#259 - Rockwood Motor Court
Missouri Filling Station
Don and I got to experience our first overnight, in a Shell Oil filling station!
Back in the day, it was more than a gas station. This charming little building was a filling station, right on Route 66, just west of Springfield, Missouri.
Rockwood Motor Court
The old station along with a motor court, was built in 1929, just 3 years after The Mother Road opened.
Today, the buildings may be over 9 decades old, but the 2 signs are very new. Phyllis and Tim purchased the property a couple years ago and opened in 2020.
Tubby's Diner in 2016
This wasn't the first time Don and I visited the property. Five years ago, the gas station and house was a diner. The sign didn't exactly attract us, but we were intrigued with the old stone buildings.
I remember little about our lunch, but I have photos. I looked back at these photos when I read an article a year ago, about a couple renovating a motor court on Rt 66. I was giddy to recognize the sandstone buildings!
Arriving in June
I called and made reservations with Phyllis for a Thursday in June.
We avoided the weekend, since Route 66 attracts lots of motorcycles. The sweet cottages looked very inviting!
This sweet building held rooms 1 and 2. Was it once a cottage with garage? The red chairs and Dutch figures were pretty sweet! The brick building next door was part of a Baptist Church, so no worries of noise.
This photo shows off the Ozark sandstone and the red brick trim. I should have taken a close up, to show how the sawed sandstone gave a "wood grain" appearance.
House and Office
The cottage next to the green building was where we checked in with Phyllis. What a delight. She seemed as eager to have us and we were to be there!
The green building was Tubby's Diner, in 2016. Long before that, the rock and stucco building was home to the original owners, who operated "Rockwood Court" as a Tourist Camp.
After many changes in ownership, the business became Rockwood Motor Court, in 1948.
The term motor court came into use in the late 1930's. They were designed for people traveling by automobile. Motels don't have garages, but some motor courts do! Rockwood had some garages and one remains. Phyllis pointed it out.
Photo-time, Near the Garage
We had a great conversation with our host about the kinds of guests who appreciate the history of Route 66.
We also talked about the pandemic and our shared concerns about the spiking cases in Springfield. We were both happy to be vaccinated and hopeful that more would get the vaccine.
Don and I peeked around at the other cottages. All were a little different on the outside. The insides had different themes as well.
Had this one been a duplex, before renovation? I liked the sweet double glider and planters with flowers... and pillows!
This one had a bit of a garden in front. The rock pattern reminded me of a gingerbread house... or maybe one of those yummy windmill cookies.
Phyllis took us to our room in the old filling station. Our building was the only one that faced Rt 66. (now College Street)
The glassed-in entry, would have been nice on a chilly winter day. On a warm day in June it was just an extra door, that made us feel a little less vulnerable to the people who might try to walk in. I'm not sure if that ever happens, but some could think it was the motor court office.
Filling Station Theme
Phyllis showed us around and I asked lots of important questions. "Who's the deer?" "Oh, that's Stanley."
I didn't have to ask about the cost for a bottle of Coca-Cola. "Insert penny and nickel in slot" was written above the handle. No ICE COLD cokes were inside, but it brought back some memories.
Our comfy space luckily had more than a filling station interior. There were themed goodies in absolutely every nook and cranny, but there was a comfy sitting area and a nice TV, as well. The braided rug and most furniture had a vintage feel.
We could have gotten a themed guest room for $69. But, we went all out and paid $115. for our studio with kitchenette.
It felt wonderful to spread out after 5 days in small hotel/motel rooms.
So Many Beds
We had a lot of beds for 2 people.
The single beds made me wish it was 1995, traveling with our young kids. They would have loved the little desk and and games. The "Kid in Don" loved the hubcaps and Shell sign.
A Stage Play
The kitchen corner, reminded me of a set for a play. I think Phyllis and Tim had a fun time collecting the "props" and decor for this wonderful space.
The table just seemed to invite us to play cards into the night... with beers from the Philco fridge. Phyllis apologized for not defrosting the freezer. The frosty freezer was a funny sight. Should have snapped a pic.
Luckily the sign on the bathroom door was just for laughs. We didn't really have to obtain a key from the station attendant.
My photo with the black toilet seat and "automotive products" shelf, really looks like a gas station restroom. But in person, the bathroom looked absolutely fresh and spotless. I've never seen a station restroom this clean.
Phyllis didn't stay long, but I'm glad she saw some good reactions from us. Don and I both love a theme and they did it well.
Even the black tile floor seemed perfect. Don was amused by the fan belt and radiator guide.
I loved the use of red and yellow! The colors were perfect for matching the Shell Oil signs, but also good for making me crave a hotdog with catsup and mustard.
I asked Phyllis if she ever worried about people running off with some of the treasures. She said the Shell cigarette lighter from Tucumcari, was her favorite. She said they had such nice guests, she couldn't imagine... then she laughed. "But I do have addresses, to track people down!"
We only had one night, so we didn't get to spend much time looking through the "Filler Up" or the "Route 66" books.
The "Filler 'er Up!" game was probably for kiddos, but I'd have played if we had more time. The Sinclair puzzle hadn't even been opened, but it was 1000 pieces, so I wasn't tempted. I smiled to recognize the very Sinclair station, that we've seen in Missouri.
Don and I love a little Hotel Happy Hour, on a porch or deck. We had lots of options on Rockwood's property.
It was a little too warm with hot evening sun, to sit in front of our station. The yellow Adirondack chairs were also in the sun, but there was a bubbling fountain nearby.
Earlier we had chatted with some older travelers, playing cards under the patio roof.
The tables were empty at 6. It seemed that all the other guests had gone off for dinner.
Don and I took the prize table, in the shade. Cushions and pillows made our bamboo swivel chairs, pretty festive!
We raised our wine for a toast, just as Phyllis stepped out of the office. She greeted us, then handed us a sealed bag of Kettle Corn. Oh Lord! I was in heaven!
Don and I sat in the shade with a nice breeze and studied the cozy cottages... and the creative light fixtures above our heads. Were they upside down, plastic planters?
Eventually, we saw a few other guests and chatted a bit. A cyclist prepared her bike and headed off on a ride. One woman was traveling home from her 103 year old mother's funeral. A nurse was doing temporary work at a Springfield hospital... treating Covid patients. Such nice people, staying nearby.
When the sun got lower, we moved to the wooden seating in front.
We never want to ignore a chance to sit on old Route 66. There weren't many cars or people, but we waved to a few. The highlight was when we spotted 2 men crossing the road, in their motorized wheelchairs. They puffed on cigarettes as they traveled on down the road.
The lights came on and temps dropped. We decided to stay put, instead of heading out for dinner. After the sun was down, we made sandwiches in our kitchenette and watched a little TV. It seemed just right.
Breakfast Down the Road
In the morning we walked down 66, before 8:00. We had some fun people encounters, while eating breakfast at the College Street Cafe.
The photos above show some of the curious buildings within a half mile of the motor court. Some might not find this as fun as me, but I was a happy tourist!
Don and I have stayed in about 10 motels on Route 66. Some of them have been renovated and some have become sad and worn. This property was brought back to life with new paint and tons of treasures. None of the old charm has been scrubbed away.
Our timing was perfect at Rockwood Motor Court. It hasn't been open for very long, so the enthusiasm and renovations are fresh! I'm predicting that before long, it might be hard to book our special studio room. Glad we got to spend our very first night in a filling station!
Over the years, Don and I have done some exploring in the Missouri Ozarks. We only learned recently about the town of Hollister. We were excited when we heard the small town had an historic hotel.
That's because there wasn't much to talk about. By the 1960's tourism had fizzled in the old resort town.
Back in the Day!
It was just this past year that Don and I both became aware of the town. It was my grandmother's "A Line A Day" diary that mentioned Hollister frequently.
In the early 1920's, my grandmother Daw, was a young woman. For a number of years, she jotted notes in her little red book about her daily activities. I was most intrigued when she talked about the long weekends she spent with her sister and friends in the town of Hollister. She never mentioned Ye English Inn, but she wrote about swimming and picnicking and she used the word camp a lot. I wondered about this river resort area, with all its clubs and camps.
England in the Ozarks
Don was equally curious, so in November we headed for Hollister, to spend a night at the inn. The winding drive through the Ozarks reminded me of childhood trips, riding through "hillbilly country" in the station wagon, with windows down...
But when we arrived in Hollister, we saw no cedar shacks or wild west facades. All the buildings on Downing Street were stone and timber. The little English Village faced the train tracks, almost like an Elizabethan version of Silver Dollar City.
Hollister got their first post office in 1904, about the same time Daw and her family took the train to the St. Louis World's Fair. There were no trains or tourists in Hollister at that time.
Hollister was a remote town when the train depot opened in 1910. William Johnson was the realtor who predicted a boom in tourism and built the English style hotel, 2 years later. In 1913 it was decided that all the buildings on Front Street, should have half-timber exteriors. The street name changed to Downing in 1963.
This vintage photo shows what passengers would have seen around 1912, when their the train pulled into the Hollister Depot.
The Bank of Hollister was on the corner next to the inn. The hotel only had two stories then. The words on the window said "English Inn Hotel". Maybe the "Ye" came later. I know the "Olde" didn't get added until a decade ago.
Folks can't do their banking on the corner anymore. The bank closed in 1934.
However, I could have stopped in and had my hair and nails done inside the cute little building. Sadly, many of the shops past the hotel, were not open.
By the 1920's, tourism was booming in Hollister. The hotel expanded to 3 floors and a dining room was added. Tourists would line up on the sidewalk for Sunday's meal, served on white tablecloths.
I'm not sure if Daw ever enjoyed a Sunday meal at the inn. She did mention going to some church revivals, though. I so wish I could find old photos!
Today, Downing Street Pour House Restaurant & Bar occupies the space on the right, under the awning. No lines, but the place was hopping by evening.
In We Go!
I was excited to step inside, since the website photos kind of confused me. I needed to be convinced that the stone fireplace and timber accents were original.
At a glance, the interior stonework did have sort of a stage set feel. But the chunky limestone rocks were solid. The lobby matched up perfectly with a vintage photo from over 100 years ago.
What a crazy design, with all the curves and primitive stonework! Evidently there were some fun things built into the rock. I'm afraid I didn't find the fish and ship, in the stonework. I should have asked.
I snapped more pictures while Don checked us in. From the entrance, the stairs seemed to disappear into a hole in the ceiling.
When I walked past the stairs, I could see that the steps led to an s-shaped balcony. There were beams in the ceiling and stucco on the upper walls. None of this looked like a turn of the 20th century hotel, in Missouri.
Flood of 1943
Across from the stairs there was a mark on the wall, to show how high the water rose in the flood of 1943. Another photo showed the owner paddling a canoe in the lobby.
The town and hotel had already been suffering from a decline in tourism. Frequent flooding and The Depression didn't help. Sadly, the popularity of car travel lured tourists to other places. The hotel closed in 1951.
A quick peek at some adjoining rooms, made me see that the space had been remodeled in recent years. We asked our chatty host a few questions.
She didn't know much of the hotel's early history, but she knew the inn was purchased in 2010, by a writer named Janet Dailey. We learned that she died a couple years after opening.
Janet Dailey had an appreciation for the hotel's history. She and her partners renovated and reopened in 2011. As we climbed the stairs I thought about what we had learned an hour earlier from another local, in the coffee shop.
As we reached the lounge area on the second floor, I wondered about the hotel's eerie past. The local woman told us there had been 2 deaths in the hotel and that she had been asked to help with a visiting ghost hunter team. Yikes.
Up to Third Floor
Don and I headed up to the next floor, even though our room was on the second. This was the "newer" addition, but it felt older and creepier.
The curling stairway took us up to a hallway, with a thick archway and dark red painted walls.
Let's just say that both deaths occurred when guests died peacefully in their sleep... way down that hall... away from our room.
We booked "The Buckingham" room, which was tucked into the corner of the second floor sitting area.
The red and brown decor was a little kitschy, but I was all for it. I'm glad Ms. Dailey and her crew did not come in and gut the place. I like to visualize the past. Plus, swanky hotels have swanky rates.
Don and I usually pick lower priced rooms when booking, but we could afford one of the hotel's bigger rooms.
We had ample space, with robes and reading lamps... and lots of history, for just over $100. And how about that red carpet!
There was a ceiling light with a hidden fan and a floor heater if needed. There was a TV, but we didn't use it. We did make use of the luggage rack and the bench at the foot of the bed. Nice perk for people who live out of suitcases!
A Room in the Old Part
I was glad our room was in the front of the older section. In the exterior photo, our 2 windows can be seen on the left.
I loved having a set of chairs and windows looking down, over the train depot.
It was just November, but things were starting to look festive.
I was glad to have a window in the bathroom as well.
It was Friday night, so we made good use of the adjoining restaurant. The tables were all filled with what appeared to be locals at 6:00.
Don and I grabbed seats at the bar. We were happy the place seemed to be popular.
Even though he was super busy, Adam took good care of us. He also had some interesting trivia about the history of Table Rock Lake. He was much more entertaining than the guy with lame jokes, sitting next to Don. No photo of him.
We ordered dinner at the bar. Onion soup, salad, burger... all delicious. I had a good time studying the old parts of the bar... and doing a little people watching through the mirrors.
Coffee & Fire
After dinner, we got an Irish Coffee and shared it by the fire.
We flipped through old scrapbooks with hotel history and photos.
Checking on Things
Throughout the evening, I had to check on things repeatedly. Now and then I dashed upstairs to peek out our window.
We had a great view of the Branson Scenic Railroad, when it came through and stopped a couple of times.
I also had to step outside and check on the Christmas decorations. There was a lot of activity with Santa and Elves, when the train stopped. I'm not sure what that was all about!
And I had to check on the weather. Those are big raindrops, not snow. Snow would have been nice.
We slept well and heard no train whistles in the night. I wouldn't have minded.
In the morning we rose early and grabbed coffee, just outside our door. There were a few food options, but we headed off early to explore.
Wandering in Hollister
The town was quiet on Saturday morning. We had a nice walk and met a nice man and his dog. Here are some photos from the morning and the day before.
We found some old houses up in the hills and we found 230 steps that children once climbed, to reach the school. We found a closed antique shop and a park. I wish we'd had time to explore Turkey Creek or White River. That's probably where Daw cooled off in the summer.
We stayed in a British style inn, with gables and stone and timber... but we were in the Missouri Ozarks. That's unique right there.
Most of all I loved feeling connected to the area, through my grandmother. I so wish Daw was still with us, so I could ask her questions.
Just yesterday I called my dad in Springfield and asked him what he knew of the town. "Hollister!" He answered, "We used to stay in cabins in Hollister when I was a kid." What!? Next time we visit Missouri, we'll take Dad as our tour guide!
#243 - Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri
Rustic Luxury in the Ozarks
In late November, Don and I enjoyed the scenic drive towards Big Cedar Lodge. We both chuckled to see the yellow "Bass Pro Shop" logo, above the sign.
I wasn't sure about this. I like a little luxury now and then and I'm always game for rustic. But I'm not keen on a gimmicky combination. I've always questioned this resort, created by Johnny Morris, 30+ years ago. Would it be like staying in one his 70+, mega stores?
I liked the idea of a lodge, but I hardly needed a resort. I liked the idea of staying a night in the Missouri Ozarks, but I didn't care that we'd be conveniently close to touristy town of Branson.
Then, Don found reduced winter rates and I was suddenly game. It could be a fun stop on our Missouri road trip. It might not make the Notable Night list, but the off season prices convinced us to check the place out.
Okay, I'm Excited
We followed the road, hoping to find the registration office. With lodges and cabins scattered over thousands of acres of property, it was mind-boggling.
The drive was pretty, even if we'd mostly missed the fall colors. That would have been spectacular. But lucky for us, Big Cedar had decorated early for Christmas. The kid in me started getting excited.
After passing over a bridge or two, we spotted two white buildings. We could also see a glimpse of Table Rock Lake behind.
Was that an enormous Cedar tree, to the right of the road? I believe there was a star on top of that gigantic tree!
Old or New?
As we approached the Welcome Center, I wondered if this was one of the old buildings that was saved and refurbished, when the property was bought in 1987. I liked knowing Johnny Morris appreciated old. I also liked hearing that Morris' first business was selling fishing tackle from his dad's store as a kid. He was an Ozark boy!
The white, welcome center was pretty and classic, but not historic. They did a darn good job, if I couldn't tell.
The lobby was gigantic, with an amazing mix of rustic wood & stone. I spotted an upside down canoe, hanging near the skylight.
The center of the grand space was filled with a twinkling, winter display.
Above the snowy scene, was a soaring cast-iron chandelier. I spied fish and tree branches and deer. It was like searching for Hidden Pictures in my childhood Highlights magazine!
We were greeted by a friendly woman at a massive, lobby desk.
I stood back and just stared at the textured wood, with panels of metal art. It was hard to believe this was all crafted in recent decades. Usually you have to go to historic lodges like Yellowstone, to find such large and well-made pieces.
I love traveling off season. On a Tuesday in November, we seemed to have the place to ourselves. I wanted to come back later and sit in this corner of the lobby, with lake-facing windows and stone fireplace.
We did return to the lobby later, but found a different spot.
We enjoyed the leather couch after the sun got lower. Just a bit of light illuminated the upper stained glass.
The lobby also held a Lincoln Log table, with cute built in seats! A nice family, kindly let me join in for a bit!
The Worman House
Soon after we checked in, we found two of the original vacation homes built by Mr. Worman and Mr. Simmons. They were the wealthy Missouri men who bought 300 acres near an arm of the White River in the 1920's. That was decades before Table Rock Lake existed. The area was known as Big Cedar Hollow.
The Worman home was a lovely stone and stucco house. The stained glass windows were gorgeous in the afternoon light. I assume the Carriage House next door, was also original.
Simmons Log Mansion
We found the old Simmons' home, closer to our cabin. It now houses the Devil's Pool Restaurant.
I couldn't find a vintage photo showing how the "log mansion" looked, when it was the Simmons' resort home in twenties and thirties.
In the 40's or '50's?
I did find a photo that showed the other side of the building, in later years.
This photo was taken after Simmons and Worman sold the property in 1947.
It became Devil's Pool Guest Ranch, after a pool, lodge and stables were added.
Today the restaurant looks over a curvy pool with no diving board... and no bathing beauties. At least not in November.
The log exterior was somewhat hidden behind decks and glass, but we could see the same narrow chimney, visible in the old photo.
Spring View Lodge
We wandered around the pool and spa, then peeked at the lodge next door. It was a fun surprise to find historic lodging from the 1940's.
The website didn't talk this up, but if we'd known this log lodge was historic, we'd have booked our night there. I wonder who stayed here in the '40's? Hunters, fishermen, families?
Our Little Cottage
We booked one of the duplex cottages, across from the lodge. It looked old, but I couldn't find any info about when these were added.
We were excited to see the stone chimney and firewood, ready for burning.
The cottage interior was pretty sweet. The knotty pine reminded us of some of the dusty and musty cabins we've stayed in, over the years! But we didn't spot a cobweb or catch a whiff of mildew.
It could have been a little creepy sleeping beneath a deer head, but I was in the "when in Rome" spirit. The taxidermy, antler chandelier and fox fur made it feel like an old hunting cabin. The fish on the lamps and drawers, also fit the theme.
The bed was as comfy as it gets, with the linens and Pendleton blanket. The earthy, lodge furniture was well made. Actually, I guess a real hunting cabin would never be like this!
The biggest surprise was finding a lit Christmas tree next to the fireplace.
Later that evening we moved the Old Hickory style chair aside, so Don could make a fire.
We got into the comfy hotel robes and enjoyed tree-shaped ginger cookies, that were waiting for us... along with a recipe card.
The bathroom was worthy of 2 photos. I soaked in the Jacuzzi tub and took in all the features. Even the smoke detector was worth noting. It was cleverly hidden behind a metal, leaf-shaped decoration.
Everything was pretty top notch in our little bathroom from bead board to the vanity, to the Old Hickory mirror. Only issue... a very startling jacuzzi cleaning system, with a piercing sound that made me leap in the air!
Don and I loved not having to drive anywhere. It took 1 minute to walk to dinner. First we checked out the Buzzard Bar, in the lower level of Devil's Pool Restaurant.
The tables were full (unlike photo) when we arrived. We sat at the bar for a bit, but it was loud and the chatty man next to us, wanted to talk about nothing but himself and hunting...
Devil's Pool Restaurant
We graciously slipped away with our drinks and headed upstairs to peek into the main dining room. The restaurant was full of guests, but nice and roomy and much quieter.
There was a wait for a table, so we headed to a different bar, connected to the restaurant.
The beautiful bar near the cozy fireplace, was totally empty. We ordered some tasty pulled pork, salad and potato soup. We dined and chatted and wondered more about the history.
What We Learned
We got a few questions answered by staff, but mostly the internet helped us piece together some of the mysteries of this huge place.
This beautiful area in the Ozarks was once home to the Osage Indians. Supposedly they were the ones who gave the name Devils' Pool, to the deep spring that was once on the property. In 1958 the river was damned to create the lake and Devil's Pool pretty much disappeared.
Church and Bridge
Looking at the map of the entire resort was mind boggling. It was easier to just absorb the buildings and pathways near our cottage.
I don't believe the little church and Devil's Pool Bridge were old, but they were built nicely, into the landscape.
We didn't get down to the marina to see the boats, but we saw this one, with Santa.
Even if we'd been staying a week, the thought of so many options sort of wore me out.
It's nice that they offer so much for those who care, but my favorite part was just wandering. The best part was walking after dark, with a chill in the air and a zillion lights.
Those Christmas lights made me a happy kid... instead of an eye-rolling teenager. It's easy for me to play travel snob. I'm too cool for a mega resort. But, luckily there was lots that pleased us.
We slept well in our woodsy cottage. In the morning we got coffee at the Truman Cafe. What's the history with that sweet building?
We took our warm drinks to the lobby and enjoyed a little Christmas decor before checking out.
Our one night at Big Cedar was full of little surprises.
Most of all I loved discovering lots of little bits of history about the property and learning a little about the "low-key billionaire" who created this resort. Our one night was worthy and notable!
Railroad YMCA in St. Louis
I don't like staying at hotel chains, but I make an exception for Drury Inns.
This one in St. Louis, is in an historic building, right across from the grand, Union Station.
The station has its own fabulous history and hotel. Don and I once stayed there and it is #133, in the blog list.
But the YMCA Hotel, (as I prefer to call it) is pretty fine. It has an interesting connection to the old station.
Then and Now
The Railroad Y.M.C.A. first opened in 1907, to accommodate traveling railroad workers. Theodore Link designed the building, as well as Union Station, which opened in 1894.
I love the curious YMCA and railroad connection. I also appreciate Charles Drury, who decided to renovate this lovely old building in 1986. Union Station and the YMCA building had both grown weary, as railroad travel declined in the '50's and '60's. The Y closed in 1970 and the Station in 1978. What a treat that both buildings were renovated and reopened in the 1980's
Such an Entrance
Don and I first stayed here 15 years ago, with our kids and another family. That was long before I started documenting hotel stays, but I do remember loving this wonderful entrance.
I think we all grinned as we passed by the decorated tiles. We probably even sang a line or 2 of the YMCA song, as we lugged our bags.
What I didn't know then, was that after the Y's closing in 1970, this building was popular with the gay community. In 1975, the rundown area offered cheap rental options. The Y's building housed a martini bar, saloon, baths, hotel, disco and restaurant. Interesting that the Village People wrote the YMCA song a few years later.
Again in 2012
I remember staying one cold night in December, 7+ years ago. We were with a large family group, the night before my mother's graveside service. It was a bittersweet trip to the city my mother adored. Again, there wasn't time to admire the old brick work or the renovated interior.
But I remember gathering in the sitting area, near an old brick fireplace. Our family had come from numerous states and we welcomed the cozy common area (and the free drinks and food) on that chilly night.
Just a week ago, the old YMCA became a meet up place, once again. I flew in from Texas and my friend Milissa arrived on Amtrak from Chicago.
Sadly the station is a mile away now, so she couldn't just walk over. I checked in early and admired the old lobby desk.
Old Switchboard and Key Boxes
I chatted with the young woman at the desk and she pointed out the old switchboard.
The panel of plugs and lights, appeared to block the old key boxes. I was curious about that.
Wood Paneling and Arches
The view from the elevator door, showed off the dark wood paneling and rounded woodwork.
There were vintage railroad images, etched in the glass panels.
It was very quiet at 11:30 am.
I was able to wander the lobby area and admire the original marble columns and the old photos, without distraction.
This area was later packed, with hungry and thirsty guests at 5 pm. The Drury offers complimentary drinks and "dinner" each night.
Back in the Day
I loved this old photo of the railroad workers, gathered in the very area I was wandering.
This main level once held billiard tables and game tables, plus desks for reading and letter writing. The floor below had contained a bowling alley, a barbershop, an indoor pool and baths.
Trains and a New Pool
I was glad to have a little time to appreciate the wonderful train display.
I stepped through the arch to the area that connects the original building to the newer addition. Below the walkway was an indoor pool that we didn't make use of.
I was lucky to be able to check in so early. I chose the old elevator over the marble and slate stairway.
However, our "6th" floor room, was really only on the 4th, so that doable. Odd that they renamed the floors... to match up with the floor count of the newer building... I guess.
Corner Room in the Old Building
I asked for a room in the old building and we got the top floor on a corner.
That gave us 5 windows, which was great even with glum weather views.
The beds were comfy and the room and bath were fresh and clean. I liked the railroad focused art. But where was the old? Couldn't they have left the old baseboards or windowpanes?
I do love a view of any kind. This was fun, looking down at Union Station... and all the renovations.
I zoomed my camera in on the old Train Shed, to see the workers working... and eating a little lunch.
Yay For Milissa!
After dropping my bags in the room, I headed a mile to pick up Milissa at the Amtrak/Greyhound Station.
Later that evening, we walked across the street to Union Station and had drinks. I showed her where her train would have arrived, 41 years ago.
2 Days at The Y
Milissa and I spent 2 nights at the hotel and so did a lot of other people.
We laughed at the elder crowd that filled the place one night, lining up with their drink tickets. We watched a high school band gather in the morning and luckily they hadn't eaten the entire breakfast buffet.
A Nice Escape
Actually the place felt comfortable and homey, when it was full and when it was empty.
Milissa and I found a cozy spot for our wine and popcorn, even when the lobby was buzzing with tour bus seniors. And in the morning, we got the best seat in the house, for sipping our coffee. We had the table by the fireplace and stained glass window.
This visit like the others, was more about the company than the hotel. Once again, I felt like there was a cozy convenience with the old YMCA.
We could walk to the Arch and the station. We could get a free breakfast and light dinner if we chose. We could pause and imagine the railroad workers, walking to and from the station.
I wish the room had shown more vintage detail. But there was an old Elvis movie on TCM, one night. Mostly, Milissa and I were too busy gabbing and laughing and catching up. It was a good stay!
Same Building, New Hotel - in Kansas City
Don and I rarely return for a second stay at any hotel. We're just too eager to experience all the curious places we haven't seen.
But, when we heard that Hotel Savoy was reopening as a 21c Museum/Hotel, we knew this could be a whole different kind of Notable Night!
Hotel Savoy, Est. 1888
Four years ago, the entrance to Hotel Savoy was both lovely and creepy. The shiny doors and stained glass windows were splendid. The window next to the arch, hinted at something else.
However, we had a great stay in the worn out hotel. The dining was actually pretty fabulous!
We were sad to learn, (about a month after our 2014 stay) that The Savoy had closed down, after a fire.
A New Look
This is how the entrance looked when we arrived this September. (photo credit -Deborah Berke Partners)
Some of the stained glass was gone, but the entrance and valet parking staff was very welcoming. The new hotel had only been open about 6 weeks.
It was the interior changes that truly jolted me.
The creepy hall that we once entered, had become a double-sided art installation, titled Linear Sky.
The glowing hallway ramp took us to the "lobby" counter. The stark white walls and simple desk, sort of disappointed me.
But the young men with their laptops, greeted us with much enthusiasm. It was a much friendlier check-in experience than we'd had 4 years before.
Keep Your Eyes on the Train
As we checked in, we studied our first piece of art in the Art Museum/Hotel.
3 trains, on 3 tracks, were mounted on the wall behind the counter. When the 3 moving trains became aligned, images on the train cars revealed a set of eyes! Clever!
To the left of the desk, was a gallery space that I recognized as the reception area, where we'd once checked in.
The stained glass dome was now dim, but the purple & green, glass chandelier hung brightly. It was odd to see the frosted glass behind the ornate window bars. There was no grumpy check-in clerk, this time.
I chatted with the young man at the modern desk, about the changes. He agreed with me, that it was a shame to have no light coming through the old skylight.
We ended up having a fun conversation and I shared my old blog write-up with him, on his laptop. He had never been in the hotel, before its renovation.
I was eager to see what this whole 21c concept was about! The idea of old properties being refurbished (in 8 cities) to exhibit art and to house and feed guests, totally pleased me. The news that these museums/hotels also housed penguin mascots, totally delighted me!
The mascot color for the Kansas City hotel was Sky Blue and I was darn excited to find this blue penguin standing right behind me... and all over the hotel.
Before even finding our room, Don and I took in some of the art.
There were permanent installations as well as a temporary exhibit, involving a theme of Refuge.
As we studied the displays on the walls, I also found myself staring at the floor's tile design, which I remember fondly... and the beams and pillars that were now painted white.
On the second floor, music played as we wandered more gallery rooms. The paintings and films and sculptures were thoughtful and touching and often very sad.
I was a little excited to see the swirling pastels on the wall, when our elevator opened to the third floor. We welcomed the colorful mood lift.
Penguins Here and There
The sweet blue mascots were a cheerful break from the serious art. We never knew where we might find one.
One blue guy rode the elevator with us. We saw another parked in front of someone's door.
Our Deluxe King room was full of surprises.
There was no Granny decor, like 4 years ago. No window unit. No wooden coat rack. No wallpaper and lace.
We entered our room and stepped into a hallway. The bathroom was to the right and the window on the left, faced an atrium. I spotted a skylight above and workout room, below.
The windows in our guest room were frosted. I had to climb a chair to get a view of the brick buildings. We could have paid more for a city view, but we were fine with the odd views.
I loved it that we had our own penguin art above our bed.
Across from the bed we had a nice little set up near the TV, with a fridge and Nespresso coffeemaker. Gotta love that pink interior, sliding shelf!
"Sleep with art. We won't tell."
Those were the words printed on the bottom of our key packet. I took the advice and put the comical, Do Not Disturb Man on the door knob and lounged in bed with some art.
There was no bible in the drawer, but there was a book beside the bed, filled with quotes from famous artists. And when I turned on the TV, it was set on a station with art films. I couldn't get away from art if I wanted to. I was pretty content, especially in my lounging robe.
The bathroom was lovely, with wonderful Malin+Goetz bath amenities. But the rubber ducky in the shower, just frustrated me.
There was no tub, so I gave the yellow guy a swim in the sink... which by the way is the same refurbished sink from the original hotel.
Dining at 21c
The new hotel has kept the Savoy name for its restaurant and lounge. However it looks nothing the same.
This is how the art filled restaurant looks today. The lovely molded ceiling was hidden behind glowing, curved, panels. A penguin stood guard.
Breakfast in 2014
Today's restaurant was once the hotel's barbershop. 4 years ago, the space was used for breakfast and we feasted beside the stained glass, on white tablecloths.
Our breakfast back then, was included with our hotel stay. Waiters in white, served everything from Oysters Rockefeller to caviar! A strange contrast to our non-luxurious hotel room.
Savoy Grill... Now the Lounge
Although the fire of 2014 started in the kitchen, much of the Savoy Grill was saved. I was so glad to see the dark, wood pillars and green bar stools.
The tables with white linens were replaced by lounge chairs, but the feel of the place was the same.
The western murals and stained glass looked just as I remembered.
The cozy booths once again made me wonder about all the famous guests who sat in them since 1905... Harry S. Truman, Vincent Price, John D Rockefeller.
The Bar in 2014
Don and I have good memories of Savoy Grill's bar, chatting with the bartender in his bowtie. I believe his grandparents had worked at The Savoy.
Maybe his grandfather waited on my table when I ate at The Savoy with my grandmother in the 1970's. Even back then, I remember feeling like I had stepped back in time, when we dined.
No Bowties Today
There were no bowties behind the bar, but lots of suspenders and beards.
It got incredibly busy and it was amazing to watch the bartender's multi-tasking skills.
The bar got livelier as the evening passed. I laughed with the woman next to me about the cute, pineapple-topped skewer, holding my olives.
Don chatted with the bartender, about his pineapple arm tattoo. We were surrounded by interesting and friendly people.
Where Did the Penguins Go?
My new friend, Rashida and I decided we wanted to have a penguin join us at the bar. I offered to find us one, but the penguins suddenly seemed to be missing. We had a Penguin Mystery.
Rashida's friend went to inquire. It seems that a Taylor Swift concert had caused the hotel to have a higher number of young people. The kids were evidently hogging the penguins! Luckily we were able to track down one penguin in the dining room and borrowed him for a while.
Don and I kept it easy and ordered dinner at the bar. The chef did an amazing job with our simple meal of salads and burger.
Before heading up to our room, we wandered a bit, enjoying the lively feel of the hotel. I made sure to check out the glowing hall before we got in the elevator. It looked totally different.
Our stay at this Kansas City landmark, was so different than before, it demanded a new write-up.
It's hard for me to imagine what my reaction would have been to the hotel, if I hadn't been so busy comparing every detail. So much of my enjoyment was recognizing the floors and doors and the hidden history along with all the wildly modern decor and art.
A part of me definitely mourned the old hotel, odd as it was. But I am so grateful for the 21c renovation, bringing a whole new life and energy to a place that could have just closed forever. What will I remember most? The whimsical stuff and of course those sweet blue penguins!
Hotel Savoy Write-Up from 2014:
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!