In Praise of Old Hotels -- Part 4: Historic Hotels

Continuing on our merry way...

Almost by definition, old hotels are historic hotels but some are more historic than others. We stayed in a old hotel in San Antonio once that had been refurbished and then became a "boutique" hotel. Also in San Antonio there is the Crockett Hotel, 100+ years old, that stands about a stone's throw from the Alamo (I dare you...). Then there is the Menger Hotel in San Antonio which is famous because Teddy Roosevelt rode his horse into the Menger Hotel bar in 1898 and recruited volunteers for the Rough Riders. That Teddy story trumps the boutique and the chance to make history by throwing rocks at the Alamo...so I'd vote for the Menger as the most historical.

 

BEEKMAN ARMS, RHINEBECK, NEW YORK

If you are in the Hudson River valley and can work it out, stay at the Beekman Arms...or at least, eat at the tavern. It is hard to beat the Beekman Arms at the historical hotel contest. The Beekman is the oldest continuously operating inn in the USA going back to well before the Revolutionary War. George Washington slept, ate, drank and did just about everything else here. Back then, the tavern looked out on the village green and he would sit in the tavern and watch the militia drill out on the green. Remember Chelsea Clinton's wedding? Yep...in Rhinebeck, and the Beekman played a big role in the wedding.   Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton traded insults at the Beekman which eventually led to their duel and the death of Hamilton. Benedict Arnold was a common sight at the Beekman. Rhinebeck is a short distance from Hyde Park...FDR's home...and the Roosevelts were here too. I'm sure some of my ancestors darkened the doorway at some point since they were from a nearby town.

-----Firehouse Suite-----
 

Back in the old days, guests shared beds...maybe several guys to a bed. Private rooms were hard to come by. Today the Beekman Arms has a few small rooms in the actual old Inn but they have expanded to take over a half dozen or more historic structures in Rhinebeck and there are some very nice accommodations. You don't have to sleep in a bed with a stranger.  The time we stayed here we actually had a three-room suite on the upper floor of the old Rhinebeck firehouse...where the fireman used to sleep, but much nicer. The rooms were furnished with a few antiques (maybe replicas...?) and canopy beds.

 Apart from registering at the front desk, you might not spend much time in the actual old inn unless you go into the tavern. The tavern is a classic old colonial-style tavern. The menu was varied and the food was good. Needless to say, if you are coming to the Beekman Arms, bring your money. There is a lot to see and do in this part of the Hudson Valley and it's well worth a visit.

 

 

 

BROOKSTOWN INN, WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA

 Winston-Salem is steeped in history all by itself. The Moravians settled the place and there are several blocks of old and restored buildings in the historic "Old Salem" district. Everything looks historical. Wake Forest University is here and its main campus looks like a relic from the 1700s.  Winston Salem was also an early industrial site. Entrepreneurs from the town traveled north to see how the textile mills in New England functioned and then came back and established a cotton textile industry.

One of those early 19th century mills has been converted to the Brookstown Inn. The inn is in the main mill building but there is ample evidence of a sprawling complex of mill structures. Back in the day, the unmarried mill girls lived in a dormitory in the attic of the mill. When the renovation work was underway, workers cleaning and stripping the walls in the attic found lots of old graffiti, poems and sketches that the girls placed on the walls of their dormitory. Some of those are preserved and on view up on the top floor. Nothing tremendous happened here but you can see and understand a little of what mill worker life was like back before the Civil War.

The rooms in the inn are sparse with old-style furnishings and bare brick walls. The rooms are mostly on the actual mill floors with as much left as possible to give the feel of the old building. Considering the structure and the industrial history, the place is bright and cheery. The restaurant is nice...I think we only had breakfast but it was good food.

The Brookstown Inn offers a good base for exploring the rest of Winston Salem.  "Adaptive re-use" is almost always a good thing in my opinion and this place is a great example.

There are a couple organizations that serve as resources if you want to stay at a good historic hotel. The National Trust for Historic Preservation established Historic Hotels of America in 1989 and they are active in maintaining standards and they keep their list current. The website is http://www.historichotels.org.  Another similar listing is Historic Hotels of the Rockies at  http://www.historic-hotels.com .

 

Comments 2

 
Stephen Evans on Friday, 04 September 2015 16:27

Enjoying this series, Ken!

Enjoying this series, Ken!
Ken Hartke on Friday, 04 September 2015 16:37

Glad you are enjoying it.

Glad you are enjoying it.
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