A Grand Victorian Hotel from 1892
On road trips, Don and I often drive way off course to stay in a place like this. But in January, we were simply looking for any hotel between Savannah and New Orleans. Don's internet search revealed this gem, right on our route.
We booked a room and began to wonder about the town of Americus. We found out there was a lot going on, around the oddly named town. Americus was the headquarters for Habitat for Humanity and some other interesting organizations. It was also very near Plains, the home of President Carter. We decided to leave Savannah early to give us some exploring time before check-in.
The Carter's Presence
Travelers from around the country and world are encouraged to visit the church. We had a feeling the hotel had quite a number of guests, staying just for that purpose. Even if it meant lining up in freezing temps at 6 am to assure a seat in the small church.
The lobby was empty when we checked in, although there was quite a line up of motorcycles in front.
It was fun exploring while it was still peaceful. I imagine it was a bustling place at the turn of the century. I also imagine a lot of dust collected on those railings and chandeliers when the place closed down in 1972 for almost 20 years.
Fire and Floors
I could have used a real fire, since cold winds were gusting outside. But the Christmas lights on the logs tricked me for a moment. I loved the patchwork of marble on the floor...
...and the curious designs, in the pine and maple wood floors. I don't even now what to call that metal and glass inlay?
Cozy Arches, Creaky Stairs
Here I am at the top of the "our" set of stairs. The floors and walls all had a crooked funhouse feel that made me feel a bit tipsy. In this photo, I am demonstrating (with exaggeration) the dizzy effect and how you might want to remember how low Victorian era railings are. Of course Don is a foot taller and could have demonstrated this better.
The Moorish Influence
The real fun of this hotel design was happening on the top level near the rounded ceiling. I loved the flame shaped arches, cut into the angled walls. This exotic revival style made its way into American architecture in the later 1800's.
Just staring at the swooping arches and beams made the imagination go to work. I didn't have time to write or paint or put on a play. But why didn't I at least have a little fun with one of those balconies and a paper airplane?
Oh if only the wind hadn't been so chilling. I love outdoor terraces and the hotel had two levels of them...
...wicker rockers, cafe tables and cooling fans for the warmer months...
... and a sweet little downtown view. This was a curious town and we didn't really have the time to explore it!
One More Balcony
From the street I could look up to the right and see the balcony, where I stood before. It looked a little like the Stature of Liberty's torch! I loved how the gables looked like tiny houses, jutting out from the roof. Our room was on another side of the hotel, with an identical gable for our windows.
Our Room for the Night
Our hall was cozy and so was the room. I loved having the windows in the gable, reminding me of my grandmother's house.
We chuckled at the ceiling with lots of pipework jutting out from the decorative border. I'm glad the latest renovations of 2010 did not remove all of the old charm. The bathroom had the original tile floors but there were proper updates elsewhere.
Not only did we have a sweet little view of the storefronts, we had an old window and shutters to frame it!
The sun set over those buildings and there was a nice evening glow!
But we figured we'd just get a burger from the hotel pub. However, by the time we were hungry, the bikers had taken over the chairs outside the pub and a big crowd in cowboy hats was approaching. We got our food-to-go and enjoyed eating in the room with our own wine.
The voices and laughter of the bikers, echoing in the lobby, finally came to an end around midnight. We woke early, dressed in layers and headed to the car in the dark. A few other hotel guests were doing the same, but our biker crowd seemed to be skipping church.
Eager travelers lined up to make sure they got one of the 300 seats in church. Luckily, there's a seating area for the 35 or so active members, so they don't have to suffer this weekly. But the long wait and cold, didn't end up being so bad. There was a fun energy as the travelers got to know each other. The sun was rising, while a full moon was lowering. Plus, there much to watch. The Secret Service checked us over, the bomb sniffing dog was very frisky and Organizer-Jan was a hoot, as she snapped commands and also made us laugh... very much the way she probably did as Amy Carter's teacher years ago.
But, What's Notable About our Hotel Stay?
I will never think about the Windsor Hotel without associating it with President and Mrs. Carter. Posing with them after church, (as all guests were invited to do) was the icing on the cake. They are an amazing couple, still giving to their community and the world! What a memory!
"The Hippest Hotel In Savannah"
We looked forward to staying at the 1960's motel, on our third night in the old Georgia city!
A Sad Looking Parking Lot
Check in was at 3:00, but we thought we'd stop by at 1:00, just in case. The drab weather didn't give the motel a lot of extra appeal, but I knew what was waiting inside the lobby!
The website boasted some pretty fun offerings, like complimentary popcorn, RC Colas, Moon Pies and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. As I peeked around the wall near the desk, I could see the doughnut holder was empty.
Rats. Then the desk clerk announced that our room would NOT be ready before 3. "We're doing some remodeling and things are kind of crazy..." She added, anxiously. I assured her with giddy enthusiasm. "No problem! We're just excited to have a Friday reservation! We're on a long road trip and we love staying at retro places like this!"
Back at 3:30
Don and I killed a couple cold, drizzly hours and returned. There were 2 young women at the desk, teaming up to share the grim news that their furniture delivery hadn't come in and they didn't have a room to accommodate us.
I gasped and sputtered and carried on. I didn't care that they'd booked us a night at the "Historic B" or that they were giving us a voucher for a future night's stay. I just refused to believe I was not going to have my night in this fun and funky motel. I was going to be their most fun guest, eating up all the silliness and blogging about it later. Nope, they did not have a spare room reserved for people who REALLY wanted to stay.
Angry and Armed
There are reasons that people like me should not be allowed to have guns. When I'm mad I start shooting and I'm sure these poor girls wondered why I was shooting photos of the office and the popcorn stand... and the Greyhound bus depot across the street.
They must have thought I was getting some kind of evidence... which I sort of was... but mostly I was just clicking my camera trigger because I felt powerless.
Calming Me With Sweets
Don wasn't silent. He reminded them that we'd paid for our room 2 months earlier and if we'd just been told about the concerns at 1:00, we could have gotten a refund and left rainy Savannah a day early.
I chimed in that I didn't care if they'd paid for our night at Historic B...whatever that was. I had paid $131.43 for a zany motel that served Krispy Kremes and Moon Pies. "Well... you can have some Moon Pies." I was told. I was still fuming, but that almost made me laugh. The nervous young woman fumbled under the counter and handed me a box of Moon Pies and two RCs. Oh brother.
Stomping Around With My Camera
We left with our sweets and a voucher, that we'll never use. Don headed to the car and I wandered past a few workmen and trucks to see just what we were missing. The retro, white cinderblock, the colorful panels and the pansies really didn't look that awesome. Plus there was a heavy gloom hanging in the air and it wasn't all weather related.
Up For the View
I climbed the stairs that made me remember motels of my childhood. I peered in rooms with doors wide open, awaiting new carpet. The odor of cigarettes and fast food containers made me chuckle to myself.
Just moments ago I was insisting they find us a room, even if it was partially ready. Luckily I hadn't been persuasive enough. As I peered across the street at the hissing buses and the folks hanging out at the depot, I realized it would have taken more than a few Krispy Kremes to make the place feel fun and friendly.
"Tell me about it." Our clerk snorted in response.
Sheets of Plastic
Our Little Oasis
Yes, our room was dated and waiting to be remodeled, but it was a huge step up from what we could have been enduring, if they'd given us the room I demanded at the motel. Don and I were more relieved than mad at this point. We eagerly freshened up before walking to an iconic neighborhood tavern we had just learned about.
Venting With Chalk
As we passed the temporary lobby desk, I laughed because I hadn't realized before that the clever chalkboard wall was a temporary shield for remodeling. There was a bowl with colored chalk, available at the desk. I grabbed a piece and went to the board, to vent.
Don and I headed off down the street ready to have a good time. And we did. It takes a lot to really get us down when we're traveling. "I'm glad to B... The Beth & Don traveling team!"
"They" does not refer to the desk help. "They" refers to the possibly fictitious M.T., who is supposed to handle customer concerns. After a month of trying to reach him by phone and email, I give up. I will write a TripAdvisor review and warn others. Then I will try to forget this mystery man, who doesn't deserve to be in my Notable write up.
UPDATE: Yesterday I heard from the Mr. T. He apologized and offered a refund.
Once a Warehouse in Savannah, Georgia
It's hard to grasp this hotel set-up. The huge brick and stone building seemed to grow from a high bluff. On the rear side, it looked way down on the waterfront.
Bridges and Stairs
A Grand Line up!
Our building was connected to others, just steps away from the beautiful Savannah Cotton Exchange building. To find the hotel entrance, we crossed a bridge and entered on an upper level, facing the city.
Once inside, it was hard to detect the age of the building. The lobby felt classy and uncluttered, with a beautiful model ship here and a lovely riverfront painting there.
It wasn't until we viewed the building from the rear that we got a good feel for the age. In 1817, the warehouse had only 2 stories, built of recycled ballast stone. By 1853 they needed to expand and built upward, with 3 more floors. All these floors had outside access for removal of cotton bales. The bluff in front, along with additional alleys and walkways, allowed for that.
Entering from the lowest floor on the river side, we were better able to visualize the building as a bustling warehouse. The ballast stone walls met up with thick, brick arches and the stairs and walkways connected the floors and walls.
Up to the Skylight
The halls gave a good view of the brick arches. The wooden floors were filled with dark lumps and bumps, but smoothed so perfectly over time. I don't think you could get a splinter, if you tried.
Since the lobby didn't have much in the way of lounging space, it was nice to discover some areas where guests could gather. There was a fitness area and a recreation room with TVs and pool table, but we did our relaxing in the Hospitality Bar.
I wish I'd gotten a photo of the cute little bar that served complimentary wine and the gracious spread of "snacks". We got a seat by the window and nibbled on hummus and guacamole, yummy cheeses and nuts. And even though I think of beignets as breakfast, I couldn't resist when they came around offering piping hot, powdery treats, fresh from the kitchen!
Fresh Looking Room
Our room was spacious and felt nicely updated. It was hard to believe our comfy hotel was actually in a warehouse state as recently as 1987. Our windows let in lots of light, but not much in the way of a view... unless we wanted to wave to all the people going by on the walkway.
I'm not sure how this space was used in 1853, when they added the new floors. I like to picture the factors, those professionals who graded cotton, warming their hands at this fireplace. If we'd gotten a river view room, we might have had a small balcony. That's where the factors kept an eye on the cargo ships arriving and unloading.
Staying Warm and Dry
It would have been fun if the fireplace had worked. It turned chilly that night and a fire would have been a treat. The next morning we woke to rain and suddenly realized how handy that umbrella in the holder could be.
The hotel had two restaurants overlooking the river. We had a decent and informal lunch at Tubby's, on the upper deck. But one perk of the hotel is that you really can walk anywhere. For dinner, we found the delightful "Boar's Head Grille & Tavern", just steps away in another old warehouse.
I will remember less about our comfortable hotel room than I will the idea of what our hotel once was. And maybe even more memorable than our warehouse/hotel itself, was what it was sandwiched between. I will always remember how our hotel opened to the busy river on one side...
...and cozied up to the bluffs and brick and stone on the other side. Pretty nice combination!
Once the John Wesley Hotel
There are stories/rumors of a brothel and ghosts and another fire... all after the successful early years. In 1984, the hotel reopened as the Planter's Inn.
The hotel looks across to Reynolds Square, one of about 20 squares that make up the historic district.
In the center is a statue of John Wesley. Like the hotel, he had a few secrets. It was an unfortunate love affair that forced him to leave Georgia. But he did refer to this very area as "Utopia", so that's what I chose to focus on!
The Hotel's Connection
One (or two) more quick thoughts on the exterior! You can see the house that appears to be glued to the side of the 7-story hotel. Please ignore the building on the left, since that is a parking garage.
That 3-story brick structure is the Oliver Sturgess home, built in 1812. The rear view makes the home look oddly dwarfed. It's curious to imagine this tall hotel taking the place of the "mirror-image" home that Mr. Sturgess built next door for one of his twin daughters.
One More Building to Mention
I must admit, one of the real reasons we chose Planters Inn, was because of it's proximity to The Olde Pink House. That is another story for another blog. But this fine old restaurant was just across the street from the Sturgess home. There was no restaurant at Planters Inn, but you could get room service from the Pink House!
Inside at Last!
There was something distinctly formal about the lobby, although the staff was quite relaxed. Even though we'd booked the least costly room, we asked if we might get a room with a view of the park.
The pleasant desk clerk found polite words to sincerely explain that the cheaper rooms get parking garage views. Then she actually tried to see if she could offer a complimentary upgrade, but was unable to find an available room. Oh well.
Columns for All!
That was fine. We hadn't expected an upgrade. Plus the columns were there for all guests to enjoy. And those were some pretty dazzling columns and moldings!
To the Room
I wouldn't have minded that view.
Granny and Granpop's Room!
I knew we weren't exactly getting the honeymoon suite, so I wasn't surprised. Don and I spend so many nights in hotels, that we book whatever is cheapest. In this case it meant single beds. I chuckled to the bellman that we'd gotten the room for the old folks.
(What I really meant was Ricky and Lucy's room, but figured he was too young to get it) He innocently put me in my place when he answered graciously in a slow southern drawl, "Yes Ma'am, but all the rooms are beautiful here."
And he was so right. How dare I poke fun at our lovely room. I chimed in with total agreement. The hotel was lovely and I rambled on about the beautiful lobby and he seemed genuinely surprised when he received a tip. But when we closed the door I had to laugh again. "I don't remember single beds being that narrow." There was something that reminded me so much of my grandmother, Daw's decor... which was comforting. Everything was neat as a pin, with formal drapes and knit bed spreads. She would have loved the green walls.
View and a Bath
In the blog, I always share a peek out the window and into the bathroom. Okay the parking garage was pretty bad.
I angled the camera to show more of the view. Please focus on the distant tower only. The bathroom was fine. The wallpaper said 1984, which is when the hotel reopened. But I was pleased with lots of counter space, which is never expected in old hotels.
Don and I are always pleased to find real glass in a hotel. Even the nicest boutique hotel might try to get away with disposable plastic and that just bugs me.
But this was a pleasant surprise to have these retro frosted water glasses to sip our water. I so wanted to assume these were like the soaps the we are allowed to take home. But they stayed behind.
Wine and Cheese
I'll try not to be negative, but once again, I was reminded of "old". Not the building this time, but that Don and I seem to travel with a lot of oldsters. It was kind of odd to look around the small crowd, murmuring over their wine. They seemed so old, these retiree travelers. And sadly we are not younger than all of them. I kind of felt like I was at my Grandmother's retirement/nursing home happy hour... which was quite lovely. But still.
in the perfect way! That is the notable thing about this hotel, it was within walking distance of the very best of Savannah! What surrounds the hotel, is what I will remember most!
On an Island in Georgia
Just getting to the historic island with its grand hotel, felt kind of like a Disney Adventure! After crossing the Sidney Lanier Bridge we were greeted by the Jekyll Island sign... on its own little island. We then, turned onto the Jekyll Island Causeway and passed between 2 old towers. Then we paid our $6.00 fee to cross the bridge over Jekyll River to get to the island, which is actually a State Park... 65% undeveloped.
As we approached the original club building with its 1901 annex, I was distracted by splotches of white covering the green lawn. As we got closer, I could see that the images were croquet players, dressed in white.
The game was just ending, so I got no photos. I had to chuckle at the thought of dressing in white to play the game, since my croquet memories include cut-offs and bare feet. The serious looking players toted some mighty big mallets which looked nothing like the ones I remember!
I'm not a big fan of clubs, especially exclusive ones. I didn't last long as a Girl Scout and I had no urge to join a sorority.
But the hotel is not really a club anymore and no one was telling me what I could or could not do. So I enjoyed a little sitting and wondering about those 53 original members/investors who opened the club nearly 130 years ago.
Round Porches and Rooms...
The once exclusive club could have been housed in a more rigid or intimidating structure. But the asymmetric design of this building with all the curves and curious rooflines, made this hotel look playfully inviting.
A Calm Place
Changes Over Time
The porches were a little empty during our visit in January, but that was partially due to the temps. The hotel has seen even quieter days in its history. The Club lost half its members during the depression and they were forced to close during WWII. The state of Georgia ended up buying the island in 1947, but it was never successful in operating the resort. The hotel closed down in 1971 and eventually reopened as a luxury resort in 1985.
The hall ended at the entrance to the dining room, near the staircase and some cozy sitting areas. The woodwork and fireplaces were inviting. The boar's head above the fire... was amusing.
A few steps beyond the fireplace was this sunny, round room which was set up for a Victorian Tea. There were tea cups at the ready and rose or two on each table.
No Tea for Us
The staff was prepping a long table with finger sandwiches, scones and other teatime treats. Don and I passed on tea, but enjoyed sneaking a peek after 4:00, when we saw quite a few ladies in festive hats, sipping their tea.
At the turn of the century, I'm sure the ladies who arrived by yacht from the northeast, also enjoyed fancy teatimes. But I was surprised to learn that women in 1888 were encouraged to participate in many athletic activities, including hunting.
There was an elevator, but our room was up just one flight of stairs. I do love old stairs. In fact, I liked the stairs so much I kept going up.
The Top Hallway
The hallway on the top floor was a lot more curious than our second floor hall. I was intrigued by the absence of doors. I heard voices of men laughing down at the end of the hall, so of course, I walked further.
Curiouser and Curiouser
This funny little sitting area was outside the door where I heard the men laughing. Two chairs with long legs sat on an uneven floor, beside two odd windows, underneath a low ceiling. (The window view was quite lovely) Then I heard a noise coming from the elevator. I was almost knocked over by the bellman's cart. He didn't see me as I squeezed by.
Our hall and floor wasn't mysterious and full of laughter, but Don and I were quite pleased when we found our room. We, as always, had booked the most economical room, but were graciously given an upgrade, without asking.
Comfy and Spacious
The king bed and flatscreen TV were reminders of today, but the woodwork and fireplace were nice peeks into the past.
When we opened our shutters, we had a nice view of the pool and the river beyond.
Then and Now
It was too chilly for a swim in the old pool. But we had a nice view of the sun lowering over the pool in the evening. Too bad the old diving board and platform are now gone.
In the evening we joined a few others at the cozy bar at the bottom of the stairs. The Club didn't have a bar originally. During the filming of Bagger Vance, a bar was temporarily created for some scenes. It became so popular, they built a permanent one.
We chatted with a number of interesting guests that evening. The most intriguing person at the bar, was the gentleman on the right. 94-year-old Harry Anderson is a well-known yachtsman from Mystic, Connecticut. He started coming to Jekyll island as a child with his grandfather, who was one of the original members when the club first opened.
Grand Dining Room
All was even more swanky at night. We weren't traveling with swanky dress clothes though, so luckily they were flexible. Men's jackets were preferred, not required.
Flavors, Fire and Music
What a treat to enjoy our lovely feast and head up to bed. No coats and no car... just one flight of stairs and we were home.
It's not a perfect one, but it's worth sharing. The link below talks about the island's history with segregation and integration. There is more good in the history than I realized.
I love it when an overnight stay encourages me to learn more.
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!