Don and I spotted this sign in 2021, when walking through Eureka Springs after dinner. It amused me to find a neon sign, in a town that didn't even have a stoplight.
When I snapped the photo that night, I knew nothing about the hotel/bath house. I didn't know about its history as a brothel, either. (Although some say the sign's shape should be a hint.) Later I learned that the sign was installed in the 1940's, when it became the first neon sign, west of the Mississippi. True?
A year after taking the photo, Don and I planned a road trip through Arkansas. I was thrilled when I learn there was an operating bath house and hotel behind, that neon sign. I called and booked a room, the old fashioned way. I wanted to know more about the curiously decorated rooms I saw on the website.
The tourist town was eerily quiet the day we arrived. The Vacancy portion of the sign was glowing. We were able to park just steps from the entrance. Lots of flowers and plants welcomed us from windows and doorway.
In the daylight, with no tourists cluttering the walk, we had good look at the hotel's exterior!
The Palace structure was completed in 1901. It actually looked more like a castle or fortress, with its blocks of chunky limestone. The mansard dome in the center, made me think of a Synagogue.
Around the side of the building, we found a winding wooden walkway, leading to various sitting areas. If only the weather had been more inviting.
It was a surprise to see the building from the back. The 2-story hotel seemed to have a few more levels below. Eureka Springs is full of amazing structures, built to fit into the hilly landscape. The town was once called "Stairstep Town".
It was around 3:30 when we headed inside. The grand arched doorway made me feel like I was stepping to a classic railway station.
Just inside, the lobby felt a little more quaint than grand. Mary Lana greeted us before we had to ring the little bell. "ML" (as she said she was called) was as enthused as she'd been on the phone when I booked.
The Old Stuff
ML eagerly pointed out some of the hotel's oldest features, like the original tile floors. I think she could tell we were the kind of guests who appreciate history.
The reviews I'd read from other guests were positive. Most raved about the bath house treatments. Others sighed about the romantic guest rooms, with jetted spa tubs... for two! She figured we were the History Lovin' Guests, I guess..
The original Otis elevator was impressive. It was so original that it wasn't safe to ride.
We were allowed to step inside though. I liked the old wheelchair sitting in the corner. I chuckled to realize the sign on the chair wasn't telling me to keep off. It was a "Time Out" chair with wheels, which could be a special treat for a misbehaving child!
ML was excited to show us to our room. She had eagerly suggested the Blue Room, when I booked. We headed up a narrow set of stairs to the second floor.
The view of the lobby and door was nice from the landing. Love that light fixture!
We reached the second floor sitting area. All 4 guest room doors were open, inviting us to peek into vacant rooms. There were 4 more guest rooms on the first level. Originally the hotel had 16.
ML was excited to present the Blue Room. We walked through the doorway, beneath the curtained transom. We followed the red carpet into the spacious suite and let our eyes absorb the unique decor.
Peacocks and More
Don and I were genuine with our responses. "Wow this is great! It's huge!" We pointed out the things we loved, while ML showed us the comp champagne and the robes we could use, if we booked spa treatments.
I waited until she was gone to really study those peacocks and the crocheted blanket on the bed... tied with a crocheted rope. It was an inviting touch. I think.
Cool and Warm
The bar area was actually pretty convenient, with real glasses and mugs and corkscrew and a sink. Inside the mini fridge there was a little treat waiting for. Cute and complimentary!
Our corner room had lots of windows for fresh air and light. I'm glad we didn't need the window unit. Rumbling ac units are annoying. It was a little chilly in the room until we cranked on the heat. The glowing "firebox/table" was really something. All for looks, not warmth.
Taking a Moment
ML departed and Don and I got to chat about our room without filtering. Don tried out all 5 options for seating. He has back issues so Victorian furniture is not his favorite right now. But he really didn't complain.
While he rested, I counted. 8 windows, including bathroom. 10 decorative pillows, arranged on bed and chairs...
I started to count the wall art, but got distracted.
Nothing spotlights art better than a little swag of material or a tied bow.
I didn't attempt to count the crocheted items either. I know they had a lot of lace in Victorian days, but I sure can't picture any of these crocheted pieces a century ago.
There was something a little worrisome about the cleanliness of all this yarn. It was hard to picture the housekeeper, dealing with so many layers of stuff. So I didn't think about it.
Leopardskin, Lace and Peacocks
I kind of loved the whimsical mix of textures and patterns in this little set up. Just having a table with chairs was a treat after many cramped hotel rooms.
I could sit down and write in the little guest book. I could read what other guests have written. But mostly I didn't want to think about the guests who had enjoyed the Blue Room's romantic tub or comfy bed.
A Century Ago
I preferred studying the really old stuff in the room, that reminded me of the guests back in 1901. I imagined the kind of key that opened this old door.
This was a ritzy place a century ago. Early ads boasted about having electric lights and steam heat in every room.
I also focused my attention out the windows. A glimpse across the street, shows Victorian homes, built into hills.
More steps and lots of porches and balconies. It felt like I was in both New Orleans and the Ozark Mountains.
The Bath House
I'm really sorry we didn't book a mineral bath or eucalyptus steam, ahead of time. But we were able to go down to the basement and have a look at the old Bath House.
An advertising booklet from the 1920's, lured guests to The Palace with these words. "...one is able to bathe away his ailments or afflictions as the Indians did of your, but in as convenient, comfortable and scientific, a manner as the present age permits."
Soak and Steam
In the early years, we could have had a Turkish bath for 50 cents. Today a mineral bath is $25. I could have soaked and been calmed by the institutional green walls.
The old steam cabinet cracked me up. Why oh why did I not go for a Eucalyptus Steam? 100 years ago, it was only a dollar. But 40 bucks today isn't so bad for a steam experience, worthy of guests like W.C. Fields! I heard he was a guest here once. True?
We did enjoy our crazily decorated room, but we spent most of our stay wandering the town and dining at nearby Rogue Tavern. The town of about 2,000 was once named The Magic City.
This funny little Ozark town does seem magical. Especially on a cool spring day, free of summer tourists. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. There's a 5-mile loop of winding, hilly streets and endless Victorian cottages, shops and manors. These photos are all just steps from The Palace.
Back to Our Own Spa
We booked our hotel stay for Wednesday, to be sure The Rogue Tavern restaurant was open. After a fabulous dinner we had a one minute walk back to our hotel. There was no calorie burning with that, so I decided to burn calories in our own hot "spa" tub.
Our crazy bathroom set up, wasn't quite as epic as the soaking tubs in the basement, but it was memorable. In a curious way.
Besides the crocheted Kleenex holder, there were other helpful goodies. There were robes, but I think they were only for folks who booked spa treatments. There were lots and lots of mirrors in that bathroom. I counted 6 large ones plus a make up mirror. I did not need those mirrors.
There was also a burlap pouch holding something. I was a little hesitant to peek, but it turned out to be a battery operated glowing light... that I would need to recharge if I used. I liked the rubber duck family better. No batteries required.
I didn't get a very good photo of the big blue tub. It was large. Sorry Don, but I figured there wasn't room, once I added the ducks.
I was a little disappointed that the provided bath wash created no bubbles. I should have brought my own bubble bath. But there were bubbles in the champagne... although I just used it for a prop. I was too full from dinner.
We slept well, even with a huge crashing storm in the night! Next morning we tiptoed down the stairs early. I don't think we needed to. I'm pretty sure we were the only guests overnight and no morning staff had arrived.
The streets were wet and the air felt refreshing. I took a photo of the building across the street, before I noticed the owner. (not pictured) She greeted me with a huge smile and one word, "Jesus!" I wasn't sure how to respond. Then I noticed her religious flags hanging above. She claimed she had been refreshed and blessed by the storms the night before. I sensed she would have been happy to have shared a tea and chatted longer, but Don and I were on our way. What a memorable town and a memorable hotel.
I'm so thrilled that we were able to stay in the only still operating bath house in Eureka Springs. There are plenty of spas that use the same healing waters, but none that have operated for way over 100 years.
Even though we may have been the only guests, Mary Lana made us feel incredibly welcome. She was proud of the hotel and that made me love it more. We stayed in an historic hotel, in a magical historic town, tucked into an isolated part of the Ozark Mountains... at an incredibly lucky time, free of tourists! I'll soak to that!
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Don and I have had eyes on this hotel for years. We finally spent a night!
We've stayed in this picturesque Ozark town a few times, but never in the center of town. I was excited when we pulled up to the grand hotel, on Father's Day.
Beside the Spring
Our hotel got its name from Basin Spring... the healing spring waters, that began attracting visitors in the 1800's. The spring was just 100 feet from our hotel.
The 7-story limestone fortress was built into the side of the mountain, in 1905. It went up on the very spot where a wooden hotel opened, in 1881. It only stood for a few years, before it burned to the ground.
Curves and Arches
We parked and headed over, admiring the curves that crowned the top of the hotel. I was amused to spot the Sailor's Luck Tattoo Studio, on the street level. We could make it a truly notable night, if we got some tattoos as souvenirs.
We followed the arched walkway towards the entrance. There were no pumpkins and and fall decor, in June. But, back when visited in October of 2014, there was a big spotlight on Halloween and the hotel's ghostly history!
Lobby in June
The lobby felt cramped for such a large hotel. I love an old hotel lobby with cozy sitting areas, where you can watch people come and go. Maybe there were some, back in the day.
There was an impressive stone fireplace with an equally impressive mirror. The dark woodwork and lobby desk, took me back in time to 1905. The hotel clerk's masked face, reminded me that it was June 2021.
The hotel was considered quite modern, with its elevator in 1905. The one we used was so small and slow, that I wondered if it was the original.
Since we were on the 4th floor and had bags, we were happy to have an elevator period. Our room was just to the right of the elevator door, so we didn't have to wander down halls.
But, I did some wandering anyway. I so love walls and floors and stairways, especially when they have odd shapes and bends and angles.
Our king room had a fun shape, too. It was fairly spacious for an old hotel.
The bed was comfy, with decent linens. I always appreciate a ceiling fan and bedside tables, with lamps.
The high ceiling, big windows and a large wall mirror, made the room feel even larger.
Chocolate Bar Doors
I was especially fond of the doors. The decorative hardware was fun and the brown paint made the doors look edible! Our bathroom door was attached to the widest doorframe I've ever seen. It must have been one of the original bathrooms. Only half of the rooms in 1905, had one.
The little storage space above the closet door, was curious. Was that to store luggage if you stayed a week? There was no way I could reach that area on my own.
This wasn't our view, but some rooms could look out over the park.
I found this view at the end of a hallway.
Our room was at the "bottom" of the U-shaped building. My eyes went directly to the lush landscape, then down to the patio deck. If we'd had a room on the side, my eyes might have met up with the eyes of a guest straight across. No worries. Everyone seemed to keep their blinds down. That meant I got to study the stone and brickwork, without looking like a spy.
We've had mountain views before, but not like this. For the first time I could see how the hotel was truly built into the mountainside. What a patchwork of textures.
A Better Look
To enjoy a more interesting view of the mountainside, I went down to the park and headed up the stairs.
At the top of the stairs, I found a gazebo to the left. To the right I found an odd display of metal, connecting the hotel to the rock, behind.
A catwalk is a term I associate with theatre. The catwalks I found behind the hotel, gave a great "behind the scenes" glimpse, of what we'd have to deal with if we had a hotel fire! That would be quite movie scene!
These crazy metal stairs and walkways, offered escapes from all levels of the hotel. Mr. Ripley (as in Believe It or Not) evidently found this hotel amusing. Back in the day, he claimed it was the only building where, "every floor is the ground floor."
The Lounging Deck
After I snapped the catwalk photos, I tried to figure out how to get to the "patio" space we'd seen from our window. Don and I finally found the door on the second floor. I was able to strike up a pose, with the natural rock wall, behind me.
Don struck a pose between the gas fire pit and the hot tub. (beneath the umbrella) Don's observant eye, noticed a sign on the wall, reminding us that skinny dipping was not allowed.
Below the Glass Roof
Also behind Don was a skylight, that we'd noticed from our window.
We found a lounge/game room below the glass. If we'd had more time, we could have played a little chess or foosball or Jenga. I did find time to examine the history exhibits, in the glassed in cases. So many vintage photos and pieces of hotel memorabilia!
Jack Rabbett's Whisky Bar
We took a peek inside the Whisky Bar on the second floor. It was named for Jack, the manager who worked the hotel bar in 1951, when it was raided by the local sheriff.
For many decades, Eureka Springs had quite a bootlegging industry. Saloons thrived throughout Prohibition. Besides booze, there was a live-in "hostess" in the hotel and lots of gambling. I guess the sheriff got tired of it and made a few arrests, in 1951. Jack was one of them. Slot machines and liquor was destroyed in the street.
We passed another bar on the way to the Balcony Restaurant.
Just looking at that wavy wall, you could think you'd had one too many whiskeys.
Lunch and View
We were happy to find that Eureka Springs was not being overrun with tourists, on Father's Day. That meant we were able to get seated on the balcony, with no wait.
The food was good and the scenery was even better. My view of the narrow flatiron building was the best. I love how the skinny building sits like a tall piece of pie, in the split between Spring and Center Street.
We came back in the evening for a drink before dinner. The same guitarist had returned and the atmosphere was pleasant and relaxed.
I have no photos from our evening on the balcony, but I have this one from 2014. Pretty funny that we were seated in the same spot.
Looking back seven years ago, we also have memories of wandering up to the top floor and discovering the Barefoot Ballroom.
We could hear music as we headed up the stairs. First we stepped into a lobby area, with a cash bar. Then we moved into the next room, with a musical show in progress.
We hit the jackpot of entertainment. The talented musicians kept us happy and the guests kept us totally amused. We spotted at least one top hat and a few pairs of long, white gloves in the crowd. There were overalls and pigtails and lots of plaid shirts. My photos reveal no bare feet, so I'm not sure if we really happened upon the Barefoot Ball or just the room named after it.
Back at the Ballroom
There was nothing happening on the top floor, during our Sunday night stay. I'm guessing that was because of Covid.
I was glad the area was unlocked so I could peek during the day. The curved stained glass and wonderful wood floors were much more evident in daylight.
The First Barefoot Ball
The Barefoot Ball began in 1948. I believe it's been a yearly event since, except for these 2 Covid years. Who knows what was going on with these socially distanced tables, in the room with the stage?
The shoeless ball, began when a newly married couple was awarded a 2-week hotel stay, in 1948. They won the prize, on the radio show "Truth or Consequences". There was a catch. They had to go barefoot for the entire stay. They did and the hotel owner had a Ball in honor of them. "Check your shoes at the door!" Those were the days, when people would go along with whimsical contests and gimmicks.
One of the best parts of our stay, was wandering on foot... in shoes. If you don't mind steep hills, the town is very walkable. We wound our way up the curvy-steep streets, to the top of the hill. We had drinks and dinner at The Crescent Hotel, with gorgeous views.
Later we wandered back down, tripping along the dark stairways. We found the charming streets around our hotel, very quiet by 10. We also found a few other hotels to try in the future.
We woke to crashing storms in the morning. It was a little tricky getting our luggage to the parking area in the rain. (We were too impatient to wait for the shuttle)
The rain made me appreciate that we'd walked so much the day before. I'm glad I didn't wait until morning to take pictures!
Our timing was good for our stay at Basin Park. The town and hotel could have been jammed with tourists, but it was pleasantly quiet... day and night.
I'll remember that our room was spacious and our balcony dining was pleasant. The location was ideal for exploring. The hotel building itself was remarkable, especially how it connected to the mountainside.
Next time when the pandemic is far behind, I'll be game for more activity and music and maybe some curious people encounters.
The Historic Shaver House in Mena
In June, Don and I pulled up to this lovely home in southern Arkansas.
The current owners live in the home and rent out guesthouses on the property. In 1898 it was built as a home, for Judge Benjamin Shaver and his family.
Mena, Arkansas was not our destination. but it was a good stopping point on our June road trip to Missouri.
Don and I like staying in small towns, especially when there's a historic downtown, with an old hotel. This time, we were excited to stay in an actual neighborhood, just a short walk from downtown.
June 19, 2021
We arrived on Juneteenth, the first time the day was recognized as a National holiday. When I spotted the colonial home with its ionic columns, I thought of Gone With the Wind. It was a little eerie, since I'd been thinking of the sobering history of Juneteenth on our drive. I was glad to know the house wasn't old enough, to have a history connected to the Civil War.
However, I learned that Judge Shaver was the son of Fighting Colonel Shaver, a Confederate War hero. I decided to not think about that. But I did think about another period, when this colonial revival home, became Mena's first hospital. That's a good bit of history!
Today, the Vacca Family lives in the grand home. We met Scott Vacca when we arrived and he couldn't have been more welcoming.
He ushered us to a side entrance near the Carriage House. I would have loved to have stayed in that old building with its history and charm, but it was booked. We grabbed our bags and followed a few pathways.
We were booked for the Parisian Loft, which was located in a structure above the the garage and another guest room.
We carried our bags up the staircase and I kept fingers crossed.
I was excited about the loft room, but a little concerned about size.
The reviews were great, except for the ones that cautioned... "Don't book this room if you're tall."
Charming and Cozy
We stepped inside and right away, I had no worries.
Don is 6'2" and he's spent a lot of time navigating small spaces in old hotels. This cozy room had a lot more space than the website photos revealed. He was fine. My own photo reveals a foil covered plate... fresh chocolate chip cookies!
I loved the feel of our cozy space. It felt like a storybook room or even the room I loved in my Grandmother's house.
The room in "Daw's" house had lots of gables... windows and angles. I adored that as a child. When we visited, I shared it with my siblings and the windows were always open, letting in the sounds of cicadas... the breeze blew the chiffon curtains all night. We had no crickets or breeze, in the Parisian Loft. We did have luxurious linens and nice beside tables and lamps, plus a decent TV mounted on the wall.
The sitting area was small, but very useable. It was helpful having a small fridge and microwave and coffee maker.
The bathroom amused me. It was clean and new and comically small. However it made the absolute best use of the available space. I warned Don to be careful with his head, but he was fine. "I'd rather deal with tricky ceilings, than a claw-footed tub."
Towards the back of the property, we found a couple small rental cottages and some fun sitting areas.
If the weather hadn't been in the 90's, we might have met some of the other guests, around the fire pit.
We didn't meet any others near the hatchet throwing, either.
This totally cracked me up. It looked like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
We have never had a chance to try this sport. Don tossed his hatchet and managed to land it into the wood on the first try. (Is that even the object?) My expression and form (in photo) says it all. I tried a few times, then stopped before I injured something or someone.
It was a little too hot for lounging.
We admired all the options, but never tried out the hammock or Adirondack chairs.
Our little porch had a pretty view of the yard, with purple hydrangeas and a pond with goldfish.
We waited until morning to make use of the porch. In the early hours, it was shady and cool!
We made use of our coffee maker and enjoyed the morning birds and fresh air.
I think there were other guests, but it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
Walking to Town
In the morning and in the evening before, we walked to town.
When our overnight stays include some walkable sights, I'm extra happy. The town was quiet and dining options were slim, but we enjoyed exploring parks and neighborhoods, both times of day!
I'll remember the peaceful and pretty property and our walks into town. And I also must add, that our stay was priced at under 100 dollars. That is notable!
Chain Hotel in the Blog?
When Don and I travel, we shy away from chains, because we like surprises. Hotel chains are predictable and don't usually make it into the Notable Nights Blog. But 21c is all about surprises. Each of the 10 hotels is different.
It's the only hotel chain I can think of, that sort of guarantees a little bit of adventure... at least for people who look for it! I just love the idea. Refurbish an old building in an urban area. Fill it with a luxurious hotel, an upscale restaurant and a modern art museum. Along with that, throw in lots of curious stuff!
The first of its hotels opened in 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky. Soon they will have 11 of these artsy, city hotels. They aren't in hip NYC or trendy Austin, but in states like Iowa, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee. Love that.
When Don and I started planning our road trip through Arkansas, we were thrilled to learn that Bentonville had a 21c hotel. But, the hotel was in a new building, with no history. There would be no city vibe. Blog worthy? We decided to find out.
Before we got curious about the hotel, we were interested in the Arkansas town... which is known to some, as the Birthplace of Walmart.
Whether you're a fan of Walmart or not, the Walton name has a lot to do with Bentonville history. I've actually been sort of intrigued with Sam Walton, since my history prof in the '70's spoke of him...
Downtown Bentonville looked charming, when we arrived last November. It was easy to imagine locals strolling down the sidewalk, back when Sam and his wife first opened Walton's 5 & 10 Variety Store.
That was in 1950, 12 years before there was a Walmart anywhere. Bentonville was a cozy town of about 3,000. 70 years later, the original 5 & 10 Store is still open on Main Street... and there are over 50,000 residents!
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
61 years after Sam Walton opened his store, his daughter founded Crystal Bridges. The town began to explode. Like many, Don and I were lured to Bentonville, because of the museum.
The 217,000 square foot museum opened in 2011 and began attracting tourists quickly. Obviously, they needed more hotels.
Now... About the Hotel
Don and I were eager to experience a little of this now popular town. We had one day & night, so we hit the museum early. (Wonderful!) Then we headed to the hotel, about a mile away.
As we approached, the hotel looked clean and modern against the blue sky. I hoped there would be some good surprises in the somewhat stark building.
The old downtown area was bustling with festivities, leading up to the town's tree lighting ceremony. We were lucky to find a parking spot on the street, across from the skating rink. Wish we'd had time to skate!
We rolled our bags down the walk. As we got closer, the brick and glass building started to look more intriguing. We passed a lineup of windows, jutting out on the sidewalk. Odd!
Before reaching the entrance I spotted our first art surprise.
A sweet bee sculpture was clinging to the brick. He looked like he was heading up to the sign, that wrapped the corner. "The Hive Restaurant" Glad he pointed it out.
We walked past the entrance so I could take a quick hotel pic, without people around. A little later, the area was swarming with crowds, enjoying festivities.
The Fleetwood Cadillac limousine was a fun surprise. The green penguins, perched on the roof added a little extra amusement! They looked like they were guarding the place.
A chained off space beside the building, held a towering sculpture called, "Orange Tree". The balls and hoops tempted me to play, but it was obviously meant to be enjoyed with eyes only.
Two very friendly valet guys opened the entry doors, as we came through with our bags. They made us feel like we were entering a gracious old hotel.
The lobby looked nothing like a gracious old hotel. The airy space was more art gallery, than lobby. The registration desk was a simple table with stools and computers and a very welcoming staff.
Don checked us in and I checked out the art. I was drawn to the boats that floated along the white wall.
When I stepped closer to examine each piece, the art became eerier. Each boat felt like it was from a different dream. I really liked them, but I hoped I wouldn't dream about them.
Across from the desk was a snaking, couch. The divided gray pieces reminded me of cushy dominoes. They seemed ready for me to trigger some action, with a little tap. At the end of the curvy lineup was a treadmill... which was part of an art installation and not for running. Was the couch art? Should I sit on it?
Two years ago, Don and I stayed at another 21c, in Kansas City. We knew a bit of what to expect. The hotels all have permanent art galleries, as well as traveling exhibits that rotate through their hotels.
What a shame that the current rotation exhibit in Bentonville, was the same one we saw in Kansas City! I recognized most of the thought provoking pieces from the "Refuge" collection.
"Sudden Gust of Wind"
Before heading up to our room, I peered down this hall. I could see the narrow windows, that we had passed earlier on the sidewalk.
A glance at the walls and ceiling, made me feel like a sudden cyclone had just busted out all the window glass. It looked like the wind had scattered a huge pile of papers! Those "flying" pieces of paper, were really 400 pieces of metal.
Clearly, our hotel didn't restrict art to the galleries. We passed a light fixture, that was a work of art. It didn't need a spotlight, since it was one.
While we waited for the elevator, I noticed movement behind us. The wall-like structure, suddenly seemed aware of us. Our movement sent the fan-like discs whirling. The shadow on the wall also came to life! Hard to capture in a still photo.
4th Floor Walls
We asked for a room on an upper floor and got our wish. We headed up to the 4th floor, which is the top floor. That's high for Bentonville.
When the elevator doors opened, we colorful surprise. Even though I was excited to get to our room, I had to stop and stare at the wall.
I was fascinated by the green design, that surrounded the emergency info panels. Were those faces? The patterns below, looked like intricate rugs, perfect for an elaborate dollhouse!
Who's in the Hall?
We turned down the hallway and I spotted one of the hotel's mascots!
I crossed fingers as we headed closer. Please be next to our door! Yep! He seemed to be guarding our room, #405.
Fun With Penguins
I love the 21c Penguins! Each hotel has their own colony. Guests are encouraged to interact with them.
I welcomed our Green Friend into the room for a visit. We checked out the view and looked through some books.
The whole penguin thing started as a temporary exhibit with the opening of the first hotel in 2006.
People fell in love with the red penguins in Louisville, so they stayed. Now, all the hotels have them. I loved our green guy. He looked perplexed when I talked into the receiver, which plugged into my cellphone. (another room perk)
Don and I met our first penguin at the Kansas City hotel. They had sky blue penguins there, which seemed to all disappear into guest rooms, later that evening. Staff claimed that the penguin kidnappings were due to the large number of "kids" staying that night.
That memory kept us from hogging our green guy for too long. After a while, Don took him to the elevator and faced him towards the doors, so he could properly await new guests. An hour later, he was riding the elevator...
More Room Perks
Our room wasn't cheap. Over $300. in a small town, is a lot to me. But the room was hip and spacious and scattered with animals. There was a hen pillow and dog pillow and a mighty fine hippo collage.
In the bathroom, there was another critter. The rubber ducky in the shower would have preferred a tub... like me. But the bathroom's sleek design, glowing mirror and soft robes made up for the lack of tub!
The hotel's Hive Lounge was super crowded, so we enjoyed our own happy hour with a view. I'm sure the lounge wouldn't have been as generous with olives, as Don!
We sat near the window and let it entertain us. We peered down at the orange, "Hoop Tree" and out towards the water tower. Later that night, we gazed down at the lit trees, on the square.
Around 8:00, we headed down to the restaurant and surrounded ourselves with honeycombs, bees and vines. There was still a decent crowd, seated in the restaurant and lounge. (my photo was from afternoon)
"BuzzKill" was the name of the artwork, made from repurposed materials. Pieces of plastic swimming pool... PVC pipe... extension cords...
I read later that the artist hid some random items in the art. I love that kind of thing, but my ignorance meant I totally missed the hunting experience.
I also missed the meaning. I read that there was a serious element, to what I thought was whimsical art. The hidden treasures were more sobering than fun. (hidden skulls etc.) The bees looked cute, but there was a message, reminding us about current concerns, with honeybees and environment.
Waiting for a Table
We were told the wait could be 30 minutes for a table, so I made a quick dash while Don did the waiting.
I trotted down a block, with my camera and caught the last of the festivities. The live music had ended at 8, but Santa was still seated in his sleigh outside of Walton's. The trees looked like they wore glowing hairnets! I felt like I had stepped into a Hallmark Christmas movie!
I returned, just as a table opened up in the back corner. It was a fun spot, for taking in the beehive art and watching diners interacting with penguins.
Jessica was our very energetic server. Her black lipstick, colorful glasses and stories, made everything more entertaining. We worked up an appetite while Jessica raved about the chef's specialties.
My only food pic shows my onion soup in the spotlight. It was delicious, but Don's seared halibut was really the star. He couldn't have been happier.
I was cautious about saving room for the special treat, that I'd observed other diners enjoying.
Cotton Candy With Our Friend!
I've been to a restaurant or two that offered free popcorn, but never cotton candy! I was giddy when Jessica brought our complimentary bags to the table.
As we nibbled, I saw the table across from us leave. I asked Jessica if she could grab their penguin for us. She whirled around and delivered the green guy right to us. Then when I asked her to take our picture she got serious. "Oh we need to stage this!" She cleared our dirty dishes and moved our friend to a better spot. Oh I do love to play at dinner!
The rest of our evening was lovely and we headed out happy the next day.We drove out of town feeling like we'd gotten our money's worth with all the extra perks!
Our hotel felt luxurious, but it was fun... I mean whimsically fun. It was also serious, with thought provoking art and seriously good food.
Our hotel could have been floating at sea and we'd have been content exploring and relaxing inside. But the location in Bentonville was a huge plus. My memory will be a combination of our hotel, the colorful town square and of course the Crystal Bridges Museum.
But let us not forget the penguins! I was afraid I might tire of the fun, but no. Yay for green penguins!
1929 Hotel in Harrison, Arkansas
We found this dandy little Spanish Revival building, just a block from Harrison's town square.
The smooth brick facade was decorated with all sorts of fun stuff.... tile, terra cotta, wrought iron, arches and colorful paint!
Since its beginning in 1929, the building has had many uses.
After closing down to hotel guests in the '60's, the building was purchased by Christian Faith of Wichita and used to house and feed the elderly. In 2008, the hotel reopened after a 3.5 million dollar renovation.
Finding the Door
There were 3 impressive entries to the hotel. The entrance that opened to the lobby was tucked into the corner of the building, away from the street.
We pulled right up in the drive and walked past two striped columns, towards the arched doorway.
Just inside, the 2-story lobby greeted us with huge squares of floor tile and a glowing chandelier.
A lobby desk window was off to the right. A very pleasant staff member, was waiting to check us in.
There was a Old Spanish flavor to the sweet hotel.
Lots of arches and ironwork! I loved the painted birds and flowers on the walls.
Looking down from the mezzanine, we had a good view of the birds and chandelier.
All we needed was a little Flamenco guitar, echoing in the space.
I like a renovation that doesn't clear out all the old. The wooden telephone door looked mighty sweet, with the white curtain. I just had to peek! Instead of a phone in the cozy space, I saw a chair, desk and computer. Nice perk for hotel guests!
The double writing desk was an amusing reminder, that people once wrote postcards from hotels. There was an old style radio sitting on one half, playing some music from the 40's.
We followed the carpeted hall to our room, # 321.
The room was pretty darn small, but so was the price! For around 80 bucks, we got a newly remodeled room in a charming hotel.
The queen bed, bathroom and flat screen TV, gave us some modern comforts. The exposed brick and an odd little bathroom door, were fun reminders of the past. Brown painted, metal door knob... I love it!
John Paul's Bar & Grill
The restaurant and bar at the south end of the hotel had a totally modern face lift.
We returned later in the evening and grabbed up the sleek, blue sofa in the back of the room.
Food and Music
We were relieved to have a comfy place to hang out, since the downtown was quiet and weary looking, on that Friday evening.
We ordered some appetizers for dinner and enjoyed some good people watching. The crowd was made up of locals rather than travelers and everyone seemed to know the deep voiced singer who entertained us with country ballads. The singer's young wife and baby occupied one table. A local artist seated nearby, introduced himself to us, so we didn't feel like total outsiders.
In the morning we were entertained by a club of Fiat Mini drivers, who had all parked their sweet little cars in front.
The cute cars added to our car fun, since the day before we had shared the road with numerous Corvettes. Corvettes and Fiats , enjoying the annual Corvette Arkansas Weekend. Lots of fun cars in Arkansas!
We sampled some of the complimentary breakfast that was served in a small diner area, on the north end of the hotel.
The food options were fairly typical, but the setting with columns, painted beams and tile work, made my coffee taste better than typical.
The term hidden gem is overused, but it fits for Hotel Seville. It was surprising to find such a perfectly renovated and charming hotel, in small town Arkansas.
I wish I had good things to say about the town. It looked a bit worn and in need of its own facelift.
Worst of all, I Googled for info and learned of the town's connection to the president of KKK. Ugh. Maybe I shouldn't have shared that. That's a notable piece of information that is not fun. But travels should open your eyes to good and bad. Our hotel was great... that bit of knowledge was not.
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!