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History and Hospitality at Historic Hotels

Have you ever wanted to live a life of luxury, spending your days walking the halls of a mansion? Do you wonder what it was like to be an elite of an earlier era, filling your time traveling the country by rail and lodging in beautiful resorts?

Across the country, picturesque hotels of the past catered to the upper classes and offered the creme de la creme of service in their day. Today, many boast impressive collections of art and guest lists filled with notable names. They have now been updated to include modern amenities while still showcasing the service and preserving the style that made them famous.

Here are four historic hotels across the nation that will add the class and refinement of older eras to your next trip.


Mission Inn Hotel and Spa

Riverside, California

When you look at its current grandeur, it’s hard to believe the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa began its life as a 12-room adobe boarding house. Since its start in 1876, the Spanish Revival-style hotel has grown to include 238 rooms and suites, as well as a spa, a shopping boutique and multiple eateries. Today it covers an entire city block. The Mission Inn is also well known for its weekly Sunday brunch, which brings in patrons from across the region.

Frank Miller, the hotel’s founder, saw a need for a fine resort as wealthy Americans and Europeans flocked to Riverside for its comfortable climate and profitable citrus industry. Miller opened the hotel’s Spanish Revival-style Mission Wing in 1903 and followed it with subsequent additions — the Cloister, the Spanish and the Rotunda wings — through 1931.

Throughout the grounds are more than 400 bells from all over the world, some of which boast an incredible history. The Nanking Temple Bell came from China following the Boxer Rebellion and can be seen in the Las Campanas restaurant. Louis Comfort Tiffany, the famous stained-glass artisan, once tried to buy the bell and even wrote a blank check to Miller in his attempts, but the bell ultimately remained at the inn. Also on display is the oldest dated bell in history, dating to 1247.

To hear the full story behind this National Historic Landmark and the items of note on the property, groups should consider taking one of the Mission Inn Foundation and Museum tours. Guided tours are offered daily from the Mission Inn museum located at the corner of Main Street and Mission Inn Avenue.


The Strater Hotel

Durango, Colorado

The Strater Hotel was built during a time when the small town of Durango, Colorado, was teetering on the precipice of a population boom or a mining bust. The local pharmacist, Henry Strater, believed the area would prosper and built the hotel that became the town’s unofficial center.

Since many Durango townspeople were unable to heat their homes during the harsh Colorado winters, they would close them and move into the hotel during the cold season. Throughout the rest of the year it was a popular meeting space for the locals, who visited even more frequently when the second owners added opera performances and fine dinners for the frontier town.

Fans of Western literature will enjoy the history of Room 222, also known as the Louis L’Amour room. The famous author would frequently request this room above the Diamond Belle Saloon and wrote many of his novels while staying at the hotel.

The Strater Hotel is known today for its collection of antique Victorian walnut furniture, the largest of its type in the world. Since the 1980s, the Barker family, who own the hotel, have been working to restore and preserve the history of this landmark. Earl and Jentra Barker began the process of updating to include modern amenities along with period features, such as the furniture collection they began. When remodeling the hotel’s public spaces, the couple’s son, Roderick, has paid particular attention to detail by partnering with a master woodworker and installing hand-printed Bradbury and Bradbury wallpapers to preserve the Strater’s original Victorian feel.

Guests staying at the Durango are perfectly situated to explore the ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings at nearby Mesa Verde National Park in Mesa Verde or enjoy a ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that runs between Durango and Silverton, Colorado.