A Sweet Stay, with a Sad History
A Damp Day
The rain had just stopped that morning in '63, when the Kennedys stepped out from the hotel, before heading to Dallas. Spirits were high when the President spoke to the crowds.
It was also a rainy day, when Don and I arrived at the same entrance. We were meeting good friends and going to a very special wedding that night. Spirits were also high. But I couldn't ignore the history and the gloomy weather didn't help.
Open Since 1921
Once we stepped inside, it was easy to forget that our hotel was where President Kennedy spent his last night. The modern 2-story lobby, with escalator and horse statues didn't look at all like a hotel from 1963 or 1921 for that matter.
Room on the 12th Floor
But when the elevator doors opened to the 12th floor, we were faced with another reminder of that day. Our room was right beside the framed photograph. But I was very much okay with that. I'm always interested in hotel history, even if the history is bittersweet.
Windows and Art
Our room was spacious and comfortable with large windows, which I always love.
A framed print in the bathroom, showed "Hotel Texas" as it might have looked in 1963. The artwork in the guest room was just good old, Hilton Art. However, in '63, the Kennedy's suite was specially decorated for their visit, with 16 original masterpieces from Picasso to Monet.
I read in the link below, that the Kennedy's suite had a view of a Trailways bus station. When looked out our window, I didn't spot buses, but I saw pigeons on the sill and a statue of Kennedy, below in Memorial Plaza.
I was so busy remembering the hotel's mid-century history, that I forgot Hotel Texas went back to 1921. Seeing a cowboy hat at the atrium bar, reminded me of how different Fort Worth was at the grand opening in 1921. The once rowdy cowtown, suddenly had a need for nicer hotels, with all the new oil wealth.
Don and I don't usually get to enjoy the bonus perks at hotels, so we were happy to join our good friends in the Executive Lounge for a little relaxing. We sat near some western belt buckle decor and enjoyed some yummy afternoon nibbles.
We even dressed for the Executive Lounge occasion... well at least Don did. (Always pack a 2-dollar bowtie, just in case!)
In the evening, we 4 spiffed up a bit and headed off for our special evening. If only the weather hadn't been so lousy, we would have made use of one of the hotel's best perks...the location. Our hotel was in walking distance to the church and wedding venue, as well as numerous restaurants and hot spots.
After joining our friends for breakfast, we said our good-byes and packed up. But before Don and I headed off, we took some time to do a little more exploring.
The Eighth Floor
We rode the elevator to the 8th floor, just to remember. The Kennedy's Suite in 850, not longer exists. Renovations broke up the original 3-room suite, long ago. We could have booked Room 808, which is now a standard room in that area. Or we could have gone all out and booked the 2,200 sq ft Presidential Suite, which looks nothing like the "Oriental Modern" decor in the Kennedy's suite.
The Crystal Ballroom
Then Don and I peeked in the Crystal Ballroom, that had been a new addition in 1963. The President gave his last address at a breakfast in the ballroom, on that November morning. Over 2,000 attended. Today's ballroom has the same name, but looks nothing the same.
We exited the ballroom on the second floor and headed to the Promenade, along the front of the building. At both ends, we found a display of photos and articles about the Kennedy's brief stay at the hotel.
As we studied the photos, I wondered how many hotel visitors have stopped to look. How many guests find it too painful to be reminded of the tragic event, that happened after these photos were taken?
The mood was obviously different than that cold day in D.C., when I stood with my family at age 6, watching the flag draped casket pass.
I was glad to remind myself that I was standing beside a hotel, where crowds once cheered and waved as the Kennedys climbed into their car. Nothing sad occurred here.
We stepped into the same ballroom and maybe even used the same elevator. We even shared the same kind of weather and I'd like to say, we shared the same kind of hope. Elections are coming up, after all.
A Curious and Luxurious Overnight in Oklahoma
In recent years, The Dominion has been a venue for weddings. In 2018, one of the brick federal-style buildings was renovated to hold 6 guest rooms.
The main house looked very quiet and grand, when we arrived on a Sunday afternoon. If we'd come the night before, we would have taken in a different scene, with wedding guests on the veranda.
The Masonic Children's Home
I found this internet photo of the main house, when it was vacant between 1978 and 2000. The Children's Home was built in 1923, by the the Mason's, to house orphans and children whose parents could no longer care of them.
Originally, the children were related to members of the fraternal organization. In the fifties the home opened its doors to other children. In the seventies, changes were made in the Oklahoma foster care program and the home closed. It must have been an eerie sight for many years, to the neighbors living nearby.
Besides the main house, there were a number of other buildings on the property.
Years ago, the city of Guthrie offered up 28 acres to the Masons for their children's home. The city also gave the children access to the public schools. Today, the buildings are surrounded by gorgeous lawns and gardens.
The West Wing
This is the building that now houses the 6 guest rooms. I'm still unclear about what this building was originally used for. I know that at least one dormitory building was torn down.
Approaching from The Rear
To enter the property, we came through gates at the rear. The huge parking lot was empty, except for one car. We hoped we had booked correctly and they were expecting us.
Our gracious host was expecting us. She checked us in and gave us a quick tour, showing us the gardens where weddings have taken place for about a decade. She insisted we pose for a photo, when she found out our 39th anniversary was coming up.
Lots of Green
We explored a while on our own. It was hard to imagine the peaceful lawns and pathways, swarming with wedding guests. I loved having it to ourselves.
I spotted a couple statues of children in the front gardens. It made me stop to think about what it was like for young kids living here, without parents. There's evidence that the Children's Home was a luxurious place, offering art and music lessons and a indoor pool with marble tile, a gymnasium and a skating rink. There are also creepy rumors, of an evil head mistress who beat children to death and a nutty nurse who threw herself from the bell tower. Just rumors, I hope. But supposedly, graves were found on the property. Yikes.
West Wing Superior
But all the crazy tales were easily forgotten when we headed down the second floor hallway, lit by glowing chandeliers. We opened the door to our West Wing Superior Room and the title matched the decor. It seemed more like a room at the White House, than a room in a haunted hotel. I felt totally unworthy.
Everything from the view, to the glass doorknobs was top notch.
Sconces and Chandeliers
We must have had 7 or more crystal light fixtures. It was so utterly not our style, but we were giddy about the whole thing.
Velvet and Wood
There was something pretty splendid about being in an old building, where everything smelled fine. The bed linens, drapes, couch and rug were all odor free.
The last time we had velvet drapes and couch, we were in a musty Victorian hotel in Wyoming, with creaky floors. Everything from the square pillar to the panel moulding, looked sturdy and clean.
The bathroom was so glamorous it pretty much made me laugh. The spacious, marble shower, looked like it could hold about 4 guests at once. The dramatic horse looked like he was politely turning his head, for those entering the claw footed tub. The gorgeous wood and marble vanity did a very fine job of holding the bucket of ice, delivered by our friendly host.
Evening at the Dominion
Before Don and I headed out for the evening, we went against house rules (no alcohol) and had a wine toast in our room. How could we not? Like sneaky children, we took the evidence back to our car. Which was wise, since we had a little turn-down service while we were away. A nice chocolate stamped with the hotel image, was our reward!
Unfortunately, the hotel's new restaurant wasn't yet open for business. But we were able to walk to the historic downtown area, for dinner. Returning to see the lit up main house and fountain, was the best surprise. Equally lovely and eerie!
The faucet handle fell off and water began to spew in all directions. I tried desperately to force the handle back on, while I kicked open the door with my foot to whisper/shout, "DON!" (I wanted no hotel staff coming to help!) Don woke and came to the rescue of his naked wife, by shutting off the water valve, underneath the tub. By this time, there was water covering the entire framed horse, the mirror, the marble floor and water was seeping towards the wood and carpet in the next room. Don and I used every towel to meticulously mop up the puddles and to remove every droplet. No bath for me.
By the time Don and I were dressed, we were exhausted. We headed straight to breakfast, passing though a sort of walkway between buildings.
The Main House
We ended up in the main house, with its grand staircase and formal dining room and bright reception room, with fireplace. I'm not sure how this space was used 95 years ago, but for a while it became a private residence to the new owners in 2000... I think!
Don and I greeted another hotel guest on the way to our cozy breakfast room. She was sitting in her nightgown, having tea in the dining room... and that sort of amused me. I'm pretty sure I've never gone to a B&B breakfast, wearing a robe or nighty.
Chef David appeared from the new kitchen, which will be used to prepare meals for the new Bistro, soon. He was in great spirits for 8 am. We chatted a bit about all the interesting places he has worked in past years. I was curious about his interest in international cooking.
The Bistro looked just about ready for business. David was extra excited about the pizza oven.
More Than Enough to Eat!
Time To Go
When it was time to check out, we had to share the news of our bathtub, with the host. I'm pretty sure I didn't cause the problem, but I somehow felt a little sheepish, as if I were one of the kids from the Children's Home, admitting guilt. My casual description of the problem, gave no hints about the real drenching fiasco that occurred.
The grounds and the hotel couldn't have been more lovely. The chef-cooked breakfast was a delicious treat. The staff and even the other guests, made us feel welcomed and comfortable.
Who knows... maybe, just maybe, the ghost of the wicked head mistress was actually watching, when Don and I snuck our glass of wine. That crazy bathtub experience, could have been the punishing work of the ghostly mistress!
Same Building, New Hotel - in Kansas City
Hotel Savoy, Est. 1888
A New Look
The glowing hallway ramp took us to the "lobby" counter. The stark white walls and simple desk, sort of disappointed me. But the young men with their laptops, greeted us with much enthusiasm. It was a much friendlier check-in experience than we'd had 4 years before.
Keep Your Eyes on the Train
As we checked in, we studied our first piece of art in the Art Museum/Hotel.
3 trains, on 3 tracks, were mounted on the wall behind the counter. When the 3 moving trains became aligned, images on the train cars revealed a set of eyes! Clever!
To the left of the desk, was a gallery space that I recognized as the reception area, where we'd once checked in. The stained glass dome was now dim, but the purple & green, glass chandelier hung brightly. It was odd to see the frosted glass behind the ornate window bars. There was no grumpy check-in clerk, this time.
I chatted with the young man at the modern desk, about the changes. He agreed with me, that it was a shame to have no light coming through the old skylight. We ended up having a fun conversation and I shared my old blog write-up with him, on his laptop. He had never been in the hotel, before its renovation.
Before even finding our room, Don and I took in some of the art. There were permanent installations as well as a temporary exhibit, involving a theme of Refuge.
As we studied the displays on the walls, I also found myself staring at the floor's tile design, which I remember fondly... and the beams and pillars that were now painted white.
On the second floor, music played as we wandered more gallery rooms. The paintings and films and sculptures were thoughtful and touching and often very sad. I was a little excited to see the swirling pastels on the wall, when our elevator opened to the third floor. We welcomed the colorful mood lift.
Penguins Here and There
The sweet blue mascots were a cheerful break from the serious art. We never knew where we might find one. One blue guy rode the elevator with us. We saw another parked in front of someone's door.
Our Deluxe King room was full of surprises. There was no Granny decor, like 4 years ago. No window unit. No wooden coat rack. No wallpaper and lace.
We entered our room and stepped into a hallway. The bathroom was to the right and the window on the left, faced an atrium. I spotted a skylight above and workout room, below.
The windows in our guest room were frosted. I had to climb a chair to get a view of the brick buildings. We could have paid more for a city view, but we were fine with the odd views.
I loved it that we had our own penguin art above our bed. Across from the bed we had a nice little set up near the TV, with a fridge and Nespresso coffeemaker. Gotta love that pink interior, sliding shelf!
"Sleep with art. We won't tell."
Those were the words printed on the bottom of our key packet. I took the advice and put the comical, Do Not Disturb Man on the door knob and lounged in bed with some art.
There was no bible in the drawer, but there was a book beside the bed, filled with quotes from famous artists. And when I turned on the TV, it was set on a station with art films. I couldn't get away from art if I wanted to. I was pretty content, especially in my lounging robe.
The bathroom was lovely, with wonderful Malin+Goetz bath amenities. But the rubber ducky in the shower, just frustrated me. There was no tub, so I gave the yellow guy a swim in the sink... which by the way is the same refurbished sink from the original hotel.
Dining at 21c
The new hotel has kept the Savoy name for its restaurant and lounge. However it looks nothing the same. This is how the art filled restaurant looks today. The lovely molded ceiling was hidden behind glowing, curved, panels. A penguin stood guard.
Breakfast in 2014
Today's restaurant was once the hotel's barbershop. 4 years ago, the space was used for breakfast and we feasted beside the stained glass, on white tablecloths. Our breakfast back then, was included with our hotel stay. Waiters in white, served everything from Oysters Rockefeller to caviar! A strange contrast to our non-luxurious hotel room.
Savoy Grill... Now the Lounge
Although the fire of 2014 started in the kitchen, much of the Savoy Grill was saved. I was so glad to see the dark, wood pillars and green bar stools. The tables with white linens were replaced by lounge chairs, but the feel of the place was the same.
The western murals and stained glass looked just as I remembered. The cozy booths once again made me wonder about all the famous guests who sat in them since 1905... Harry S. Truman, Vincent Price, John D Rockefeller.
The Bar in 2014
Don and I have good memories of Savoy Grill's bar, chatting with the bartender in his bowtie. I believe his grandparents had worked at The Savoy. Maybe his grandfather waited on my table when I ate at The Savoy with my grandmother in the 1970's. Even back then, I remember feeling like I had stepped back in time, when we dined.
No Bowties Today
There were no bowties behind the bar, but lots of suspenders and beards. It got incredibly busy and it was amazing to watch the bartender's multi-tasking skills.
The bar got livelier as the evening passed. I laughed with the woman next to me about the cute, pineapple-topped skewer, holding my olives. Don chatted with the bartender, about his pineapple arm tattoo. We were surrounded by interesting and friendly people.
Where Did the Penguins Go?
My new friend, Rashida and I decided we wanted to have a penguin join us at the bar. I offered to find us one, but the penguins suddenly seemed to be missing. We had a Penguin Mystery.
Rashida's friend went to inquire. It seems that a Taylor Swift concert had caused the hotel to have a higher number of young people. The kids were evidently hogging the penguins! Luckily we were able to track down one penguin in the dining room and borrowed him for a while.
Don and I kept it easy and ordered dinner at the bar. The chef did an amazing job with our simple meal of salads and burger. Before heading up to our room, we wandered a bit, enjoying the lively feel of the hotel. I made sure to check out the glowing hall before we got in the elevator. It looked totally different.
A part of me definitely mourned the old hotel, odd as it was. But I am so grateful for the 21c renovation, bringing a whole new life and energy to a place that could have just closed forever. What will I remember most? The whimsical stuff and of course those sweet blue penguins!
Hotel Savoy Write-Up from 2014:
The Gumbel Building from 1904
Okay, we stayed at a Hampton Inn, in Kansas City. I barely want to admit that. But I'm a lot more okay with staying at a chain hotel, when I know that a building was saved from demolition.
The Fancy Stuff
At first glance the 6-story, corner building did not really impress me. But apparently, The Gumbel Building was Kansas City's first large commercial office building, of reinforced concrete.
The concrete building didn't thrill me, until I paused to look high up. There were some mighty fancy eagles, near the top of that old Gumbel building.
Entrance on Walnut Street
The lobby felt bright and modern. The stairs led down to a very nice fitness room, that I had all to myself the next morning.
Sitting Area and Bar
The bar area was actually very pleasant. However, Don and I ordered a drink little later and the young guy tending bar, had the TV turned to an obnoxious reality show. The blasting sounds of a drunken beach festival, filled the lovely lounge area.
6th Floor Room
I asked nicely, for a room with a view. We were sent to a 4th floor room that had a view of a roof parking lot. It also had a mysterious stinky odor. When I tried to brighten the room, I discovered 3 lamps had no bulbs. I suddenly had 3 excuses for a room change. Our room on the 6th floor was better. The rolling bathroom door was a little wonky, but everything else was good.
Out the Window
It wasn't the world's best view, but I could see the eagle, when I looked to the side! That kind of delighted me. And we had a comfy chaise lounge with a mini-desk. The bed was luxurious and the bedside tables had pull-out extensions, for those who have lots of travel clutter, like me.
Our weather was lousy, but we were still able to travel on foot, to many places from our hotel. The valet guy was good about letting us know which areas were safe for walking.
I loved coming back after dark and seeing the building lit up.
There was a complimentary breakfast spread, that was decent enough. There were newspapers available and good seating options and I loved the large windows.
I was a little surprised when one of the staff members broke into song. Is this a Hampton Inn thing? She sang us a welcome song, which must have taken a lot of guts, since the "audience" seemed kind of sleepy and cranky. Her voice was good and I wonder if we were supposed to tip for that?
Maybe I'll try to remember the American eagles, perched outside our room. I love a hotel with an animal memory!
Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Don and I arrived at this rambling, limestone hotel on a gloomy, damp September afternoon. I knew little about the hotel as we approached, except that it had been a luxurious health resort about a century ago.
Open in 1912
I had read some cranky traveler reviews before our arrival, so my expectations weren't high. But as we walked towards the building I was excited. The price was right, the retro roof sign was welcoming and the rounded structure in front, pleased me. I'm often easy to please.
Before we even stepped inside I was already checking out the porch seating. Don and I love a hotel with good outdoor lounging space, especially when storms are headed our way.
Honestly, I should not read hotel reviews. What were those people complaining about in their write-ups? The lobby looked fine to me, after its 20-million-dollar renovation in 2011.
The Old Stuff
Fireplace & Piano
The brick and limestone fireplace looked extra cozy. Too bad the weather was still warm and muggy. And too bad we didn't have a pianist to fill the lobby with a little music. Too bad there was no in-house orchestra, like the hotel had back in the day.
A Car on the Floor
Also in the lobby, we had a car, sitting right on the old tile. I'm not sure if that's the kind of car Al Capone would have driven, but he was a frequent hotel guest and often hosted illegal gambling parties.
Upgrade to the 5th Floor
Don and I had reserved a room at the cheapest rate of about $100. We were a little surprised when the woman checking us in, casually mentioned she was upgrading us to a 5th Floor Royal Experience Suite. Our elevator opened to a pleasant lounge area and then we headed down another hall, to our suite. I'm still not sure what we did to deserve the bonus!
Room 500 -The Roosevelt Suite
What a giddy surprise to step into a sprawling suite, when we'd been expecting a room. I will admit, the carpet was a bit worn and the decor felt a little dated, but Don and I weren't complaining a bit. And to think FDR stayed in this room, when he secretly came to treat his polio in the mineral waters...
Well Maybe Not
The Great Escape!
Our corner room had a couple views, but I liked the one with the fire escape best. Not only could we see the pool and gardens, but we could see our escape route, if needed. It's always nice to know your emergency plans, when staying in a hotel that has burned down twice before. The first Elms Hotel opened in 1888.
More of our Sweet Suite!
Our living area, with 3 windows had lots of space. But there was plenty more to explore. The area leading to the bedroom, had an eating bar and wet bar with fridge, microwave and Keurig coffee maker. The bathroom was quite roomy with its marble vanity, holding 2 sinks... plus a whirlpool tub and shower!
Sometimes historic hotels have smaller rooms with odd set ups, that have us fighting over the one bedside table. I will admit, Don gives in nicely when that happens, but there was no best side with this bed. Our cozy bed was tucked into an interesting wall unit with 2 closets and 2 tables...2 good lamps and numerous luxury pillows. Perfect.
Walk Before the Rain
The rain was headed our way, so we got out to explore the grounds. We could have had the pool to ourselves!
Gardens to Ourselves
Staying on a weekday in September, meant we didn't have to share any of the outdoor property! If it had started to pour, we could have dashed to the gazebo... and reenacted the scene from Sound of Music... and no one would have been around to laugh. But it still wouldn't have been pretty. Neither of us sing and I don't look like I am 16 going on 17...
The gardens and pathways were lovely, even with hazy skies. When I spotted the horse shoe pits and picnic tables and stone barbecue grill, it made me long for a family reunion. After wandering, we decided it was time to head back and find a place to relax.
Restaurant - "88 at the Elms"
We had planned on having drinks outside, but the 2-story restaurant off the lobby looked intriguing.
I climbed the stairs and looked down, wondering what the restaurant looked like in the 1930's. Instead of seeing a mural featuring Al Capone, we might have spotted Al himself or "Pretty Boy" Floyd or Bugsy Moran.
Ashley at the Bar
Don and I had drink at the bar before dinner, where we got lots of interesting scoop from Ashley, our bartender... while Harry S. Truman looked down from another mural. Unlike FDR, It's not a rumor that Truman stayed at The Elms. On election night, back in 1948, Mr. Truman enjoyed some of the spa features before retiring to his suite, where he listened to the radio for election results. Hard to imagine, but true.
The European Lap Pool
After moving on to a fabulous dinner in the restaurant, Don and I changed into suits and headed on a long journey in search of the lap pool in the basement.
We were glad that we'd gotten history of the pool from Ashely, or we might have totally missed the lap pool experience! Just finding the underground secret, was an adventure. Don and I were pretty excited to lay eyes on one of only 3 of these specially designed pools in the country.
Also knowing that there had possibly been a murder in the area, back in the gambling days, added an extra thrill. But mostly it was fun trying to enjoy the therapy of the 3-island set up!
Circling the Islands
I started by walking around the smallest island first. That's how the more feeble "guests" would have begun their water fitness.
The Glowing Sign
After the intense work out, we dried off an started the long journey back to our room. By the time we made it to the lobby, I realized I needed to run outside to see if the sign was lit. It was! The hotel and sign looked a tiny bit eerie thought the drizzle.
Morning with 5th Floor Treats
We slept well and woke to a rainy day. There was a nice continental breakfast served on our floor and we enjoyed it back in the room. The night before, we'd returned to our room and to find a note from the concierge with drink vouchers and a snack of meats, cheese and nuts in our fridge. I guess we missed our 5th floor happy hour.
There may be no fox and hound hunts on the grounds, now. I saw no ladies playing bridge on the veranda. But for the price, we had a heck of a time enjoying ourselves and imagining the glory days. I'll remember the good food and friendly staff and most of all the curious circular pool in the basement!
On a warm September afternoon, Don and I followed a scenic gravel road that took us to this beautiful, post-and-beam barn.
Not Just Cows
I was excited about seeing the Jersey cows, since the farm's focus is on cow-milking and cheese-making. But before I laid eyes on a single cow, we were greeted by Robin, the Border Collie and Molly, the Mastiff. I eventually counted about 11 cats. I was in heaven.
H.H. Brinkman Homestead
Across the road from the barn was the original limestone, Brinkman House from 1867. Martha and Tom own the farm and live there now.
A Few Barns
After we met the dogs on the barn's porch, we met Tom and Martha's daughter-in-law, Randas. She shared a little about the property and pointed down the hill to 2 other barns. I love barns.
The Brinkman Barn from 1857
The barn furthest away, was built 10 years before the Brinkmans built the house. What a thrill to see the barn still in use today.
The day that I was born, the Brinkman barn was already 100 years old. That's a really old barn. I can't even imagine how many sweet critters have called the barn home!
Where are the Jersey Cows?
I love farms and I love cows, but I am extra fond of Jersey Cows! Randas pointed down the road to the pasture, where the Jerseys were grazing.
Pond and Pasture
Don and I headed down the gravel road to watch the cows grazing in the pasture's mix, of grass and clover.
Looking at the setting, I couldn't help but think, if I were a cow, this is where I'd like to live. At the barn later, I saw that the cows were treated more like pets, than livestock. Yep, I'd want to live at the Brinkman Farm, if I were a cow.
There were at least 15 soft, brown Jerseys grazing in the pasture. A few mooed at us, but most ignored us. I couldn't stop smiling. My special love of Jersey cows has a little something to do with my mom... and her playful nickname, Jersey Mother. It's a story too long for this write-up, but Mom would have loved this farm.
Up in the Loft
Don and I were excited to take a look at the 3,000 square foot hayloft, where we would be sleeping. As we climbed up to our space above the cheese making and milking areas, I was met with just a hint of a barn smell. Don didn't even smell it, but memories of horse stables when I was young, began to surface. It's a smell that I happen to love.
In the large common area, I spotted farm decor in every nook and cranny. Even hanging from beams, I saw a chandelier made of some kind of "hay claw" thing. The light over the table was made from a clear, plastic milk container.
The 18 foot ceiling made the space extra roomy. There were 4 guest rooms, but we were the only guests staying that night. That meant Don and I had all the games, books, comfy chairs, TV and popcorn, just for ourselves.
Art and Wine
I loved studying the wall, filled with farm-themed art. I also noticed the wine glasses and they made me thirsty.
Don and I couldn't resist the complimentary popcorn, so we made a batch and opened up the wine we had with us. But, once we spotted the small milk bottles, we left the wine glasses on the dresser.
Drinking wine from a milk bottle is something you don't do every day. Cheers to Brinkman Farmstead!
The Rhode Island Red Room
We probably should have forked out a little extra to stay in the Jersey Cow Suite, in honor of my mom. But our chicken themed room was plenty large! The bed and lounge chair were extra soft. There was even a rolling barn door, leading to our bathroom.
Looking Up at the Rafters
The ceiling was so high above the bed, I could have done a few trampoline flips without head bumping concerns!
I skipped the trampoline tricks and counted chickens instead. That seemed be the safer way to let my kid-side enjoy the room. I counted about 30 chicken images in our large space.
Evening on the Farm
Around 6:30, Don and I came down from the loft to enjoy the cooling temps. The porch on the west side of the barn was getting nice and shady.
Calling The Girls
Ben and His Jerseys
Randas continued calling out, encouraging The Girls as they headed towards the barn. Her husband Ben, spoke to the cows one on one as they meandered up the hill.
I asked Ben if he had a favorite. He looked up from scratching "Elizabeth" between the ears. "This one." He said with a smile. Since Elizabeth is my real name, I had to agree that she was mighty fine.
45 Minutes of Meandering?
I was surprised how long the walking process took. I was also surprised at how relaxed and patient Ben and Randas were with the animals. They chatted and patted each animal. They shared about life on the farm and how different it was in the winter. They talked about how each cow had its own distinct personality. We learned that a mama cow was about to give birth, any day. I hoped...
We also heard that Ben and Randas were recently married in a nearby sunflower field. They laughed about how hard it was, being away from the animals during their honeymoon. Pretty sweet!
I was excited when we were invited to help with the milking. Inside the milking parlor, Ben got everything ready below and then headed back to bring in the Jerseys. Then Don and I climbed down, so Randas could show us the ropes.
Bringing Back Memories
I had a quick deja vu as I stood listening to instructions, wearing a red bandana, as I did in 1977. The only other time I ever milked a cow, was also in Missouri. But I sat on a stool that time and did a pretty lame job of squeezing milk into a cup.
It was about 8 pm by the time Ben lead 4 Girls into their separate stalls. They each had a metal bowl of yummy nibbles to distract them. Randas demonstrated with one cow and then guided me with another.
Standing a level below the cow, I cleaned the teats with a moist rag, then disinfected with iodine, then attached the milking device... which looked an awful lot like some scuba gear I've used in the past.
I got a little tangled with the equipment and a little giggly when the device grabbed hold of the teats and began making sucking sounds.
Where Does the Milk Go?
Randas filled up 3 gigantic baby bottles and we turned the rest of the milking over to Ben. By this time it was pretty dark. Don and I followed Randas and a parade of cats, over to the old barn.
We could hear a little mooing from the cozy, wood and stone barn. Three calves, (less than 3 weeks old) were eager for their dinner. A few chickens, a bunny and a couple kittens hung around for the show.
Luckily Don was able to snap a quick photo and then grab the third bottle. The little calves were very impatient and just about yanked the bottle from my hands.
The bigger calves made a lot of noise on the other side of the barn. Randas filled a large feeding dish and the little crowd gathered with their mouths all eating at once. Moslty, it seemed like the youngin's just wanted a little attention.
Scratching the Forehead
We learned so much during our short visit to the farm. We learned about sustainable farming and artificial insemination and cheesemaking. But I really liked the tip about where cows like to be scratched... on their furry little foreheads!
Morning in the Loft
We woke to a beautiful blue day! The view from the loft was lovely and the spread of food on the counter was amazing! First we had juice, fruit and yogurt, along with a board of meats and cheese... made from our dear Jerseys' milk!
We sat below the milk bottle light (that we now recognized from the milking parlor) and we pigged out!
Then, Ben arrived with another tray of food! There was bacon and some kind of baked egg dish and some fruit & cheese blintz kind of goodie. Colorful dishes and cloth napkins, made it taste even better.
Since we had already showered, we decided to take our coffee down and just enjoy the morning ritual, without pitching in.
We watched Ben and Randas go through the morning routine, lining up the cows. I was struck with how peaceful and content they seemed, never rushing the sweet critters.
We watched the Jerseys gather for their milking and then we visited with some of the other pets.
Cats and Dogs
Don got his cat fix and I snuggled with Robin.
We had a chance to meet Ben's dad, Tom. He told us some funny stories about Molly. She leaned into him as he spoke, as if encouraging more stories.
We had to say good-by to the cows before we drove off. I spotted the Belgian horse for the first time. One night was obviously not enough time, to get to know all the animals.
I was genuinely surprised to see how much this family loves their animals. The dogs, cats and even the Jerseys, all seem to be a part of the family. I know that running this farm and making cheese (which I didn't even get into) and running a B&B, must be hugely exhausting. But there was something calming about watching these folks interact with the animals. We had an unforgettable stay, for sure.
Downtown Hotel in Springfield, MO
Downtown in 1896
I've got a special curiosity about the history of Old Springfield.
I've been coming to visit relatives, since I was a baby in the 1950's. I've got some fuzzy memories of Downtown Springfield, but not as fuzzy as this photo from 1896... which shows the Ely Grubbs Grocery Store that my great grandfather owned.
Masonic Temple Today
Don and I parked in front and approached the hotel with our bags. There were two entrances. The back was intriguing with its giant "V" and modern balconies. There was a very cozy sitting area there as well.
The Front "V"
V For Vandivort
I have no clue who Vandivort was, but the hotel is named for the Vandivort Ballroom on the fourth floor. The ballroom space has been hosting Springfield social events for over 100 years. I wish my grandparents were still alive to possibly share a story or two. From the windows I could see Walnut Street, where some of my relatives once lived.
I was impressed by every corner of the first floor. I loved the artwork above the fireplace and the bright light coming in the front window.
Some of the sleek furniture lines made me feel like I'd stepped into the 1950's again. My family was never quite so mod, but my Great Aunt Margueritte might have gone for this look.
Evidently, the communal tables were made from wood that was part of this building at one time. The tables looked almost too nice to use. But I did see a few people gathered around with computers, on Monday morning.
Spotlight on the Masons
I totally loved this display with all the tiny tools, photos and artifacts. I know little about the history of the Mason's fraternal organization, but obviously it had some kind of roots with actual stonemasons.
What Is A Mason?
Luckily they had a little info to enlighten me. There was a lot to ponder with this special statement about the duties of a Mason. Mostly I had fun with all the words, level, plumb, grip, order. Like an Easter egg hunt, I could have spent hours hunting down related images on shelves and in art, all around the hotel.
Every time I spotted a "V" I was like a little kid, eager about discovering the alphabet. Even our bathroom floor tile had Vs!
I'm not a big tool person, but I was kind of enjoying my education as I discovered tools here and there. The engineer side of Don was probably having more fun than me. Every time I asked a question like, What exactly does a plumb bob do? Don had an answer.
After checking in with a very pleasant young woman at the desk, we headed for the elevator. As we lifted to the fourth floor, we had a fun time watching the brick wall through the glass. The painted brick let us know which floors we were passing.
The classy hallway was filled with intriguing art and fun lighting. I was like a kid, eager to see what was behind the door.
Lounging Near the Window
There wasn't a big sitting area, but the chair near the window was cozy.
There was another comfy desk chair available and a great wet bar with some fun local goodies to chose from. We could have had some Missouri Spirits Vodka or Bourbon... for a price.
Spirits in "The Order"
We chose to have a drink in the hotel bar instead. I loved the Masonic name, The Order. It was pretty quiet on a Sunday evening, but the young bartender was chatty and we got to watch her roll the library ladder back and forth a few times.
Our room was nice and quiet by the time we finally hit the bed. The bedding was perfect. The pillows were just right. I even liked the lamps! I did wake in the wee hours to the clanking of the trash truck. But that's part of the city charm... I guess.
Our room came with a $12.00 voucher towards breakfast. We made use and enjoyed an omelet with fruit and potatoes, plus an order of chicken waffle sliders!
After breakfast, we gave ourselves a little time to explore before taking off. Next door we had the beautiful theatre and down the street I posed with a butterfly mural. What a perfect ending to our quick 1-night stay.
Downtown Oklahoma City
Built in 1911
I was eager to lay eyes on the hotel that W.B. Skirvin built over 100 years ago. It is said to be the oldest in OK City.
As we drove through the city on a Friday afternoon, the 14-story hotel suddenly appeared. It was every bit as impressive as the internet photos. Hopefully there wasn't some catch. $119. seemed awfully low, for city hotel, with 50-million-dollar renovations.
Pillars and Chandeliers
When we stepped inside the lobby, my eyes followed the square pillars upward. Who were those crazy faces, looking down from the top?
I continued staring far above my head, where 7 fabulous Murano glass chandeliers hung from the ceiling.
The desk team didn't look quite like these smiling gals from 1950, but the staff was very welcoming. They even asked if we would like a high or low room. High Please!
I loved seeing the vintage photo later and recognizing the carved scroll panels that I'd seen on the lobby desk. We continued to finding hints of the original hotel as we explored later. I so love a renovation that preserves some history!
When I pushed the button for the elevator, I really felt like I should be traveling with a steamer trunk, or at least a vintage cosmetic case. The ornate, art deco door covers were added to the original doors in 1930. Pretty impressive!
Climbing to the Mezzanine
If we hadn't been on the 11th floor, we might have used the stairs more. The red tile in the stairwell was original and the marble stairs were added in the 1920's remodel.
We did at least take the stairs to the second floor mezzanine, which had some nice seating and a good view of the lobby.
Looking over the mezzanine railing, we had a great view of the carved characters, which showed a little of Mr. Skirvin's humor. The smiling faces at the top of the pillars, belonged to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. There was also a pair of "Okie-gargoyles" carved into the woodwork. One was supposed to be OK Governor "Alfalfa" Murray and the other is a mystery.
If I'd done my homework, I could have asked to be on the 10th floor for some extra excitement. Evidently, there are stories about Mr. Skirvin and some misbehaving with women and gambling on this floor.
Some even talk about ghosts that haunt the 10th floor. Stories tell how Effie, a housemaid was once locked in a room on the 10th floor, to avoid scandal. Supposedly she gave birth to Mr. Skirvin's child in that room and later jumped to her death with her baby. Some claim to have met up with her ghost. Luckily these stories are mostly legend and Don and I are more amused than creeped out!
The 11th floor seemed to be ghost free. We did however have some nice framed art. I loved the vintage photo of the "milk bottle building" that I had photographed on our way driving towards the hotel.
My photos do not do the room justice. It was a lovely corner room with more space and luxury than the photos show.
The bed was cushy with good lamps and end tables. That's pretty much all I need.
Tub and a Window
a complimentary box of special products, like the hotel offered in the past! Lavoris mouthwash and powder... creme rinse...! Do people say creme rinse anymore? This little package was on display with old photos, near the lobby.
I love windows, especially with a corner room. One of our windows showed the nearby Bricktown area, with a Candy Factory.
The other window gave us a perfect view of the rounded structure with decorative designs on the top. But, then I noticed someone straight across, sitting on the window seat and that was creepy. I felt like I was in Hitchcock's Rear Window movie!
Seeing the rounded building made me curious about the rooms inside the structure. Don and I took a ride to the top floor and had a look. What a lovely widow-filled space!
The Venetian Room
While on the top floor, we also took a peek at The Venetian Room, with its restored plaster ceilings. In the 1930's orchestras played here and vaudeville stars performed.
It's hard to imagine this elegant space once had wagon-wheel light fixtures, instead of chandeliers. It's even harder to imagine this space abandoned. The hotel sat dormant for nearly 20 years.
The Red Piano Bar
After exploring a while, Don and I set off for the piano bar in time for Happy Hour. We sipped martinis, while a gentleman played old favorites on the shiny piano. I was equally entertained by the artwork above our heads.
Whimsical Ceiling Art
It would be totally easy to have missed the two painted ceiling panels above our heads.
A century ago, Mr. Skirvin shared more of his quirky humor when he chose this artwork for his hotel. I so adored the amusing characters that stared down at us from a painted mezzanine. Elephants and mermaids... trapeze artists and opera singers!
Doors to Dinner
The dining room wasn't open until 5, but that was okay. It gave us a better look at the elaborate door. We could have sat near the window and played chess while we waited.
There was another cozy sitting area near the restaurant. I loved the festive, martini drinking gang above the red couch!
We ended up skipping dinner at the hotel and taking advantage of the balmy evening and the Skirvin's good location. It was an easy walk to Bricktown, where we wandered along the canal and stopped to sample some food and drink along the way.
Hotel at Night
When we returned, we walked across the plaza to catch a view of the lit up hotel. I'm not sure how Mr. Skirvin lit the hotel in 1911 when there were only 2 towers and 10 floors. Maybe it had a big neon sign in the 1950's when Elvis or Dean Martin were guests. It looked pretty perfect on the last night in August, 2018.
We may have missed dinner at the hotel, but we made sure to have breakfast.
Coffee Shop/Park Avenue Grill
I doors were wide open in the morning and we headed into the area that had once been the snazzy new Coffee Shop in 1926. I wish they still had the U-shaped bars and stools, but at least they kept the art deco tile work
They were serving a fabulous looking buffet, but we opted for omelet and oatmeal. My crazy huge bowl had smaller bowls of raisins, almonds and brown sugar. Our food was just right... along with a carafe of coffee!
Fort Worth, Texas
Even though Don and I live in Texas, we decided to have a Texas-style Notable Night. Staying at the Stockyards Hotel was a good way to soak up some of the cowboy history of Fort Worth... and a good excuse to wear our cowboy boots.
Built in 1907
I can only imagine the characters who ate, drank and slept in this hotel when it opened in 1907. By the time the hotel was completed, the Fort Worth Stockyards had already been bustling with cowboys and cattle for a couple of decades.
I was pretty delighted to step inside the lobby and see a few cowboy hats and boots. These were not employee costumes. There just happen to be a lot of boot & hat wearing people in Fort Worth.
Quiet in the Lobby
Elevator or Stairs?
The elevator was actually pretty spacious for an old hotel. It even had an awesome crank, that was used by an elevator attendant, back in the day.
Since we were on the second floor, we took the stairs most of the time. I was amused by the longhorn images on the carpet. I made sure to say hello to the large portrait of Will Rogers, on the landing.
We didn't get a chance to sit-a-spell on these rockers on the second floor. They were near a curious atrium, with a skylight. I know there was a "new" addition in 1913. I'm guessing we were looking at the exposed walls, where the original and newer buildings connected.
Our Western Room #203
We may not have had the Bonnie and Clyde Room, but we did ask for a Western Style Room, (there was a choice) facing Exchange Avenue. The light shining through the shutters looked a little like bullet holes...
It's always fun to find something in your hotel room that you've never had in any other hotel. I am pretty sure I've never had a boot removing tool in my hotel room! I'm also sure there's a better name for that tool.
I've seen a lot of western style lamps in my time, but I did appreciate the nice wall and table lamps in our room. A sturdy, horseshoe & spur combo, with rawhide shades! Also, the thick, diner style mugs were nice. We filled them at the coffee bar in the lobby.
The luxury pillows kind of hid the cowhide headboard. A furry headboard might be a first for us.
Lots of Wood
The wooden tank with pull chain, was not original and that's probably a good thing. The large wardrobe that held the TV was a nice touch. (I appreciate being able to hide the TV) The wooden rocker was kind of sweet... with a nice hanging lamp, or lace filtered window light, for reading.
I didn't get a photo of our exact view, but our 2 windows looked down on the White Elephant Saloon, across the brick street. There was always a little activity to amuse me, especially the saloon guests on horseback.
Our Own Saloon
Just off the lobby was the hotel's saloon, Booger Red's. I'm not sure who he was, but he had a strange name. The Buffalo Butt Beer, advertised on the mirror, also had an odd name. I'm guessing that happens to be a buffalo's behind, sticking out from the mirror.
From Floor to Ceiling
Beasts and Saddles
The Stockyards attract a lot of tourists, but locals come too. You can tell the locals because they don't snap pictures of the mounted longhorn or the saddle barstools. Don and I have eaten lunch in this bar before, but I still stared at everything like a first time tourist.
If you're going to stay in the Stockyards, it's ridiculous not to take advantage of the perks. Don and I enjoyed the afternoon Cattle Drive, coming down Exchange street at 4:30. Fort Worth's stockyards are the last standing stockyards in the U.S., after all!
Later in the evening, we made it over to Billy Bob's, which claims to be the "World's Largest Honky Tonk," at 100,00 square feet. We enjoyed some beer and joined a free line dance class. If it had been Saturday, we could have watched some live bull riding, in their indoor arena.
Back at the Hotel
We ended the evening with a late dinner at the hotel's H3 Ranch Restaurant. I was pretty thrilled when the hostess steered us towards the booth, below 3 buffalo heads.
It's kind of sad that we didn't have bigger appetites, since the restaurant gets such good reviews for their steak. But the meal of tacos, salad and soup was perfect. We had to wait a while for a fresh loaf of bread, but it was piping hot and worth it.
Luckily we slept well in our cowboy room. If it had been a weekend, I'm sure the street below would have been louder.
I rose early and snuck out to walk on the brick streets before the area got lively. I didn't get out early enough to avoid the delivery trucks, though. It was Friday, of Labor Day Weekend and the shops and saloons were getting geared up.
I'm so glad we finally had a night at the Stockyards Hotel. I've always been curious. But my memories will actually be more about the wandering, than the hotel itself. From the man who does boot shines on the corner... to the young guy who will let you sit on his longhorn for $5... to the man in the White Elephant Saloon, who claims to be Wild Bill Hickcock... we met some curious souls! Staying at the comfy, hotel gave us the time to explore. I'm good with that!
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!