How would you like to spend a night or more at a hotel once frequented by Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, and a long list of other Hollywood luminaries?
Or snuggle down under the sheets at a former stagecoach stop along the famous Chisholm Trail, which played host to George Custer, the cavalry commander in the Civil and American Indian wars, and Jesse James, who needs no introduction.
A hotel can be much more than a place to catch a good night’s sleep. Properties throughout the country offer interesting stories of famous guests, accommodations that range from laid-back to lavish, and opportunities to snooze with intriguing chapters of history. At this time of little travel, they provide a welcome escape, and one or more is probably within driving distance of where you live.
An Italian Renaissance-style building that houses the first high-rise hotel in Phoenix and first in the state of Arizona with elevators (hand-operated) was the go-to place for Hollywood celebrities when it opened in 1928. Guests of the Hotel San Carlos today enter the same limestone-tile lobby with its original carved crown moldings, crystal chandeliers, and other architectural features that once greeted movie stars.
The setting was less sumptuous at a rest stop built in 1861 along the Chisholm Trail to accommodate ranchers and drovers herding cattle to Kansas from Texas. Over time, the modest but comfortable Stagecoach Inn also provided lodgings for 19th-century dignitaries who were passing through Texas, ranging from the famous to the infamous.
Stagecoaches, rather than cattle drivers, holed up for the night at quarters in Colorado that are older than the state itself. Following its debut in 1874, The Cliff House at Pike’s Peak was a stagecoach stop along the gold-mining route to Leadville, Colorado from Colorado Springs. Later it became a military barracks and then host to dignitaries as diverse as Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Dickens, and P.T. Barnum. Many rooms offer views of Pike’s Peak and its surrounding foothills.
Rather than a place to stay when on the go, some historic hotels were designed to be destinations themselves because of their opulent decor and furnishings. From 1913 to the late 1930s, the Grand Hotel in Indianapolis offered guests the height of luxury. Reopened recently as the Omni Severin, it retains touches of its elegant past, including a dramatic marble stairway, an immense Austrian crystal chandelier, and original mahogany dressers located in each elevator landing.
The Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware, which was built during America’s Gilded Age to rival the finest hotels in Europe, opened in 1913. Rich woodwork, mosaic and terrazzo floors, gilded hallways, and other adornments were created by artisans from France and Italy who toiled for two and a half years to make the building a monument to outstanding craftsmanship. The result of their efforts serves as a reminder of a decades-long period of economic growth in the United States that began in the 1870s.
During the 19th and 20th centuries and beyond, some well-heeled travelers who could afford to overnight in the lap of luxury liked to “take the waters” at health spas built near natural springs. The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, was one such property. The massive stone structure perched on a hilltop is reminiscent of castles in Europe and earned the epithet “Castle in the Air.” The hotel is surrounded by acres of lovely gardens and forested walking trails, and retains the tasteful traces that made it a popular mountain retreat for wealthy clientele.
Less luxurious but equally inviting in its way is a personal favorite located in a quaint village in the lakes and mountains region of western Maine. The Rangeley Inn, set in a tiny town with the same name, opened as the Rangeley Tavern in 1909. Several years later, another smaller inn that stood nearby was connected to the larger building and today is one wing of it. The interesting history of the Rangeley Inn, combined with the Norman Rockwell-like town where it’s located and four-season choice of activities, makes this a perfect place to sleep with history.
When You Go
Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, includes more than 300 properties throughout the country that have “faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place and architectural integrity.”
All are recognized as having historical significance and offer exceptional accommodations and amenities: HistoricHotels.org.
Hotel San Carlos: HotelSanCarlos.com
The Stagecoach Inn: StageCoachSalado.com
The Cliff House: TheCliffHouse.com
The Omni Severin: OmniHotels.com/indianapolis
Hotel Du Pont: HotelDuPont.com
The Crescent Hotel and Spa: Crescent-Hotel.com
The Rangeley Inn: TheRangeleyInn.com
Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Copyright 2020 Creators.com