#44 Pere Marquette Lodge
CCC Lodge Near Grafton, IL
Long before Don and I began searching for unusual hotels, we fell in love with this lodge. In October, we revisited.
This cute little cottage-looking entrance, hardly matched the rustic log and stone structure of my memory.
Just As We Remembered
This is what Don and I were both eager to see! It had been a few decades since our last stay.
We were glad to see there weren't many changes. The grand open space was still filled with log beams and comfy lodge furniture and the giant chess board! The only new addition, was a sort of odd collection of "patchwork leaf quilts" hanging from the beams.
All we needed was cold weather so we could enjoy a fire in the massive 50- foot limestone fireplace.
No fire, but we could still enjoy the big green chairs!
And More Chairs!
I had forgotten how many sitting areas there were! There were rattan chairs gathered around a tabletop game of shuffle board.
And there were wicker chairs surrounding tables, with checkerboards and clunky puzzle games.
In truth, when we arrived at 3pm, there was hardly a free chair for sitting. The annual "Apple Festival" was just ending and the whole lodge was crawling with kids in face paint, clowns twisting balloons... booths of fall crafts, kettle corn and pumpkins... and a live band! It took a little while, before the lodge became peaceful again!
The Historic Wing
We hiked up a flight to room 222, in the Historic Wing. There have been lots of renovations since the lodge was completed in 1940. We like old, so we didn't want a room in the new addition. Sadly the only thing that hinted at old, were the windows.
It was nice having an updated flat screen TV and a decent bed, but I was kind of hoping for some log beams or some of that big chunky lodge furniture. Or how about a picture on the wall. I think they forgot?
But the windows were great, offering a view of the Illinois River along with a warm fall breeze!
And we had the added treat of champagne and chocolates, as well as a $50. voucher for dinner. I'll admit, our package was more about numbers than romance. We were on a 22-day road trip after all. We just did the calculating and this was the best deal.
The room wasn't as rustic as I had expected. But the checkerboard table with checkers, felt very lodge-y.
The bathroom was very Motel 6-ish, but it did have a Keurig coffee maker. That's a surprise, for a State Park owned lodge. We never expect frills.
Then and Now
Don and I stayed at Pere Marquette, in the fall of 1985. I remember sitting in Adirondack chairs on the back terrace. It was a little cooler and we had the place to ourselves, staring out over the sloping lawn to the Illinois River.
Don didn't need a sweater, when he drank his Schafly Pale Ale, this time.
The Adirondacks have been replaced by metal tables, with umbrellas. I missed sitting in those old wooden chairs, but the view was just the same.
And this time we were able to catch the sun going down.
I did a little posing with the sunset, on the very log where we propped our feet, years ago.
Dining at The Lodge
On a Sunday evening the dining room was packed with families feasting on fried chicken and other lodge favorites. The place was thinning out when we arrived for dinner, after sunset. We could tell the staff was ready for "Apple Festival Day" to be over.
I was eager to try the Goat Cliff Soup, I'd heard about. Our server nearly sneered as he told me there was no such thing. Maybe that just means Soup of the Day? I was afraid to ask again. I ordered pot roast and Don ordered salmon. Both were tasty and the seats were so comfy. We wanted to linger forever. But we took the hints from the yawning staff and moved along.
On Monday, Don and I woke rested and ready to go. We had hoped to head down this wonderful log-filled hallway to the indoor pool and exercise room. We were needing to burn off a few calories, on our 22-day road trip.
I stopped at the desk to ask when the workout room opened. "Really? 8:00?" I sort of whined, "I was hoping to be done exercising by 8." It was clear there was no flexility with opening the little room that held all of 3 pieces of equipment! So Don and I skipped our exercise and went for breakfast.
The dining room was pretty empty in the morning. I needed a strong cup of coffee to focus on the menu. It was cleverly written as a quiz, about historical explorers. (Remember, this is a State Park) I chuckled about this to the waitress, who didn't seem amused as she snatched our menus and hurried off with our order.
Don and I made it a point to amuse ourselves by asking our server questions, every time she came to our table. I don't believe she ever had 2 feet on the ground at once. She answered every question with one sentence, as she moved away from our table. I'm not sure why she was in such a hurry? There was hardly anyone there.
Exploring the Dining Room
After we finished breakfast we wandered a bit.
I'm sure our waitress felt like a mother who was ready to shoo her kids outside to play after breakfast. I messed with the well and surprised myself with a blast of water.
Admiring the Fireplace
We spent a little time studying the stone fireplace with all the harvest decor. I hope our waitress didn't hear me complaining.
I love real pumpkins and wheat, but I get really tired of cutesy scarecrows and fake leaves. You know you've been on the road for 9 days when you start getting picky about things like that.
Let me end with some photos from our morning walk, before we checked out.
Pere Marquette is an absolutely beautiful State Park.
This is a State Park Lodge, not a hotel. I griped a little about this and that, but in truth I loved the park feel.
The prices were more park than hotel and the historic limestone & timber building was more park than hotel. We are lucky to still have places like this and I'm so grateful that we were able to return!
#43 The Original Springs Hotel
This old hotel and bathhouse has been sitting in this tiny town since 1891.
I'm not sure what the place looked like 123 years ago, but when Don and I stayed in September, it looked exactly the same as it did in 1984.
30 Years Ago
Don and I were living in St. Louis in the '80's, when we heard about this place, just a 45 minute drive from the Arch.
However, we arrived on bikes and it took a lot longer. I was too sore and exhausted to care about luxury, but I remember chuckling at the "time warp" experience.
Saturday at the Spa
When we visited recently, I was surprised to find Okawville, smaller and quieter than I remembered. When we walked through the open front door, we actually saw others checking in at the front desk.
I expected to see no one. How did they even hear about this place? We had to wait a bit while some couples checked in and made arrangements for massages and spa treatments. Really?
A Bit Worn
I sound like a spa snob. In fact I know very little about spas. This was just not the atmosphere where I could picture people coming for a weekend of pampering. The lobby was comfy enough, like Grandma's house... with lace doilies and autumn scarecrow decor.
A breeze was blowing through the lacy curtains, causing the advertisement fliers, taped to the woodwork to flutter. It was the kind of comfy that made you want to take off your shoes and tilt back on the Lazy Boy with a Reader's Digest. I just couldn't see myself signing up for a Detoxifying Body Wrap or a Deep Tissue Massage.
There was no elevator, but they had an awesome staircase to our second floor room. My photos are good at disguising stains on walls and carpets.
They also hide some of the old building smells. I'm not complaining though, we like old hotels and we had asked for one of the older rooms. We were just happy this place still existed!
When we opened the door my senses were bombarded. Visually, the green and burgundy decor transported me right back to 1980's!
Little straw hats and dried flowers decorated the walls and wallpaper border. A curious swag of material hung above a rather grimy window. And what was that smell coming through the window...?
I'm talking about good smells... the aroma of mouthwatering sirloin and sizzling pork chops! It was hard to see through the window, but we could see well enough to realize we had a view of the roof of The "Boiler Room Restaurant".
The kitchen blower was right on the other side of the glass. It's good Don and I are not vegetarian or we could have had a real problem with this. Mostly it just made us laugh... and made us hungry.
What Shall We Do?
We had the whole afternoon to enjoy! What should we do? 30 years ago, I did partake of the bathhouse experience, with a soak in the hot mineral waters.
I remember the attendant delivering me to my tiny dark room with a claw-footed tub, that had been filled with a hose. I remember I had a hard time suppressing my giggles at the whole situation. I've never been very good at relaxing.
A Quick Tour
We decide against spa time, but did take a little peek. The old steam cabinets and massive tubs had been removed. A "modern" tub tried to tempt us with some awaiting mineral water.
The wooden loungers, covered in sheets, looked like ghosts rising slowly.
Where are the Old Tubs?
I wondered where the old bathhouse equipment was.
I was told by a woman at the desk that lots of old goodies were now up in the attic. When I looked up at the windows from outside, I could tell she wasn't lying!
We remembered the pool from our last visit. The hand painted stairs, the surrounding picket fence and the glassed in ceiling. Mostly we remembered an encounter with a gentleman 30 years ago.
He had approached Don with an almost frightened expression. "You look just like my son." We've always wondered about that. We didn't have anymore people encounters near the pool, but Don did make use by doing a little lap swimming.
Ahhh! The Porch!
The porch looked more inviting this time. The wicker furniture was pretty comfy and the weather was lovely!
It felt good to sit and do a little nothing. This was the 7th night of our 22-day road trip and we were ready for a little porch time.
While we relaxed, the church next door entertained us with a carillon concert. The churchy hymns made me feel like I should get into my Sunday clothes.
But then the bells surprised me with a performance of "We shall overcome..." I've never heard that played on church bells! The concert ended and we suddenly heard the clomping of horse's hoofs. I looked up to see a bride and groom riding by in the backseat of a carriage. A few minutes later the driver rolled past, minus the bride and groom. What interesting entertainment.
Saturday Night Dining in Okawville
Lucky for us the hotel had a restaurant in the basement. As far as I know there were no other dining options in Okawville.
By the time we made it down to The Boiler Room for a meal of pork chops and chicken, there was hardly a table left.
This photo, taken earlier, shows the festive fall decor and cozy corner bar. We sat at a table between the glowing juke box and non-glowing fireplace. It was a perfect spot for people watching and there was a lot of that to be had. We seemed to be the only diners who weren't a part of a large, local family reunion. Lots of greeting and hugging and mingling. We looked a little out of place as we sat glued to our table.
Time for Bed!
This is not a picture of our hotel turn down service. It's just a sad little picture of a very weary old bedspread with a torn ruffle. I removed the Kleenex-thin spread and placed it on the chair.
We could have enjoyed a little television time before turning in, but decided to give the old Zenith a rest. I'm pretty sure that TV was there when we stayed in 1984.
Don and I try to enjoy each overnight with a little exploring in the area. Our hotel was in a pretty ideal location for a morning walk... that included, cornfields, kittens, a church or two and this sweet barn!
We returned to our room where we were greeted with a blast of new aromas! Bacon and sausage smells filled our room! All we could do was laugh!
The old O. S. Hotel was indeed old.
The 1980's updates can't be called updates anymore. But the hodgepodge mix of ages was oddly charming to me. AND, THE PORCH! I love a porch!!
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!