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Author Topic: The Bedford Springs Hotel . . .  (Read 5737 times)
Oldcarsarecool
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« on: October 16, 2014, 01:25:59 AM »

I haven't written a long epic in a while for no other reason than life seems to get in the way.  Today we're going to learn about the Bedford Springs Hotel, an historic resort property in Bedford, Pennsylvania.  Founded in 1806, the hotel has seen its share of prosperity and bankrupcy over the last two centuries.  What follows is a long and picture intensive tale of 143 photos that cover a three year period from 2005 - 2008.  I've tried to break the post up into smaller sections to make it easier for those of us with slow internet or old machines, (mine is from 2007), to view.  

So as usual, hit the restroom, grab a beverage, and find a comfy chair .  .  .
« Last Edit: November 28, 2014, 06:02:35 PM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2014, 01:26:56 AM »

The Bedford Springs Hotel, Bedford, Pennsylvania .  .  .
A journey from July 2005 – November 2008





Chances are that, unless you’re from south central Pennsylvania, most of you have probably never heard of the borough of Bedford.  It’s a small place, (population 2,841 in 2010).  Everything your mind pictures with the words “small town America” is present and accounted for in terms of charm and atmosphere.  And it’s been around for a while, although several conflicting stories exist as to how it came to be.

The first white settlers were thought to have arrived in the area sometime in the early 1730s, but nothing is known about them.  During the 1750s, all historical references to the area used the name “Ray’s Town.”  Records suggest that an Indian trader named Robert Ray built a trading post in 1751.  This follows the convention from that era where the first person to settle in the area would have the town after him.  The problem is that the first recorded white settler in the area was another Indian trader named Garret Pendergrass who purchased land from the local Indian nations, (there is a deed on file for this).  I am also seeing references to another Indian trader named John Wray who could also be suspected of lending his name for that purpose.  Nobody seems to know for sure. 

In the early 18th century, some parts of Colonial Pennsylvania were controlled by the British.  Others were part of “New France,” (i.e. French colonization in North America).  In 1758, British General John Forbes commanded a campaign to capture Fort Duquesne, a French military post located in what is now downtown Pittsburgh, (present day Point State Park where the Three Rivers meet, awesome place, I’ve been there !).  His plan was to get to Fort Duquesne by cutting a wagon trail from Carlisle, Pennsylvania westward into the mountains in the central part of the colony.   Forbes established several small military posts along the way to serve as supply lines, one of which was in Ray’s Town.  This has been confirmed via official communications from Forbes that refer to the area as “Camp at Ray’s Town.”  But by August 1759, all communications were from “Camp at Bedford” or “Fort Bedford.”  The name is believed to be a reference to the Duke of Bedford in England.  The actual town of Bedford was laid out in 1766 under the last Governor of Colonial Pennsylvania, John Penn.  The Borough of Bedford was incorporated in 1795. 

Bedford became notable when natural springs with high mineral contents were discovered in the area.  Several accounts exist of how this happened.  One source I examined credits a miner named Nicholas Shauffler for the discovery.  Another tells the tale of a local mechanic who was “cured” of “rheumatic pains and severe leg ulcers” after drinking water from the springs.  Another story suggests that the local Indian nations shared information about the natural springs directly with area residents.  The mineral springs would have been old news to Native Americans who had been drinking from and bathing in these waters for hundreds of years.  Regardless of the scenario, news of the “healing powers” quickly spread among the settlers eventually making its way to Dr. John Anderson, a Bedford physician.  Anderson was a smart man and entrepreneur and recognized the opportunity before him.  He purchased 2,200 acres of land from local Native American tribes in 1796 so his patients could experience the flourishing concept of “medicinal springs” beginning in 1802. 

Seven chemically different natural springs were discovered on Anderson’s property.  The exact science behind the waters of the springs may not have been fully understood at the time.  But the “if-you-drink-this,-you’ll-feel-better” reasoning was widely known.  The Magnesia Spring was effective in treating stomach ailments.  The Iron Spring was good for your blood.  Bathing in the Sulphur Spring was found to have a healing effect on wounds.  As word spread and business grew, Anderson realized that he needed a place for guests to stay while they “take the waters.”  The first guest housing facility, “The Stone House,” was completed in 1806 thus giving birth to the Bedford Springs Hotel. 

Word spread to the big cities via newspaper reports.  Anderson soon discovered that the small Stone House wasn’t large enough to accommodate the increasing number of visitors.  This set into motion a continuous pattern of additions, enlargements, and upgrades that persisted for the next 120 years.  The Stone House was joined by the Colonial Building in 1842.  The Swiss Cottage was added in 1846. 


The Bedford Springs Hotel circa mid-1840s

(From Wikipedia, originally credited to Augustus Kollner) 


Both the Stone House and Swiss Cottage were enlarged in 1858.  The Evitt House was added in 1875.  And the Anderson House was completed in 1890.  The original 20 room hotel had grown to at least 5 interconnected buildings by the turn of the 20th century.  The Barclay Wing was built on the hill behind the other buildings in 1925 and was the last lodging addition to the hotel. 

Advances in medicine may have put a damper on the “medicinal springs” aspect of the facility.  But the leisure travel aspect of a vacation resort and spa flourished, thus turning the hotel into a world-renown resort destination frequented by giants of industry, dignitaries, and the likes of 10 US Presidents.  President James Buchanan, a Pennsylvania native, spent 25 summers at the Bedford Springs Hotel, and made it his summer White House during his presidency. 

As America modernized, so did the Bedford Springs Hotel.  President Buchanan received the first ever transatlantic telegram message on August 12, 1858 in the Colonial Building’s Great Hall.  He and England’s Queen Victoria were able to exchange pleasantries in real time via telegraph cable in an era where the next fastest way of delivering a message between the two nations took a week.  An 18-hole golf course was added in 1896, one of the first such examples in the US.  A major renovation and expansion occurred in 1905 that featured the addition of two buildings behind the guest wings.  The Dormitory Building was added to house hotel staff, (replacing another staff dwelling unit, the Crockford House, from 1810).  A new and expanded Kitchen Building was attached to the Dormitory.  A Pool House was built in place of the old kitchen.  The 63’ x 28’ indoor swimming pool contained therein was fed by the mineral springs and was also one of the first of its kind in the US.  The Pool House also featured a solarium and hydrotherapy facilities. 

All this prosperity came to a screeching halt thanks to the Great Depression.  The hotel went bankrupt in 1936, but managed to re-open shortly thereafter.  The US Navy used the hotel as a radio operator training school during WWII.  Captured Japanese diplomats were housed at the hotel during 1945 before being sent back to Japan.  The hotel was renovated and opened as a luxury vacation destination after the war, and actually did ok in the 1950s.  But the hotel never really returned to its former glory, and the doors closed in 1986 leaving this wonderful piece of history at the mercy of Mother Nature .  .  .
« Last Edit: October 17, 2014, 12:56:18 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2014, 01:27:38 AM »

I began my career as a Ford service technician in 2001 at Bedford Ford Lincoln Mercury, located on the western side of town.  Every so often, I would head to Sheetz on Route 30, on the eastern side of town, to grab some lunch to go.  Back-tracking toward the dealership, I would turn left onto South Richard Street in the center of town and head south toward “The Springs,” as it was known locally.  The golf course parking lot sat across from the side of the abandoned hotel and provided a great backdrop for my lunch hour. 








Twenty years is a long time in the world of abandon buildings.  But The Springs seemed to weather the years pretty well.  The car in the parking lot seen in the above photos belonged to the security guard, meaning someone was there keeping an eye on the place.  The grass was always cut which gave me the impression that grounds maintenance was being performed as best as possible given the circumstances.  Some parts of the hotel were in pretty good shape like the main buildings shown above.  Others were pretty rough.





The wood-framed Dormitory Building shown above was added in 1905.  Deterioration of the siding and windows was pretty evident.  The large trees in the photo did a good job of hiding the giant holes in the roof.  Above the Dormitory Building sits the Barclay Wing which was added in 1925, and proved to be the last lodging addition to the hotel.  At some point, the top floor was modified to create penthouse suites that provided a great view of the golf course.  Also at some point, most of the windows on the top floors ceased to be for whatever reason(s). 

I enjoyed those lunch hours a lot.  Sitting in the car daydreaming about nothing in particular and taking in the awesome view proved to be very relaxing.  I had no motive, no agenda, no purpose other than wondering about the future of this spectacular piece of decaying history .  .  .
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« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2014, 01:29:19 AM »

This old house .  .  .
July 2, 2005





Visits home from Columbia, Missouri were generally limited to once per year due to the distance involved.  My wife’s graduate school commitments meant free time was something that existed only in legend.  We managed to find time for a long weekend road trip home for the July 4th holiday in 2005.  On this day, we piled my mom in the car and did some local sightseeing with one of the destinations being the abandoned Bedford Springs Hotel. 





The guard happened to be outside when we pulled up.  He told me I could take all the photos I wanted outside, but I couldn’t go inside the building because the missing floors may swallow me up.  The guard was an older man who was very familiar with the history of the hotel, and was happy to share a bunch of memories with us. 





My mom stayed in the hotel one time in the 1950s.  Oddly enough, this was the first time I had ever been on the property.  The resort was well known locally, but one of those places I just never got to actually see in person.  Even in its deteriorated state, the place was magnificent !








The Bedford Springs Hotel began life in 1806 as a single 20-room hotel building.  When more space was needed, new buildings were added to what was already in place, (i.e. a horizontal game of Tetris).  Over the next 100 years, the facility evolved into one long structure containing eight individual buildings all connected together.  The entrance driveway takes visitors to the Colonial Building, (i.e. hotel lobby) where it joins with one of the guest lodging buildings, the Evitt House, (on the right in the photo below).


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« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2014, 01:30:17 AM »

The Colonial Building is referred to as the anchor of the hotel, and is where the Great Hall and ballrooms are located. 








Access to the mineral springs begins across the street, (behind me in the photos above).  Various access methods and structures were installed, redesigned, and rebuilt many times over the years.  Hotel guests would normally walk to the end of the entrance drive and cross the roadway via an elevated deck.  But in 1903, the Magnesia Spring could be accessed directly from the hotel.  “The Colonnade” was basically a long elevated walkway that ran from the second floor of the Colonial Building all the way across the road to the gazebo at the Magnesia Springs.  The photo below shows where the long since demolished Colonnade connected to the hotel.





As a whole, the Colonial Building looked pretty complete despite the deterioration.   





At least three entrances could be seen along the front of the Colonial Building.  I have the photo below labeled as “offices.” But I’m not really sure since I couldn’t go inside.


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« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2014, 01:31:02 AM »

The Pool House connects to the left of the Colonial Building.  Prior to 1905, the hotel’s original kitchen facility from 1842 occupied this space.  The kitchen was moved to a new building and an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool, one of the first of its kind in the nation, was built in its place. 





Deterioration was evident.  But the bones of the Pool House were still very much intact.





Below is the Evitt House which connects to the Colonial Building, (out of view to the left). 





The photo below shows where the Evitt House ends and connects to the next building in line, the Stone House, the facility’s original structure.  The horizontal Tetris game continues with the Swiss Cottage being connected to the Stone House, and the Anderson House connected to the Swiss Cottage.





The Dormitory and Kitchen Buildings, (ground level in the photo below), both looked pretty rough.  The windows were gone and the roof was missing in some spots.  The Barclay Wing was added in 1925 on the hill above the Dormitory and Kitchen Buildings.  It may not have looked too bad from a distance.  But having the top floor exposed to the elements for many years is never a good thing.





We wandered around the front of the hotel for a while before driving around to the rear of the complex.  The Barclay Wing needs a lot of work.  But I’ve seen worse.





The area behind the Barclay Wing consisted of a carriage house, horse stables, and various other outbuildings.  The photo below shows what’s left of the stables. 





I remember being very glad to be able to visit The Springs.  Rumors of a full-scale restoration/renovation had been circulating for a few years, (even when I worked at Bedford Ford).  But nothing had ever been confirmed.  Numbers in the $30 million range were being flaunted in the local news reports.  But flaunting it and actually writing a check are two very different things .  .  .
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« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2014, 01:31:47 AM »

”Did you see the Springs ?” .  .  .
August 12, 2006





A little more than one year had passed since I made a trip home to Pennsylvania.  My wife and I managed to find the time for a long weekend visit home in August 2006.  First on the agenda for this trip was a visit to Bedford Ford Lincoln Mercury, my first Ford dealership experience.  I credit Bedford Ford for pointing me in the right career direction and allowing me to develop along that path.  I owe a lot to this place, and will always be grateful for my time there. 





Well, this is different !





I see a few things have changed since I left 3 years earlier.  Judging by the new window stickers, Bedford Ford had become an authorized Saleen dealer.








I also saw a few conversion vans and trucks from LA West.  I’m not a truck person.  But if my motorized future would ever include a truck, I would definitely prefer something like this.





I headed inside to say hello to everyone and to see what has and has not changed.  The bay containing the silver Explorer in the air with the rear wheels removed was mine.  I was right in front of the giant window at the Customer Lounge. 


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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2014, 01:33:25 AM »

My mom always did a great job of keeping me abreast of happenings at home.  Besides the regular phone conversations, I would also get large envelopes in the mail full of newspaper clippings.  Rumors of the hotel’s restoration and reopening had been circulating since before I left Pennsylvania.  But they were just that – rumors and/or wishful thinking.  For the longest time, restoration of the Bedford Springs Hotel seemed like it was never going to happen. 

But in late 2005, it actually did !  An investment group from Texas secured funding and broke ground, thus finally making all of this talk a reality.  The price tag had gone up, naturally, to around $90 million for the “restoration.”  Even so, the community was ecstatic.  Everyone at Bedford Ford I spoke to that day asked me if I had seen The Springs.  “You’ve gotta go see The Springs !”   Well ok then. 





What a difference a year makes !





Work on the project began late in 2005.  When we visited on this day in 2006, significant progress was clearly evident. 





Starting at the far left .  .  .


The Dormitory Building



This building was probably in the worst shape of all.  Windows and siding were missing and the roof had deteriorated to nothing in several spots.  From what I read, this building was a total loss and had to be, quite literally, rebuilt from the ground up.





The Kitchen Building



Ditto.  The Kitchen and Dormitory Buildings were part of the same physical structure, meaning the kitchen was also a total loss.


The Pool House



The Pool House was in decent shape to start with.  The roof line looked like it had been raised.  But I think this is an illusion because the gables appear to be the same.  The pool, itself, was being treated to a full redo. 


The Barclay Wing



Talk about changes !  I’m not sure what happened here other than 4 of the original 6 floors were now completely gone.  The shape of the windows seemed to suggest that the top 4 floors were removed, as opposed to a complete tear down and rebuild process as was done with the Dormitory and Kitchen Buildings.  But I’m not exactly sure.  Whatever the case, the Barclay Wing was now significantly smaller.
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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2014, 01:34:08 AM »

The Colonial Building



The hotel’s crown jewel appeared to be getting a complete restoration.  The front facade, the roof line, and overall layout appeared to be the same as before. 





The Evitt House



According to newspaper reports from the time, the guest accommodations were being restored, but slightly modified in the process.  The number of individual rooms was being reduced, but each room was enlarged in size.  I believe the ratio was 3:2, (i.e. 3 rooms would become 2), but I’m not 100% sure.





The main styling feature of the hotel  -  the long “front porch” appearance  -  remained in place.





The Stone House



The hotel’s original structure was also being modified like the Evitt House, (i.e. fewer, but much larger rooms).


The Swiss Cottage



This building was being modified like the others.  The single dormer on the roof was being restored as well.


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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2014, 01:34:47 AM »

The Anderson House



The modifications described above continued here also.











The walkway across the road to the various springs was also in line for an upgrade.  It wasn’t going to be returned to a full-length Colonnade.  But the existing structure was going to be renovated in some way.


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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2014, 01:35:29 AM »

We drove under the walkway shown above and continued around to the side of the complex to get a better view of the much shorter Barclay Wing.





The area around the Barclay Wing, where the stables, carriage house, and other utility buildings were located, looked like it was being turned into a parking area.  As there appeared to be no parking provisions out front, this would definitely be needed.





The other major change for the hotel addressed access.  Business Route 220, the main road that previously ran directly in front of the hotel, was being moved to behind the hotel.  A completely new roadway was being built into the hill behind the property, essentially a bypass.  The idea was to limit traffic flow in front of the hotel so as to create a quieter atmosphere. 





Project managers didn’t forget about the golf course.





The golf course was also getting a complete makeover under the direction of Ron Forse.  The original 1896 course was designed by Spencer Oldham.  A. W. Tillinghast renovated it in 1912.  Golf course design legend Donald Ross renovated the course again in 1923.  The goal this time was to return the golf course to its Donald Ross design and layout.





This was a massive project ! 





As in “$90 million” massive ! 





The grand reopening was scheduled for some time in 2007, or less than one year away. 


 


I remember being really, really impressed on that day with what I saw, and looking forward to seeing the finished product .  .  .


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« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2014, 01:36:18 AM »

A palace in the wilderness .  .  .
November 26, 2008





“This is a palace in the wilderness  -  here you have the ‘urbs in ‘rure  -  the city in the woods .  .  .”  
-  Daniel I. Rupp, 1846  -  





After a two year $120 million restoration, (yes, the price tag went up again), the Bedford Springs Resort reopened its doors on July 12, 2007.  Everything I read from that time describes the hotel as an authentic restoration to its history, yet fully modernized for the 21st century.  The automobile world term for this is "restomod," i.e. restored and modified.  Whatever the appropriate term, the people loved it !  My mom would tell me about it when we would talk on the phone.  “You’ve got to see it the next time you’re here !”  

That time ended up being November 2008.  My wife had finished graduate school, and was scheduled to present at a conference in Washington, DC the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday.  We knew we would be “in the area,” relatively speaking, (i.e. a mere 3 hours away as opposed to the normal 12), and worked a visit home into her conference schedule.  At the top of our agenda was a visit to the Bedford Springs Resort to see firsthand the incredible transformation.


The Springs Eternal House and Pool House

 

The Pool House, (the brick building on the right), was completely restored.  The other two buildings in the photo above make up the Springs Eternal House, and are totally new from the ground up.  Originally, the Dormitory Building, (housing for hotel staff), and the Kitchen Building stood on that spot.  In their place are the Spa (on the ground floor), and new guest rooms (on the upper floors).  

The biggest news here is that during the renovation, workers stumbled upon an 8th natural spring which was named the Eternal Spring.  The new Spa which this spring feeds was named the “Springs Eternal Spa,” and the building in which it sits was named the “Springs Eternal House.”


The Colonial Building



The main lobby/ballroom area of the resort was completely and authentically restored with its original configuration having been retained.  


From left, the Evitt House, Stone House, Swiss Cottage, and Anderson House
 

New restaurants and the hotel’s gift shop were added to the lower level.  The original guest accommodations on the upper floors were restored and enlarged, meaning the number of guest rooms was reduced, but each room was now larger.

A new fountain and garden area had been added in front of the Colonial Building.  I took the photo below from the walkway across the road that leads to the mineral springs.  The new balcony on the second floor shown below gives you a good impression what the Colonnade would have looked like 100 years before.  Extend the balcony all the way to where I am standing, and you’ve got the Colonnade.  The 21st century version looks great !


Front of the Colonial Building



The actual bridge over the roadway had also been completely renovated.


Walkway to the Magnesia Spring



The marker shown below was located on the walkway over the road, but facing the hotel thus giving the visitor an idea of what he/she is looking at.  The various dates shown indicate those of original construction and subsequent renovations.


Property Map



We marveled at the exterior, and then headed inside for lunch at the Frontier Tavern.

Many of the photos that follow are uploaded at full resolution.  All were shot with a Canon S3-IS which allows for the widescreen photos to be displayed at 2816 x 1584.  If your browser allows, images can be opened in a new tab so you can zoom in a little further than normal.  I have all the large photos labeled.  

Enjoy the show .  .  .
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« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2014, 01:37:23 AM »




The name “Frontier Tavern” conjures an image of a casual atmosphere and rustic setting, which is pretty appropriate in this case.  Remember, there was nothing else here when Dr. Anderson bought the property in 1796.  The tavern’s design and décor matched that impression perfectly.   





The Frontier Tavern is located on the lower level of the Stone House along with another restaurant, the upscale 1796 Room, access to which is via a long hallway behind the Tavern, (on the far left in the photo below).





Several individual rooms are located along this hallway.





The name “1796 Room” is a reference to the year when Dr. Anderson purchased the property.  This steak and chophouse is open for dinner only, and was closed when we were there. 
   




The Defibaugh’s Table room is also located along this hall. 





I want to say that the Defibaugh’s Table is named for Bill Defibaugh, a local historian who knows more about the hotel than anyone presently alive.  Bill was heavily involved in the hotel’s restoration. 





No tavern would be complete without a billiard room.





And no tavern would be complete without a bunch of eclectic décor.  The tavern, (and the entire hotel for that matter), are loaded with it.  It is in the area of décor where Bill Defibaugh had a huge impact on the restoration.

The Bedford Springs Hotel enjoyed many years of prosperity.  But it also endured numerous periods of hard times.  Management would often sell/auction pieces of furniture and other historic artifacts when times got tough.  Bill always kept this in mind and bought as much stuff as he could when these sales occurred.  The entire hotel is filled with authentic items from Bill’s enormous collection. 





Items like the tools shown above were used in the construction of the various buildings.  Below is a vintage sled, also from Bill’s collection.





We decided to take a walk around the hotel after lunch.  The antique wood stove we passed on the way out of the Frontier Tavern is an authentic piece from the hotel’s kitchen, and is also from Bill’s collection. 


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« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2014, 01:38:24 AM »

The Frontier Tavern is located in the Stone House, the hotel’s most historic space which dates from 1806.  This history is commemorated in a plaque that describes the building’s beginnings.  I was very impressed with the 9-figure renovation of the resort that transformed the entire property into a modern work of art.  But I was also impressed by what the building originally cost.  The two gentlemen who built the original building were given .  .  .

One Hundred and Ten dollars, room and board during the process, and 5 gallons of whiskey.



(uploaded at full resolution)


The walk back to the Colonial Building takes guests down a long hall on the lower level of the Stone and Evitt Houses. 





The lounge chairs placed by the large windows gave the space a relaxing atmosphere.  There’s a fire pit outside of the Frontier Tavern which can be seen from here.





Antique furnishings and memorabilia from Bill Defibaugh’s collection were displayed throughout. 





Hotel information indicated that 80% of the furniture was original to the resort.





This is the hotel’s gift shop, The Bedford Market. 


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« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2014, 01:39:21 AM »

We soon arrived at the entrance to the Great Hall in the Colonial Building.  Guests are greeted by a plaque describing the building’s history.  President Buchanan received the first ever transatlantic telegraph cable message in this area of the hotel.



(uploaded at full resolution) 


The Great Hall is exactly that – great !





Layout is similar to that of a typical hotel lobby, but with a much more intimate feel due to the multitude of smaller gathering spaces situated within.








The large American Flag seen on the far left of the photo above is one of the hotel’s most prized possessions.  The 39-Star flag, while not part of the hotel’s original collection, was acquired during the restoration and is period correct for the hotel’s “golden age” just after the Civil War.



(uploaded at full resolution) 


The US Government never issued an official 39-Star flag.  This flag was originally issued in 1865 as a 36-Star flag.  Two additional stars were added when Nebraska joined the Union in 1867 and Colorado in 1877.  The third star is thought to have been added in late 1889 in anticipation of the Dakota Territories joining the Union in 1890. 





I have the photo below labeled as “Mirrored window.”  It was exactly that  -  a large window that used mirror glass panes.  I like this idea !  Very creative for an indoor space. 





The Great Hall also features a baby-grand piano that guests are apparently allowed to play.





I don’t know who this young girl was other than 12 years old and quite good.


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