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!
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.
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
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
Hotel Savoy, Est. 1888
A New Look
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.
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.
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:
The Gumbel Building from 1904
Okay, we stayed at a Hampton Inn, in Kansas City. I barely want to admit that. But I'm a lot more okay with staying at a chain hotel, when I know that a building was saved from demolition.
The Fancy Stuff
At first glance the 6-story, corner building did not really impress me. But apparently, The Gumbel Building was Kansas City's first large commercial office building, of reinforced concrete.
The concrete building didn't thrill me, until I paused to look high up. There were some mighty fancy eagles, near the top of that old Gumbel building.
Entrance on Walnut Street
The lobby felt bright and modern. The stairs led down to a very nice fitness room, that I had all to myself the next morning.
Sitting Area and Bar
The bar area was actually very pleasant. However, Don and I ordered a drink little later and the young guy tending bar, had the TV turned to an obnoxious reality show. The blasting sounds of a drunken beach festival, filled the lovely lounge area.
6th Floor Room
I asked nicely, for a room with a view. We were sent to a 4th floor room that had a view of a roof parking lot. It also had a mysterious stinky odor. When I tried to brighten the room, I discovered 3 lamps had no bulbs. I suddenly had 3 excuses for a room change. Our room on the 6th floor was better. The rolling bathroom door was a little wonky, but everything else was good.
Out the Window
It wasn't the world's best view, but I could see the eagle, when I looked to the side! That kind of delighted me. And we had a comfy chaise lounge with a mini-desk. The bed was luxurious and the bedside tables had pull-out extensions, for those who have lots of travel clutter, like me.
Our weather was lousy, but we were still able to travel on foot, to many places from our hotel. The valet guy was good about letting us know which areas were safe for walking.
I loved coming back after dark and seeing the building lit up.
There was a complimentary breakfast spread, that was decent enough. There were newspapers available and good seating options and I loved the large windows.
I was a little surprised when one of the staff members broke into song. Is this a Hampton Inn thing? She sang us a welcome song, which must have taken a lot of guts, since the "audience" seemed kind of sleepy and cranky. Her voice was good and I wonder if we were supposed to tip for that?
Maybe I'll try to remember the American eagles, perched outside our room. I love a hotel with an animal memory!
Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Don and I arrived at this rambling, limestone hotel on a gloomy, damp September afternoon. I knew little about the hotel as we approached, except that it had been a luxurious health resort about a century ago.
Open in 1912
I had read some cranky traveler reviews before our arrival, so my expectations weren't high. But as we walked towards the building I was excited. The price was right, the retro roof sign was welcoming and the rounded structure in front, pleased me. I'm often easy to please.
Before we even stepped inside I was already checking out the porch seating. Don and I love a hotel with good outdoor lounging space, especially when storms are headed our way.
Honestly, I should not read hotel reviews. What were those people complaining about in their write-ups? The lobby looked fine to me, after its 20-million-dollar renovation in 2011.
The Old Stuff
Fireplace & Piano
The brick and limestone fireplace looked extra cozy. Too bad the weather was still warm and muggy. And too bad we didn't have a pianist to fill the lobby with a little music. Too bad there was no in-house orchestra, like the hotel had back in the day.
A Car on the Floor
Also in the lobby, we had a car, sitting right on the old tile. I'm not sure if that's the kind of car Al Capone would have driven, but he was a frequent hotel guest and often hosted illegal gambling parties.
Upgrade to the 5th Floor
Don and I had reserved a room at the cheapest rate of about $100. We were a little surprised when the woman checking us in, casually mentioned she was upgrading us to a 5th Floor Royal Experience Suite. Our elevator opened to a pleasant lounge area and then we headed down another hall, to our suite. I'm still not sure what we did to deserve the bonus!
Room 500 -The Roosevelt Suite
What a giddy surprise to step into a sprawling suite, when we'd been expecting a room. I will admit, the carpet was a bit worn and the decor felt a little dated, but Don and I weren't complaining a bit. And to think FDR stayed in this room, when he secretly came to treat his polio in the mineral waters...
Well Maybe Not
The Great Escape!
Our corner room had a couple views, but I liked the one with the fire escape best. Not only could we see the pool and gardens, but we could see our escape route, if needed. It's always nice to know your emergency plans, when staying in a hotel that has burned down twice before. The first Elms Hotel opened in 1888.
More of our Sweet Suite!
Our living area, with 3 windows had lots of space. But there was plenty more to explore. The area leading to the bedroom, had an eating bar and wet bar with fridge, microwave and Keurig coffee maker. The bathroom was quite roomy with its marble vanity, holding 2 sinks... plus a whirlpool tub and shower!
Sometimes historic hotels have smaller rooms with odd set ups, that have us fighting over the one bedside table. I will admit, Don gives in nicely when that happens, but there was no best side with this bed. Our cozy bed was tucked into an interesting wall unit with 2 closets and 2 tables...2 good lamps and numerous luxury pillows. Perfect.
Walk Before the Rain
The rain was headed our way, so we got out to explore the grounds. We could have had the pool to ourselves!
Gardens to Ourselves
Staying on a weekday in September, meant we didn't have to share any of the outdoor property! If it had started to pour, we could have dashed to the gazebo... and reenacted the scene from Sound of Music... and no one would have been around to laugh. But it still wouldn't have been pretty. Neither of us sing and I don't look like I am 16 going on 17...
The gardens and pathways were lovely, even with hazy skies. When I spotted the horse shoe pits and picnic tables and stone barbecue grill, it made me long for a family reunion. After wandering, we decided it was time to head back and find a place to relax.
Restaurant - "88 at the Elms"
We had planned on having drinks outside, but the 2-story restaurant off the lobby looked intriguing.
I climbed the stairs and looked down, wondering what the restaurant looked like in the 1930's. Instead of seeing a mural featuring Al Capone, we might have spotted Al himself or "Pretty Boy" Floyd or Bugsy Moran.
Ashley at the Bar
Don and I had drink at the bar before dinner, where we got lots of interesting scoop from Ashley, our bartender... while Harry S. Truman looked down from another mural. Unlike FDR, It's not a rumor that Truman stayed at The Elms. On election night, back in 1948, Mr. Truman enjoyed some of the spa features before retiring to his suite, where he listened to the radio for election results. Hard to imagine, but true.
The European Lap Pool
After moving on to a fabulous dinner in the restaurant, Don and I changed into suits and headed on a long journey in search of the lap pool in the basement.
We were glad that we'd gotten history of the pool from Ashely, or we might have totally missed the lap pool experience! Just finding the underground secret, was an adventure. Don and I were pretty excited to lay eyes on one of only 3 of these specially designed pools in the country.
Also knowing that there had possibly been a murder in the area, back in the gambling days, added an extra thrill. But mostly it was fun trying to enjoy the therapy of the 3-island set up!
Circling the Islands
I started by walking around the smallest island first. That's how the more feeble "guests" would have begun their water fitness.
The Glowing Sign
After the intense work out, we dried off an started the long journey back to our room. By the time we made it to the lobby, I realized I needed to run outside to see if the sign was lit. It was! The hotel and sign looked a tiny bit eerie thought the drizzle.
Morning with 5th Floor Treats
We slept well and woke to a rainy day. There was a nice continental breakfast served on our floor and we enjoyed it back in the room. The night before, we'd returned to our room and to find a note from the concierge with drink vouchers and a snack of meats, cheese and nuts in our fridge. I guess we missed our 5th floor happy hour.
There may be no fox and hound hunts on the grounds, now. I saw no ladies playing bridge on the veranda. But for the price, we had a heck of a time enjoying ourselves and imagining the glory days. I'll remember the good food and friendly staff and most of all the curious circular pool in the basement!
On a warm September afternoon, Don and I followed a scenic gravel road that took us to this beautiful, post-and-beam barn.
Not Just Cows
I was excited about seeing the Jersey cows, since the farm's focus is on cow-milking and cheese-making. But before I laid eyes on a single cow, we were greeted by Robin, the Border Collie and Molly, the Mastiff. I eventually counted about 11 cats. I was in heaven.
H.H. Brinkman Homestead
Across the road from the barn was the original limestone, Brinkman House from 1867. Martha and Tom own the farm and live there now.
A Few Barns
After we met the dogs on the barn's porch, we met Tom and Martha's daughter-in-law, Randas. She shared a little about the property and pointed down the hill to 2 other barns. I love barns.
The Brinkman Barn from 1857
The barn furthest away, was built 10 years before the Brinkmans built the house. What a thrill to see the barn still in use today.
The day that I was born, the Brinkman barn was already 100 years old. That's a really old barn. I can't even imagine how many sweet critters have called the barn home!
Where are the Jersey Cows?
I love farms and I love cows, but I am extra fond of Jersey Cows! Randas pointed down the road to the pasture, where the Jerseys were grazing.
Pond and Pasture
Don and I headed down the gravel road to watch the cows grazing in the pasture's mix, of grass and clover.
Looking at the setting, I couldn't help but think, if I were a cow, this is where I'd like to live. At the barn later, I saw that the cows were treated more like pets, than livestock. Yep, I'd want to live at the Brinkman Farm, if I were a cow.
There were at least 15 soft, brown Jerseys grazing in the pasture. A few mooed at us, but most ignored us. I couldn't stop smiling. My special love of Jersey cows has a little something to do with my mom... and her playful nickname, Jersey Mother. It's a story too long for this write-up, but Mom would have loved this farm.
Up in the Loft
Don and I were excited to take a look at the 3,000 square foot hayloft, where we would be sleeping. As we climbed up to our space above the cheese making and milking areas, I was met with just a hint of a barn smell. Don didn't even smell it, but memories of horse stables when I was young, began to surface. It's a smell that I happen to love.
In the large common area, I spotted farm decor in every nook and cranny. Even hanging from beams, I saw a chandelier made of some kind of "hay claw" thing. The light over the table was made from a clear, plastic milk container.
The 18 foot ceiling made the space extra roomy. There were 4 guest rooms, but we were the only guests staying that night. That meant Don and I had all the games, books, comfy chairs, TV and popcorn, just for ourselves.
Art and Wine
I loved studying the wall, filled with farm-themed art. I also noticed the wine glasses and they made me thirsty.
Don and I couldn't resist the complimentary popcorn, so we made a batch and opened up the wine we had with us. But, once we spotted the small milk bottles, we left the wine glasses on the dresser.
Drinking wine from a milk bottle is something you don't do every day. Cheers to Brinkman Farmstead!
The Rhode Island Red Room
We probably should have forked out a little extra to stay in the Jersey Cow Suite, in honor of my mom. But our chicken themed room was plenty large! The bed and lounge chair were extra soft. There was even a rolling barn door, leading to our bathroom.
Looking Up at the Rafters
The ceiling was so high above the bed, I could have done a few trampoline flips without head bumping concerns!
I skipped the trampoline tricks and counted chickens instead. That seemed be the safer way to let my kid-side enjoy the room. I counted about 30 chicken images in our large space.
Evening on the Farm
Around 6:30, Don and I came down from the loft to enjoy the cooling temps. The porch on the west side of the barn was getting nice and shady.
Calling The Girls
Ben and His Jerseys
Randas continued calling out, encouraging The Girls as they headed towards the barn. Her husband Ben, spoke to the cows one on one as they meandered up the hill.
I asked Ben if he had a favorite. He looked up from scratching "Elizabeth" between the ears. "This one." He said with a smile. Since Elizabeth is my real name, I had to agree that she was mighty fine.
45 Minutes of Meandering?
I was surprised how long the walking process took. I was also surprised at how relaxed and patient Ben and Randas were with the animals. They chatted and patted each animal. They shared about life on the farm and how different it was in the winter. They talked about how each cow had its own distinct personality. We learned that a mama cow was about to give birth, any day. I hoped...
We also heard that Ben and Randas were recently married in a nearby sunflower field. They laughed about how hard it was, being away from the animals during their honeymoon. Pretty sweet!
I was excited when we were invited to help with the milking. Inside the milking parlor, Ben got everything ready below and then headed back to bring in the Jerseys. Then Don and I climbed down, so Randas could show us the ropes.
Bringing Back Memories
I had a quick deja vu as I stood listening to instructions, wearing a red bandana, as I did in 1977. The only other time I ever milked a cow, was also in Missouri. But I sat on a stool that time and did a pretty lame job of squeezing milk into a cup.
It was about 8 pm by the time Ben lead 4 Girls into their separate stalls. They each had a metal bowl of yummy nibbles to distract them. Randas demonstrated with one cow and then guided me with another.
Standing a level below the cow, I cleaned the teats with a moist rag, then disinfected with iodine, then attached the milking device... which looked an awful lot like some scuba gear I've used in the past.
I got a little tangled with the equipment and a little giggly when the device grabbed hold of the teats and began making sucking sounds.
Where Does the Milk Go?
Randas filled up 3 gigantic baby bottles and we turned the rest of the milking over to Ben. By this time it was pretty dark. Don and I followed Randas and a parade of cats, over to the old barn.
We could hear a little mooing from the cozy, wood and stone barn. Three calves, (less than 3 weeks old) were eager for their dinner. A few chickens, a bunny and a couple kittens hung around for the show.
Luckily Don was able to snap a quick photo and then grab the third bottle. The little calves were very impatient and just about yanked the bottle from my hands.
The bigger calves made a lot of noise on the other side of the barn. Randas filled a large feeding dish and the little crowd gathered with their mouths all eating at once. Moslty, it seemed like the youngin's just wanted a little attention.
Scratching the Forehead
We learned so much during our short visit to the farm. We learned about sustainable farming and artificial insemination and cheesemaking. But I really liked the tip about where cows like to be scratched... on their furry little foreheads!
Morning in the Loft
We woke to a beautiful blue day! The view from the loft was lovely and the spread of food on the counter was amazing! First we had juice, fruit and yogurt, along with a board of meats and cheese... made from our dear Jerseys' milk!
We sat below the milk bottle light (that we now recognized from the milking parlor) and we pigged out!
Then, Ben arrived with another tray of food! There was bacon and some kind of baked egg dish and some fruit & cheese blintz kind of goodie. Colorful dishes and cloth napkins, made it taste even better.
Since we had already showered, we decided to take our coffee down and just enjoy the morning ritual, without pitching in.
We watched Ben and Randas go through the morning routine, lining up the cows. I was struck with how peaceful and content they seemed, never rushing the sweet critters.
We watched the Jerseys gather for their milking and then we visited with some of the other pets.
Cats and Dogs
Don got his cat fix and I snuggled with Robin.
We had a chance to meet Ben's dad, Tom. He told us some funny stories about Molly. She leaned into him as he spoke, as if encouraging more stories.
We had to say good-by to the cows before we drove off. I spotted the Belgian horse for the first time. One night was obviously not enough time, to get to know all the animals.
I was genuinely surprised to see how much this family loves their animals. The dogs, cats and even the Jerseys, all seem to be a part of the family. I know that running this farm and making cheese (which I didn't even get into) and running a B&B, must be hugely exhausting. But there was something calming about watching these folks interact with the animals. We had an unforgettable stay, for sure.
Downtown Hotel in Springfield, MO
Downtown in 1896
I've got a special curiosity about the history of Old Springfield.
I've been coming to visit relatives, since I was a baby in the 1950's. I've got some fuzzy memories of Downtown Springfield, but not as fuzzy as this photo from 1896... which shows the Ely Grubbs Grocery Store that my great grandfather owned.
Masonic Temple Today
Don and I parked in front and approached the hotel with our bags. There were two entrances. The back was intriguing with its giant "V" and modern balconies. There was a very cozy sitting area there as well.
The Front "V"
V For Vandivort
I have no clue who Vandivort was, but the hotel is named for the Vandivort Ballroom on the fourth floor. The ballroom space has been hosting Springfield social events for over 100 years. I wish my grandparents were still alive to possibly share a story or two. From the windows I could see Walnut Street, where some of my relatives once lived.
I was impressed by every corner of the first floor. I loved the artwork above the fireplace and the bright light coming in the front window.
Some of the sleek furniture lines made me feel like I'd stepped into the 1950's again. My family was never quite so mod, but my Great Aunt Margueritte might have gone for this look.
Evidently, the communal tables were made from wood that was part of this building at one time. The tables looked almost too nice to use. But I did see a few people gathered around with computers, on Monday morning.
Spotlight on the Masons
I totally loved this display with all the tiny tools, photos and artifacts. I know little about the history of the Mason's fraternal organization, but obviously it had some kind of roots with actual stonemasons.
What Is A Mason?
Luckily they had a little info to enlighten me. There was a lot to ponder with this special statement about the duties of a Mason. Mostly I had fun with all the words, level, plumb, grip, order. Like an Easter egg hunt, I could have spent hours hunting down related images on shelves and in art, all around the hotel.
Every time I spotted a "V" I was like a little kid, eager about discovering the alphabet. Even our bathroom floor tile had Vs!
I'm not a big tool person, but I was kind of enjoying my education as I discovered tools here and there. The engineer side of Don was probably having more fun than me. Every time I asked a question like, What exactly does a plumb bob do? Don had an answer.
After checking in with a very pleasant young woman at the desk, we headed for the elevator. As we lifted to the fourth floor, we had a fun time watching the brick wall through the glass. The painted brick let us know which floors we were passing.
The classy hallway was filled with intriguing art and fun lighting. I was like a kid, eager to see what was behind the door.
Lounging Near the Window
There wasn't a big sitting area, but the chair near the window was cozy.
There was another comfy desk chair available and a great wet bar with some fun local goodies to chose from. We could have had some Missouri Spirits Vodka or Bourbon... for a price.
Spirits in "The Order"
We chose to have a drink in the hotel bar instead. I loved the Masonic name, The Order. It was pretty quiet on a Sunday evening, but the young bartender was chatty and we got to watch her roll the library ladder back and forth a few times.
Our room was nice and quiet by the time we finally hit the bed. The bedding was perfect. The pillows were just right. I even liked the lamps! I did wake in the wee hours to the clanking of the trash truck. But that's part of the city charm... I guess.
Our room came with a $12.00 voucher towards breakfast. We made use and enjoyed an omelet with fruit and potatoes, plus an order of chicken waffle sliders!
After breakfast, we gave ourselves a little time to explore before taking off. Next door we had the beautiful theatre and down the street I posed with a butterfly mural. What a perfect ending to our quick 1-night stay.
The old neon sign used to be on the corner of Glenstone and St. Louis Street. (which was Rt 66) Long before that, the land was an apple orchard. In 1938, eight sandstone cottages were built and the business was enlarged over time. Eventually Rail Haven took on the motel look, popular in the 1950's.
were staying at a chain motel. But, while wandering the grounds a bit, I found this retro yellow sign with the old 5-point crown. It was attached to one of the original cottages. The 1960's style sign reminded me that Rail Haven became a part of Best Western back when I was a kid. That's a piece of motel history worth noting.
I believe at one point the office for the motorcourts was across the street at a gas station. Now the office sits proudly on the corner with lots of 1950's era decor to honor the Route 66 history.
The gas pumps are a reminder of the station that once held the motel office. Gas stations and motels must have been big business in 1938, when Route 66 was quite young. It's fun to picture the busy auto traffic along the Mother Road, from Chicago to California.
The lobby with the rounded, glass block desk, had more of a 1960's feel. The staff was very friendly. They were too young to remember the evolution of the motel, but the young man at the desk said his father had shared a lot of that history with him.
At check-in, the breakfast area was empty. But in the morning there was complimentary breakfast with a few hot options. The motel's original phone booth with rotary dial was tucked back behind the stools.
Like so many roadside motels, it's hard to see the old, after renovations. But the rectangular cupolas on the roof, made me think Howard Johnson's. And our room with the high window, had a retro feel.
Not The Elvis Room
Our room didn't look like the room Elvis stayed in, when he was in town performing in the 1950's. Evidently he was booked at the Kentwood Arms Hotel, but preferred a motel and moved over here. He probably liked being able to pull right up to the room and walk in... just like we did. Today, the hotel's Elvis Room is decorated with a bed that looks like a pink Cadillac and giant retro murals.
Quiet on a Cool Night
The covered patio was empty on a cool evening. It was actually pretty nice with tables and a couple mounted TVs, showing retro black and white sitcoms. I'm pretty sure this area was once where the kiddie playground used to be, beside the pool. I read that there were once horse shaped swings, aimed so little cowgirls and cowboys could ride towards the old west!
Some Old Stuff
And in a sort of forgotten area in the back, I found an old slide. It looked just like the metal slides I remember burning my legs on when I was a kid! There was also a portion of split rail fence. Not the original, I'm sure. But the motel got its name from the fence that surrounded the property.
It was an easy, economical and comfortable stay, with some fun hints of the past. The room, breakfast and even the lobby will probably fade from memory, but I'll remember the signs. As a kid, Glenstone was magical at night with all the colorful neon. I never thought I'd be staying at one of those motels!
The Sign Before the Sign
Don and I had read about the motel with the odd sounding name, a few years ago. We were ready to give it a try this past April. We exited off I-44 and quickly spotted the big billboard... 300 yards from the motel.
We turned onto the old Mother Road and the Munger Moss was right there. The neon sign and word MOTEL, weren't a part of this scene when it first opened in 1946. Originally there were 14 cabin courts, connected with carport/ garages.
The neon sign, along with TVs and air-conditioning were added in the 1950's. The office and the sprawling u-shaped line up of motel rooms greeted us on a drizzly, cold day. I was eager to get inside the office and meet the woman I'd spoken with on the phone.
We heard how Ramona and her husband moved from Iowa with 4 kids in 1971. They took over the motel business, living in 2 family units, connected by a door. The kids adjusted to their new state, embracing the warmer months with access to the motel pool. Ramona chuckled about a day when her son was missing, but turned up in a room with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door. He was watching TV.
The office was packed with Route 66 goodies. Evidently the International guests really love the tee-shirts and souvenirs.
Ramona had fun telling us about all the guests she'd chatted with during her 45 years of hosting. She pointed out the photos of famous guests who were there before her. Many stayed at Munger Moss while performing in USO tours at nearby Fort Leonard Wood.
From Around the World
Ramona said in recent years, their guests have come from all over the world. For some crazy reason, Route 66 is considered a big part of American History to many foreign travelers. Ramona laughed and recalled an Australian traveler, when I asked who had been her most memorable guest.
The Old and New
We could see the changes in brick color. An older door had not been replaced in the original section to the left. The newer brick on the right, showed where a motel room was later added, replacing the carport. Now there are 44 rooms and 16 efficiencies.
The Special Room
Don and I just had to chuckle a bit when we opened the door and laid eyes on our special room. This was the Route 66 Room that Ramona wanted us to have. It was decorated by Ramona with the help of her granddaughter. There were at least 90 matted prints, depicting Route 66 scenes.
Pink and Blue Tile
How I do love some vintage tub and tile features in pastel colors! Ramona said they've replaced and repaired along the way, so there was a bit of a patchwork quilt look to our bathroom.
Some Old Details
Munger Moss Sandwich Shop... at Devil's Elbow
We found the original sandwich shop that Nelle Munger and her second husband Emmett Moss owned. Now it's a bar/cafe called Elbow Inn, but back in 1945 the couple sold their business with its name. The new owners moved the biz to Lebanon, then expanded with roadside cabins. So that's the reason for the strange motel name!
I met Bob in the morning and he was a sweet as his wife, Ramona. This couple is the reason you come to stay at Munger Moss. They've worked for 45 years, running the motel, raising kids, welcoming guests and sharing the history. I am so grateful that we were able to stay while they are still the owners. I will remember their genuine warmth and the old fashioned price as well! AND... the sign, lit up at night!
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!