The last stop on our summer road trip through Eastern Oregon was Hot Lake Hotel. We didn’t stay there, though I know people who have. I just wanted to tour it now, in the off chance the rumors of changing owners came true. I am so glad I did as the owner was lovely and accommodating, for a small fee which came with unlimited coffee we got a grand tour of the once hospital turned resort. It gives off serious Miss Havisham vibes in the best possible way (if you don’t know who that is you best go read Charles Dickens novels now).
History of Hot Lake Hotel
Well before any modern day structure existed on this spot of land just outside La Grande, Oregon the native people of the area were well acquainted with the spot which is known for its mineral hot springs. The area was well documented by Washington Irving in his recordings of the Astor expedition in 1812. And for many years leading up to the building of the hotel it was used as a trading post between natives and recent settlers and those passing through in search of gold. The trading post still exists on the grounds today and is included in the tour.
The first incarnation of the Hot Lake Hotel was built in 1864 in the Colonial Revival style. At the time of the original construction the hotel operated as a multi business complex complete with post office, blacksmith, barber shop, spa, bathhouse as well as other small businesses.
In 1904 the original structure was demolished and John V Bennes (whose name is also attributed to the Geiser Grand Hotel) started construction of the Georgian style structure you mostly see today. With 105 guest rooms, 60 surgical bed and a 1,500 person ballroom.
When Hot Lake Hotel opened it opened as a luxury resort and sanitarium, advertising the healing properties of the sulfur rich water to cure what ever ails you. Unfortunately in 1934 half the hotel burned. The glorious beginnings of this luxury spa were not seen again as it was used as a retirement home, asylum and a nurses training station during WWII. The building was abandoned in 1991, even though it had been added to the National Registered of Historic Places in 1979.
In 2003 the building was purchased by David Manuel a rather well known bronze statue artist in the Pacific North West. He and his family worked for two years in order to open it back up to the public, and continue to work on it now. Today it operates as a bed and breakfast, spa and restaurant as well as a museum of native and munitions artifacts which is the private collection of Mr. Manuel.
Experiencing Hot Lake Hotel
It is important to remember when visiting Hot Lake Hotel where it started when it was last bought, and that the restoration work was done with private funds. This is not a billion dollar restoration project done by a team of professionals. This was a restoration project done with money raised privately and done as a family because they loved the building so much. As such you will see it is an eclectic mix of furnishings and styles.
As a part of a the tour or as a paying guest of the hotel you will be offered the chance to view a video put together by the owners detailing some history of the building but more importantly the history of the family and the work they put into the restoration. I would highly suggest taking them up on the viewing.
There are several floors of rooms, and each floor as seating areas both inside and outside. There are also several museum type rooms in the guest room section of the building that provide information regarding the surgical suites and exercise facilities that used to be on site. And of course there is the onsite spa, both indoor and outdoor pools offer up a cooler version of the mineral waters that exist in the area for your soaking pleasure. The cooler part is important to note as the small lake in front of the hotel that is fed directly from the underground hot sprints is so hot it will disintegrate bone, best not go swimming in it directly.
There have been rumors of hauntings, though I did not experience anything odd while there. The owners are reluctant to say much about it, but that isn’t surprising when you meet them. They just aren’t the type to suffer that type of rumor or gossip. I did not stay at the hotel myself, it was just a stop off on the way home. But if I was out in the area for a night I most certainly would spend the night at Hot Lake Hotel. I do not mind the slightly rambling and mismatched décor. I am quite frankly never looking for a 5 start resort. Just a clean place to stay with nice folks running the place. The interesting history is of course a huge bonus.
The Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City is a place I have been dreaming of visit for probably over a decade. A chance scanning of an Oregon travel magazine in a waiting room left me gawking at the interior shots and gorgeous stained glass ceiling of this hotel. I may have stolen the magazine from the waiting room (this was before I owned a cell phone that took decent pictures). So when I planned the road trip this last summer I knew this hotel was on the list, truth be told I planned the entire trip around three hotels I wanted to visit (Frenchglen, Idaho Hotel and Geiser Grand).
History of Geiser Grand Hotel
The Geiser Grand Hotel opened in 1889, designed by John Bennes in the Italianate Victorian Style. Bennes is responsible for a number of buildings in Oregon including 35 on the University of Oregon campus, as well as the Hollywood Theater in Portland and the Liberty Theater in Astoria (both incredibly gorgeous and still working theaters).
The hotel was build during the Oregon Gold Rush and as such saw its fair share of incredibly wealthy and incredibly shady characters throughout its history. In 1968 the hotel closed and in 1993 it was reopened after an enormous restoration effort which brought the hotel back to life with historic fixtures, paint colors and furnishings. Including an enormous research process to design and remake the stained glass ceiling which had long since been destroyed in a hail storm.
Hauntings of the Geiser Grand Hotel
For those of you interested in the paranormal the Geiser Grand Hotel has had numerous spectral sightings. Which include a young girl, a saloon dancer, a cowboy, a headless chef, and a lady in blue. A quick internet search will bring you all kinds of confessions of sightings and even information about a ghost hunters type crew that camped out set on finding definitive evidence of the hauntings.
For those of you not interested in the paranormal I can tell you without a doubt that I experienced nothing but a stellar stay and an excellent nights sleep.
Out Stay at the Geiser Grand Hotel
I was so thrilled to finally be experiencing this incredible historic hotel, I was on cloud nine the entire stay. It probably helped that I hadn’t had a decent shower in a couple days or a very great bed in the last couple days. I was beat.
I wandered around the hotel for a good while snapping pictures and seeing that all the hotel had to offer. A reading/game room, a gym, a dining room and a store were all on premises. And the store even had movies for rent that could be played in the room.
Once I had sufficiently went everywhere I could without risking ejections from the hotel, we got ready for dinner. We chose not to eat at the hotel because I had found a steak house in Haines that looked like a hoot. But we returned with full bellies, dessert to go and settled in for a couple movies. This was the first time we had decent wi-fi all week so we picked a few Netflix movies and streamed them from bed.
The rooms are absolutely stunning, well decorated, large windows and gloriously tall ceilings make the rooms seem palatial. The beds and pillows were superb, I don’t think I have had a better nights sleep since. We had breakfast in the dining room and then set off toward Portland. All in all I give the Geiser Grand Hotel 5 stars, beautiful, historic, comfortable, interesting history, and no actual ghost encounters.
Right off I-84 in eastern Oregon is the Oregon Trail Center. Providing visitors a variety of experiences related, well, the Oregon Trail. I have very little reason to be approximately 6 hours away from my home, but this last summer as a part of my ‘getting to know Oregon better’ quest I found myself way out east. And knew I needed to make a stop at the museum.
Overview of the Oregon Trail Center
The museum itself lies just north of Baker City, which in and of itself is not a very large town, but it does happen to be a very important role in Oregon’s history. A lot of wagon trains passed through this area. After long harrowing journeys families were greeted with wide open pastures and the unfortunate realization that they still had mountain passes to traverse.
The Oregon Trail Center is an incredible museum maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. It offers sweeping view of the area, as well as life sized displays, films, exhibits, presentations and more.
The buildings and views are well worth the drive, sitting on top of a large hill in the middle of BLM land, you get the opportunity to experience an unobstructed view of the valley and Rock Creek Butte. You can also hike all over this area, BLM lands are open for recreation. The types of recreation are always clearly marked or communicated on the areas website if you have any questions regarding land use.
The facilities also have a very nice walking path down the face of the hill and out toward some mines that are set up for educational purposes. I being terrified of ticks, did not choose to go tromping through the open lands and stuck to the path being sure not to brush up against any long grasses. We saw plenty of ticks just walking by. So if you choose to hike through the pastures be sure to come prepared and always check for ticks after being outside.
My Impressions of the Oregon Trail Center
We had been driving for quite a few hours by the time we got here, and having left Silver City behind (sadly) I think we were both a little dazed. And for some reason I had in my mind that it would be providing research materials to look through in order to locate names and dates of family members that passed through the area but it did not. And that is okay, it is a lovely area with a wonderful exhibit.
There isn’t really anything in the area of the museum, hence the beautiful sprawling views. But just down the road is an excellent steak house Haines and Baker City is only about 10 minutes down the highway so it is an easy jaunt into town for excellent hotels, restaurants and other museums.
I thoroughly enjoyed by time at the Oregon Trail Center in Baker City Oregon. One I highly recommend if you are interested in Oregon history and find yourself in the area.