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. She 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. 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 stories of the underwear... or thin bedding or no cups in the bathroom. 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. Suddenly nothing amused me anymore.
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 it would be a playful surprise for the housekeeper or owners, when they discovered an additional doll after we left. I had lost my playful humor, but I 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 could 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.
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!
We Slept Here
Don and I have spent a couple decades exploring Texas. I've always loved our oddball discoveries. In 2014 we spotted this crazy looking spaceship house, on Galveston Island. I snapped this photo and didn't wonder for a moment what it would be like to spend the night inside. But last month, we had our chance.
Locals call this iconic structure, the Kettle House. It was built in the 1960's as a steel storage tank, for an oil and gas company. It was never used, so the welder who worked on it, bought it and moved it. He had hoped to turn it into a convenience store. But, that didn't happen.
Kettle House Airbnb
In recent years, the vacant property was purchased and renovated into a rental. In February 2022, Don and I spent a couple nights in the renovated structure.
The quirky Kettle still looked out of place, sitting along San Luis Pass Road. But the bowl-shaped building had clearly been spiffed up.
We parked on the concrete slab and took a good look.
Sadly there was no balmy-beach weather to greet us when we arrived. It was a blustery-cold, afternoon. The winds whipped, as we headed upstairs to the second level. I fumbled with the door code for a while, before calling Michael.
When I looked into booking, I thought Michael was just the owner of the Airbnb property. I learned more. Michael and his wife Ashely own the Kettle House, but they do much more than rent out properties. They also have an HGTV renovation show, called Big Texas Fix.
During our stay, we made use of the flatscreen TV, mounted to the smooth cedar walls. We searched for the show and watched the episode featuring the Kettle House. It was pretty fun watching the complicated renovation, while sitting inside the finished product! I wish they'd added a handle and spout, though!
So back to arrival. After Michael gave me the correct code, Don and I were able to step inside our little oasis.
TThe open round space was divided into pie-shaped areas. In the center of the circle, was the spiral staircase that led to the lower level.
I couldn't stop grinning at the snazzy interior, filled with Mid-century Modern decor. It felt like something out of The Jetson's cartoon.
It looked like we were in a giant barrel, made of knotty cypress boards. Luckily they added more windows, so it didn't feel dark or claustrophobic.
Clean White Kitchen
Ashley and Michael decided to incorporate 1960's era decor, since that was the decade when the Kettle House came to be.
I loved all the sleek white, in the kitchen. The backsplash looked clean and happy, with those geometric flowers! The narrow fridge was just plain cute.
There was even a collection of snacks for us and whiteboard message, welcoming us.
The upper level of the Kettle was made up of 5 room slices.
We spent much of our lounging time on this mod couch. Or should I say divan or davenport?
I grew up in the 1960's, but my family home never had such cool lighting or chairs. The orange chair cushion lifted up, to reveal a storage area! Cool!
There was a TV, but we hardly turned it on.
We actually read the books on the coffee table and the magazines on the bi-level end table.
We enjoyed cocktails and played ukuleles. No worries about annoying neighbors! Cheers to that!
Time for Bed
The triangular bedroom was pretty cute. There was just enough room for a queen bed and 2 nightstands.
Instead of a headboard, there was a curious cushion, strapped to the wall. The clever little design sort of masked the curved wall issue.
The bathroom had a clean, beach-y feel, with the bleached walls and white ceiling.
The drawers beneath the sink were filled with supplies. A first aid kit and complimentary toothbrushes, razors and more. Nice!
The oddly shaped shower was humongous! There was more of that wonderful flower tile! And how about that roll of toilet paper! It took me a while to realize that was supposed to look like a button-down shirt.
Round and Round
To reach the lower half of the Kettle House, we headed for the middle of the room. The spiral staircase was partially enclosed by more cedar boards.
I've done some spiral staircases in my time, but this seemed more disorienting than I remembered. Caution, don't attempt in bare feet. Ouch!
The lower level space felt like the inside of a boat. If only we'd had a couple kids in tow. Kids would love having this fun lower level to themselves.
They would love swaying in those chair swings. They'd be so excited to climb the stairs to those bunks, nestled into the wall!
Or would they? Maybe they'd be excited about sleeping in the bottom of the big bowl, until it got dark and late and quiet. They might feel like me when I was excited about sleeping in a pup tent in the backyard as a kid. It was always fun at first...
And if the kids are old and brave enough to handle sleeping in a wooden salad bowl, they might be old enough to sneak out the exit.
I'm curious about how many people have slept down here, below deck. I thought the blackout curtains were a nice touch.
Besides the upper and lower interior areas, there was tons more space for lounging, outside.
If the skies had cleared we could have watched a sunset or sunrise from the upper deck. The view wasn't exactly ideal, looking out over the road and some houses on stilts. But we knew the beach was just beyond.
Lots of Seating
There was seating and a grill on the lower patio. But it was too chilly for that.
On the deck above, the rockers and tables were scattered about. I lined them up nicely, but looked out later and found them scattered again. Poltergeist? No. Just powerful wind!
On our first morning, I was determined to make use of those wonderful rockers. I put on my blanket-poncho and headed out with coffee and a book. I lasted about as long as it took to snap a photo. Too cold!
Food and Games
Luckily we brought games and books and lots of food for hunkering down.
Game playing in the Kettle, was extra fun with a bag of Kettle Corn! It was especially cozy because the winds were howling outside. It felt like the Kettle was a sturdy boat and we were out at sea! It also felt like we were out at sea (or drunk) because the floors were a little slanted. We tested with a water bottle and it rolled from the center of the room, to the wall!
Within Walking Distance
It never warmed up, but we made use of our location anyway. One morning I crossed the road and took a jog on the beach. No one there but me and a few seagulls!
In the early evening we walked the opposite direction towards the bay. We passed some impressive jungle trees!
And we ended up at "Waterman's" just in time for Happy Hour. It was too windy for drinks and appetizers on the deck, but we had a great view of the water from our inside table.
Evening at the Kettle
The wind blew us back to the Kettle before dark.
I couldn't help but wonder how this ole Kettle handled Hurricane Ike and other storms in recent years. Funny because the Kettle isn't on stilts like all the other houses.
Ready to Go
We had two nights at the Kettle and that was just about right. On the second morning we took our time packing up.
Before we took off, I made sure to add a comment card to the wall display. Don pulled a photo sticker from his wallet so I could personalize our fine message!
There are two ways I'll remember our stay in Galveston's iconic Kettle House.
1- I left feeling like I'd been on a trip out to sea. The wind and isolation, the surrounding deck and woozy-slanty floor and the bunkhouse, below deck! All those things helped create a fun boat adventure feel, to our stay.
2 - There was a salty-sweet feel to our stay. That's a good thing. I loved the balance between the sweet luxury, top notch renovation and the salty-wacky history of the original steel Kettle!
A perfect blend, just like Kettle Corn. What a fun stay!
First Pandemic Cancellation
Back in Spring of 2020, Don and I had to cancel our reservations at The Mission Inn. It was the beginning of the pandemic and like most people, it was a time of halting activities and plans. This was our first pandemic cancelation.
Nearly 20 months later, I called once again, to book a room.
This new year started up with new pandemic worries. The Omicron variant was surging and it wasn't an ideal time to vacation.
But, Don and I were traveling 2,500 miles home, after a family gathering. We had to stay somewhere. The Mission Inn in Riverside, was on our route.
First Visit in 2014
While on a road trip In 2014, Don and I discovered The Mission Inn. We stopped and had lunch on one of the charming patios. It felt like we'd taken a quick trip to Europe!
8 years later, we headed towards the historic hotel again.
Sunny in January
By the third day of January, we were far away from snowy Oregon. Sunshine and palm trees greeted us, when we arrived at Mission Inn. We pulled up near a pair of giant nutcrackers!
The tropical grounds were a welcome sight. We handed our keys and luggage over to the valet guy and headed past the soldiers. We walked beneath the Campanario, with dangling bells. There are a lot of bells at Mission Inn!
I love visiting hotels in early January, when the crowds are gone, but the decorations are still around.
We passed lot of red, green and gold, on the walkway. We also passed a few cannons and giant bells. The Miller family (original owners) were big collectors. At one time there were 800 bells, collected from all over the world. This Nanjing bell stood over 6 feet!
With no bags to lug, we were free to wander a bit before checking in. I felt like we were on a secret hunt, every time I spotted a tucked away treasure. St. Francis looked out from a shrine beside the walkway...
...a little fountain creature perched himself on some tile, near the pool. I wondered about the stories behind each of the treasures. I want to be that person who owns a hotel and travels the world shopping for hotel decor!
We took a quick peek at the pool and it looked absolutely heavenly. I didn't spot one person, which made it seem even more inviting.
The air was balmy and the pool water was a tempting temp. But, we had no swimsuits. Next time!
It was 3:00, when we headed inside.
The lobby was empty of people, but packed with more holiday decor! It was fun to picture the lobby space, when the hotel first opened. In 1903, Mission Inn catered to the wealthy, but it was decorated in a more comfy-cozy style. Instead of formal marble and chandeliers, there were Navajo rugs and Arts & Crafts furniture.
Before reaching the desk, I noticed a large sign reminding us to wear masks. It made me wonder about how the hotel handled the Spanish Flu epidemic. Did the hotel have to close down?
I couldn't find any historic info on the hotel and the 1918 epidemic. I wonder if anyone wore masks in the hotel back then? Everyone we saw during our stay, graciously wore a mask.
If we'd come a week earlier, I'm sure we would have had to wait our turn to pose with the fireplace or Christmas tree. The annual Festival of Lights display, usually attracts big crowds.
Don did the proper pandemic pose, with his pink KN95 mask. I was more vain and removed mine, for a photo near the tree.
Gingerbread & Presidents
After getting our key we wandered the empty lobby. If I'd been a kid I would have parked myself in front of the gingerbread house display... or maybe I would have quietly crawled over the fence.
But I am an adult, so I sort of wanted to enjoy a drink in the Presidential Lounge. But the gates were closed. No sneaking gingerbread or cocktails, for me. However I was able to study the portraits of all presidents, who have visited Mission Inn. The Nixons actually married in the hotel.
There are many more interesting past guests, besides presidents. In the old Hollywood era, stars like Clark Gable and Bette Davis enjoyed getaways here. Ms. Davis was married at Mission Inn. Not to Mr. Gable.
I saw a photo of Betty White, posing with the current owners. That was a sweet thing to see, since Betty died just 3 days before we arrived. There are lists of other important visitors. Booker T. Washington, Amelia Earhart, Hellen Keller... too many to name.
After checking in, we were eager to find our room and call for our luggage. The elevator was impressive, with shiny doors and colorful tiles, but we didn't need it. We had no bags.
We decided to take the stairs. I took a long pause on the dramatic stairway and enjoyed the view of the lobby below.
Our first floor room was located in the Rotunda Wing of the hotel. At least I think. There are 4 wings and it's very confusing. The halls were peaceful and... holy. We turned left at the stained glass window.
We headed past a number of ornate church pews along the walls. I felt like I should pause and pray. Or at least whisper.
Our King Deluxe Room was at the end of the hall. Deluxe rooms pretty much mean Basic, these days. As we often do, we booked the cheapest.
It was a nice surprise to open the door see such a large, corner room. That meant 3 windows! I love windows and I loved the beams in the ceiling, too!
The set up was a little odd. Were we supposed to sit on the edge of the bed to watch TV? Some of the furniture was a little dated and worn, but we were totally content. The room was comfy and huge.
Yippee For Windows!
I was excited to see that our windows actually opened! We could let in air! We could sit and play checkers, while keeping an eye out on the plaza below. There were no chess pieces, but there was also no time for chess.
At night, the windows offered entertaining views. There were colorful lights and some colorful characters, out on the pedestrian plaza. I was glad it was a Monday, or it could have been noisy.
Wicker, Iron & Parrots
Our roomy bathroom had some intriguing decor. The wicker shelves looked like something my Aunt Ruth once used to display her African violets.
The wrought iron made me feel like I was back in Texas. I was amused by the parrots, waiting for me in the shower.
Parrots have been a thing at Mission Inn, since Frank Miller's ownership in the early 1900's. We noticed a pair in a big cage, when we visited in 2014. They must have been wintering elsewhere, during this stay.
Mr. Miller loved his colorful birds, but the birds didn't love Albert Einstein when he once visited the hotel. I read that he suffered a little bird bite.
Full City Block
Before the afternoon got any later, I dashed outside to get some photos. I headed out the side entrance on Orange Street and turned left, wandering along the Cloister Wing, which was added in 1910.
I turned the corner at 6th Street and saw a few nutcrackers, staring down from balconies.
A little further down, I spotted giant candlesticks. Somehow, in the daylight, the decorations felt a little tired and out of place.
Skybridge & Annex
Heading down 6th Street, I studied the rear of the hotel complex. There was something eerie about Skybridge that connected the hotel with the Mission Inn Annex, across the street. Maybe it just reminded me of the Bridge of Sighs, in Venice. Did the Skybridge have a sad story, too?
I read later that the annex was where hotel staff once lived. They traveled over the bridge to get to work. The words painted around the top window read, "Good Head and Nimble Hand Are Good as Gold in Any Land" Curious.
This image shows the final wing that was completed in 1931. At the top, you can barely see a colorful, tile-covered dome.
There's a tree on the right that I'm wondering about. Are those Christmas lights or oranges? Oranges would make sense. It was the citrus farming industry that boomed and brought wealth to this area in the late 1800's.
From 6th, I turned onto Main Street, which is now a pedestrian mall. I counted at least 7 ornate balconies. Were there guest rooms, that had access to these? I expected to see Juliet step out on one. Or at least some Shakespearean character.
By the time I strolled down Main Street, I was totally baffled by the eclectic complex. Until Frank Miller's death in 1935, he continuously expanded and transformed his hotel. He opened his hotel in 1903, with a theme that was inspired by the California Missions and then he continued over the decades, incorporating all the styles he loved... Spanish Gothic, Mission Revival, Moorish Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Renaissance Revival, Mediterranean Revival... It's ming boggling.
It took me a while to get around the whole block. I rushed back inside to catch my favorite part of the hotel, before the sun dropped any lower.
I headed up the staircase and found an exit to the courtyard. I stepped outside and looked back at the building. Fabulous! Red tiles and blue doors and windows!
I'd like to steal this piece of the hotel, for my own cottage! Frank Miller must have really loved curves and arches and so do I. He also must have been a little crazy, with his endless collecting and transforming. But, his obsession works for me.
The enclosed courtyard looked magical in the early evening. I looked across at the Spanish Wing that Miller added in 1914. He wanted it to look like the inner court of a castle. It still does, except for the glass roofs and patio heaters. (added for pandemic dining?)
Directly across, I studied the Anton Clock and the display window, below. There were 3 other figures, featured on the rotating display.
The sun was glowing on the top buildings, across the courtyard. To the right of the Carmel Tower, I could see mountains.
To the left of the tower, I noticed a different kind of brickwork and lots of turrets. I learned later that I was looking at Author's Row. There were 6 suites. 5 named for authors.
View From Author's Row
I didn't see any signs telling me to KEEP OUT, so I kept wandering and absorbing the view. The sun was casting a nice spotlight on the Bougainvillea and the arches across the way. Moorish... I think!
I was curious about the dome the seemed to be resting on a raised patio, below. Was I looking at the Garden of the Bells? I could see some bells hanging under arches.
Hollow Tile Brick
Near Author's Row, I got a closer look at the interesting brickwork.
I read later that this was called "hollow tile brick". It was a nice contrast to all the concrete structures. It looked very quilt-like, or better yet, edible! The tile work on the walkway looked yummy too. Tasty Carmel & Chocolate flavored Chiclets!
Towers and Turrets
I wandered high enough to get a good view of the bell tower, but I had no idea how to get to it.
Instead I studied the brick patterns and the pointed turret.
Just past Author's Row, I found a lovely oasis, that made me want to grab some wine and book.
I have no idea if I was supposed to be on this patio. It might have been a private terrace, reserved for the guests staying in the nearby suites. Nobody was shooing me away, so I enjoyed a few moments. This might have been where the tennis and skating happened, a century ago?
St. Francis Chapel
Before heading back to join Don for the evening, I paused to look down at the entrance to St.Francis Chapel. I could see a tiny bit of the chapel's dome and it jogged my memory. I had photos of 2 domes we saw on our visit in 2014. Where the heck were those domes? It was suddenly clear that it was impossible to see everything.
The church with its square and fountain, made me think of Assisi. That's the little Italian city where my brother once educated me on flying buttresses! I wanted to see inside the church, but I couldn't find stairs to get down. It was time to go find Don instead.
Don and I decided to check out the lounge, just off the lobby. We haven't exactly been venturing to bars during the pandemic, but the spacious lounge was quiet and calm on a Monday evening. We couldn't resist.
I recognized the pillars and beams from an old photo of the hotel's dining room.
We ordered martinis and sat at our table, feeling like we had taken a trip back in time.
...back to a day long when there was no pandemic. It was hard to forget for very long, with those fine pandemic pink masks sitting on our table!
It felt decadent sipping cocktails, in the California Lounge. It would have been even more luxurious to have eaten in the Mission Restaurant.
What a beautiful space with vaulted ceilings, colorful tiles and white table cloths.
Duane's Prime Steaks
Steaks sounded pretty wonderful, too. But Duane's was closed on Monday. My photo is from 2014.
Instead we decided to order some appetizers and stay put. We'll come again and enjoy a feast, when there's no surging covid variant and when we are traveling with nicer clothes.
Off to Explore!
Besides, we couldn't linger forever when there was more exploring to do. First Don and wandered inside.
This cute little space held one of my favorite doors. I've never seen a hinge quite like that!
More Curious Doors!
I love storybook doors and we found some good ones. I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
Of course we had to pose with them... for scale purposes!
Along with interesting doors, we found cute little stairways.
These stairs reminded me more of Dr. Seuss illustrations. Or better yet, a Dr. Seuss' (non-animated) movie from the 1950's called, "5,000 Fingers of Dr. T". That movie is more like a fever dream, than a children's movie.
As we explored I kept thinking this maze of halls and levels reminded me of something familiar. It was a friend of mine who told me later that the Mission Inn seemed like an Escher painting. Wow was she ever right.
Don and I literally got lost a number of times.
Festival of Lights
The hotel's Festival of Lights was due to close in a couple nights. No crowds and no lines! The doorman took our photo, so we felt like real tourists.
We watched a little boy pose with a towering nutcracker. We only saw a handful of people.
Around the Block
Then we headed around the block.
The lights were pretty, but I won't say they were spectacular.
I had read that the hotel put up 4 or 5 million lights each year. I also heard they had cut down just as they did last year, due to the pandemic.
There were a few vendors selling balloons and food, on Main Street. A musician was packing up his guitar. In pre-pandemic years, there are horse carriages and hot chocolate booths and live music.
As we reached the corner of Main and Mission, I Iooked up through the illuminated tree and spotted our room. I was glad it was a fairly quiet night. Below our room, I noticed the Mission Inn Museum. Next time, I'm going there to have my questions answered.
Wandering Up High
Before heading back to our room, we climbed some of the exterior stairs for a view of the lights below.
The chapel and Artio, looked lovely. I spotted a nativity scene that I hadn't seen before.
The courtyard looked especially dramatic with all the tiny pinkish-red lights!
I loved looking down on both dining areas and imagining the people I would have seen 100 years ago. Guests often came for weeks or months. There were garden swings and sitting areas, where visitors read or visited throughout the day. No one-nighters, running around, like us.
This was one of those visits where I left feeling like I had only experienced a fraction of what the hotel had to offer. It was downright frustrating to NOT see the open air Rotunda or the inside of the chapel. I wish we could have lounged at the pool or dined on a patio. But we got a lot of bang for our buck. Less than $200 and I felt like I'd been on a quick vacation.
Visually, this hotel is off the charts. It's hard for people like me to relax, because I'm anxious to see and discover every nook and cranny. The whole block is a maze, inside and out. The history of the hotel is equally baffling.
It was a great ending to a wonderful holiday! I vote for a spring or fall return!
Christmas in California
Don and I never expected to spend Christmas Eve 2021, in a Victorian mansion, in California!
We had expected to be in our Texas home, with our 2 kids, their spouses and our grandchild. But last minute panic over omicron and air travel, forced us to change plans. On December 22, Don and I threw clothes and gifts in the car and headed for Oregon.
Snow forced us to adjust our route on the third day. It added time, but it also landed us in the sweet town of Ferndale, on Christmas Eve. It felt like we'd stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting when we arrived at 7 pm.
The Victorian buildings were outlined in lights. We could spot the town's claim to fame, at the end of Main Street. The Tallest Decorated Living Christmas Tree! Don pulled over so I could get a quick pic. It's hard to tell, but the giant Spruce is over 150 feet tall. The town has decorated the tree since the 1930's.
After I got my photo, it was time to find our B&B. I had booked it just 2 hours before. The Gingerbread Mansion was glowing, on that dark & drizzly night! I wondered how the mansion looked in 1899, when the Ring Family moved into the newly built home.
As we headed toward the festive porch, I pictured Dr. Ring and his family celebrating inside. I'm not sure how many Christmas Eves they shared, but there were 10 Ring children in all.
Our rushed travel was all about destination, so we'd expected to be in chain hotel the night before Christmas. It felt like we were getting an early Christmas gift, when we headed inside the storybook mansion.
The doors opened to an entry hall. It was quiet and warm and cozy.
No children flying down the banister. I would have welcomed that sight!
To our left of the entry was a parlor, with a lit tree in the window.
To our right was another parlor, with a decorated mantle and Christmas stockings.
Our host Angel, heard us enter and came to greet. We were wearing masks and appreciated hers. I didn't need to explain that we were traveling with extra caution and that we were determined to have a Covid-Free Family Christmas. We'd already talked on the phone earlier and she knew our situation. Angel was wonderful. Her name matched her perfectly.
Angle gave us a quick tour of the quiet inn. I lost count of all the sitting areas.
Even though Don and I have stayed in a lot of Victorian hotels, I'm always amused by all the patterns! So many florals, stripes and colors in the carpet and wallpaper and ceiling.
We wandered back through more rooms, to Angel's office and checked in. I quickly snapped photos of cabinets and doorways.
We were only able to see a handful of rooms... out of 32. What activities happened in these rooms?
We told Angel we wanted a basic room. Why pay for anything extra when we had so little time to enjoy.
She walked us up to the second floor and said she'd picked a room for us, with a wood burning fireplace.
I could have probably learned a lot more history about the mansion, if I'd had more time to take in all the framed photos and scrapbooks here and there.
We rarely arrive at hotels after dark. It was killing me to not do my usual exploring. There were doors at both ends of the hall, with balconies that I never got to enjoy!
Strawberry Hill Room
Our room had a its own little sign.
I never found out why it was called Strawberry Hill.
The door opened to a hallway, covered in patterned paper.
We followed the patterned carpet to our cozy, corner room.
I had to grin at the wooden steps leading to the bed. I was delighted to see we had lots of windows... but it was pitch dark out there. I have no idea what our view might have been.
Angel said she would deliver some ice to our room and she pointed out the pressed log in the fireplace. An easy way to get a real fire, without the work!
I was a little curious about the brass bar, covering a portion of the windows. Ballet barre? Time for pliés?
When I pulled the sheer curtains aside I noticed a giant crack in the wall. I guess that bar had a bigger job to do, than supporting dancers. Angel had mentioned that they'd had some earthquake damage recently. Was this from a less recent quake?
Angel offered us a little wine, even though we'd missed the evening wine/tea hour.
She delivered it to the parlor with a tree and fire. Perfect!
Angel left us to enjoy and we took a photo with the camera timer. Don't want to forget Christmas Eve 2021!
Out We Go
We debated about dinner. It was 8 pm on Christmas Eve, in a tiny town.
Only a couple restaurants were serving and no DoorDash options. We weren't up for dine-in, so we decided to just get out and walk in the misty, cool night.
The drizzle stopped and we wandered and pondered and wondered and meandered.
Cheese Feast & Fire
Then we stopped to grab food from the car on our way back in.
Don started the paper log fire in about 2 seconds. I grabbed robes from the closet and we had a Christmas Eve feast, of cheese and crackers and nuts.
Just about perfect!
5 AM on Christmas
We slept well despite waking to sirens at some point in the night. Luckily our fire was out by then and we weren't the cause. At 5 am, I woke again and couldn't go back to sleep. Just like when I was a kid on Christmas morning.
There were no Santa gifts to peek at, so I gave myself an indulgent gift. I tiptoed into the bathroom and made a predawn bubble bath.
Don was up and showered before long and then it was time to set up our Rapid Test Lab!
We had a day of driving ahead and then we would be with our kids in Portland for Christmas night. It was a nerve-racking 10 minutes, waiting on results. What exactly would we do if we saw the positive pink line? We softly cheered when we saw the negative results!
We tiptoed down the stairs, not knowing how many other guests were even sleeping at the inn on Christmas morning.
We had told Angel we'd be departing before the complimentary breakfast. I hated missing out on some of the experience.
That would have been odd to have shared Christmas breakfast with strangers. Luckily there was coffee ready and we took some with us.
Good-bye House and Hospital
We loaded the car and I took a peek in back. The sun was up enough to glimpse at the garden.
I could see some of the building that was added in 1920. Dr. Ring built a less ornate addition, to serve as a public hospital. I didn't have time to even figure out where I room was.
The garden looked lush for a winter morning. I wondered briefly about all the people who have lived in this house with all the turrets and gables and spindles and balconies! The mansion became a Rest Home and later apartments over the years. How about the people who stayed in the hospital part. There must be some good (and maybe eerie) stories somewhere.
We were welcomed in on Christmas Eve, by an Angel! How about that!
We had expected to stay in some kind of Comfort Suites. I had expected to pout about it... just a little. Instead we had a Surprise Storybook Notable Night! Merry Christmas!
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!