow through the shuttered outer door.
The stairs continued up to a third floor, Penthouse. Too bad that room was booked. It had a private terrace and a great view of the gulf, out over the lawn.
Our room was clean and cozy, with a king bed. The Venetian blinds and lace cloth (under the TV) took me back in time.
The bathroom tile reminded me of my grandmother. And that is not a bad thing. I don't think you have to be a baby boomer to crave nostalgic touches.
Don and I made good use of the porch, which at one time spanned the entire hotel and was considered the longest porch in Texas. We enjoyed some refreshing beverages while we got in some good rocking.
We didn't get to see a storm, but we had a great view of the vast lawn, rustling palms and the bay beyond. It was fun to imagine some fine gents in seersucker suits, playing croquet on the grass in 1905... or maybe a few ladies heading to the bay pavilion, dressed in their bathing or dancing attire. That was before the additions on both sides.
An Incredible Building
It's hard to absorb how huge this hotel is. Jack has been hosting and renovating on his own, since his wife's passing in 2005.
Her parents, Charles and Elsie Luther bought the hotel in 1936 after it had fallen into disrepair. It took them about 4 years of massive renovations before they could open. Jack's approach is more gradual and realistic for the times.
Jack took us on a tour and showed us the rooms he has been remodeling. His enthusiasm made us want to come back with paint brushes and help out for a weekend!
I liked being able to step outside and see the fresh white paint, in contrast to the weathered eastern portion of the building. In this day of "tear down and build new" it's a treat to see work in progress.
I was glad to get a glimpse of the old Tourist Court, which the Luthers added during renovations in the '30s.
The 11 rooms and garages haven't been used in years, but I love this reminder of an era when motor travel was all the rage.
Enjoying the Evening
As we finished up our drinks on the porch we heard a guitar strumming from the Penthouse balcony.
Earlier, we had a chance to meet the good spirited couple who booked the Penthouse. As we headed off across the lawn in search of dinner, we heard Elaine holler down from the upper terrace, "Hey! Are y'all goin' somewhere fun?" We laughed that we didn't know yet, but we hoped so.
Sunset & Dinner
We did catch a good sunset behind some boats, in a nearby harbor.
And Jack's suggestion for dinner at The Outrigger, (Which was once a plumbing/hardware store) was perfect!
Back to the Porch
We returned to The Luther just in time for a little socializing. Elaine and Reid and their grown son had brought the guitar down to the porch.
Jack came out to join us and there were lots of shared stories, then singing and eventually a little dancing. We were about ready to turn in when Reid and his son pulled out some gear and started getting ready for a little night fishing. They invited us along and I still regret that we didn't give that adventure a try!
Breakfast & History
In the morning, we helped ourselves to some cereal and coffee in the breakfast room.
We settled in with some amazing scrapbooks of hotel history.
A Connection with LBJ
Of all the scrapbooks, I was most intrigued by one that included letters from Lyndon B Johnson, to May Myers Callaway.
Mrs. Callaway was the grandmother of Jack's wife. Mrs. C. knew LBJ from when they were both young. They corresponded over the years, with Mrs. C offering thoughts and advice about his leadership as a senator. It was interesting to read LBJ's thoughtful responses.
The most memorable and amazing thing about our stay was how "at home" we really felt. Often B&Bs feel like homes, because they're actually in old houses. But rarely do they feel homey.
The Luther was a B&B in an actual hotel... in fact a gigantic hotel. But it felt homey. Jack was not overly or awkwardly chummy in his hosting, like some B&B hosts. He just made us feel like we could be ourselves. And even better, he made the guests comfortable with each other. It's time for another visit!
In 2019, Don and I returned to The Luther with our friends. Pat and Susan were more than game to share the Luther Experience with us and we had a blast.
What a treat to have friends who are game for something just a little different!
And what fun to rent out the top floor room! A real step back in time with the iconic decor!
What a hoot to spend a little time, admiring the vintage furniture and wallpaper and the views! Susan and I couldn't resist getting out the TV trays! The view from the roof veranda was pretty fine!
I'm so glad we got to have a little time chatting with Jack on our short visit. Sadly, Jack passed away about a year after our visit.
Rest in Peace, Jack! Thanks for sharing The Luther with us!
ONE MORE UPDATE!
I have just learned that The Luther is in danger of demolition! What a tragic thought, that this hotel with all its history, could just disappear. Thanks to a blog comment from Sandra, I am sharing a link where we can sign a petition to keep that from happening! Please help!
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!