Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.
It’s July and time for vacation – whether it is the beach, the mountains, or somewhere else, you might find yourself looking for a place for the night for you and your family. So why not spend the night in anyone of several thousand historic hotels in the National Register of Historic Places? There are more than 16,000 properties with “hotel” in the title, which may be viewed here. There are also over 1000 “motel” properties, 6000 “inns,” and nearly 100 properties with the search term “motor hotel” in the NRHP records.
If your summer vacation plans include a ride along Skyline Drive in Virginia, you can make a pitstop at the Skyline Motor Court, while you are touring the Skyline Drive Historic District (National Archives Identifier 77834737). “Atop the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 105.5-mile Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park offers panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Piedmont to the east.” It was described in 1940 by National Park Service Landscape Architect Harvey Benson, Skyline Drive is “macadamized and smooth, with easy gradient and wide sweeping curves, the Drive unfolds to view innumerable panoramas of lofty peaks, forested ravines and the patchwork patterns of valley farms.”
If a more rustic accommodation is your style, “Through an agreement with Virginia Sky-line Company, Inc. of Richmond in 1937, concessionaire-provided services were developed at convenient intervals along the drive. Overnight facilities, including lodges and cabins, and dining rooms were planned for Skyland, the resort formerly owned by George Freeman Pollock, and at new sites at Big Meadows, Dickey Ridge, and Lewis Mountain. Wayside stations, having a cafeteria, store, service station, and restrooms, were established off the drive at Elkwallow and Big Meadows. The concessionaire hired Marcellus Wright, Jr., a Richmond architect to design their facilities, which used native materials and followed principles of rustic park architecture promoted by the National Park Service.”
Maybe you would prefer a roadtrip through West Virginia – you could stop at the Graceland Inn after a stop at the Blackman-Bosworth Store, which “is mainly significant in its nearly 100 years of use as a general commercial unit in a small community which served as the center of a widespread and diverse area of Virginia and West Virginia. Adding to its importance was short-term use as county courthouse, post office and semi-official meeting place. . . Among other uses, the building apparently was the temporary seat of county government during a portion of 1865.”
“The Bosworth Store Building in Beverly, Randolph County, West Virginia, presently consists of two distinct elements: the original, c. 1828, portion of the building to the south and an 1894 addition to the north. The older section was built on a cut-stone foundation which provided a low basement under the entire structure. . . The 1894 addition is on a cut-stone foundation also, but there is no basement. Except for the diamond shaped opening, all doors and windows are arched and have stone sills . . . The 1894 portion has two rooms downstairs and two up. Until the 1894 section was added, the older part had a stair to the second floor on the exterior of the north elevation.”
In the long list of places where “George Washington Slept Here” you can visit Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia, which “during the last half of the eighteenth century, Gadsby’s Tavern was an important center of Virginia life. Two years after its construction, in 1754, George Washington recruited his first command there. He was quartered at City Tavern when he received his commission as Major on General Braddock’s staff . . . Others who enjoyed the hospitality at Gadsby’s included the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Paul Jones, Baron de Kalb, George Clinton, Benjamin Franklin, General Braddock, Aaron Burr, George Mason, George Clinton, the Lees, the Byrds, the Washingtons, the Fitzhughes, Francis Scott Key and Henry Clay.” “Gadsby’s Tavern is one of the best known inns in America.. It was built in 1752, when it was known as City Tavern, or the Coffee House. In 1792 a three-story brick building was erected adjoining the original tavern. In 1794 John Gadsby leased the-tavern from John Wise, at which time the inn acquired its present name. Known nationwide for its elegance and hospitality, Gadsby’s Tavern housed and fed most of the famous persons visiting the country from 1752 for the next hundred years.”
Perhaps your travels include the Pacific Northwest, where you could check in to the Red Shield Inn, formerly the Ft. Lewis Inn, and now the Ft. Lewis Military Museum. “The Red Shield Inn is situated at the western edge of the Ft. Lewis Military Reservation . . . [and] is clearly visible from the interstate highway.” The Pacific Highway was “the main Western Washington north-south arterial in 1919 when the Salvation Army constructed the Red Shield Inn. The Salvation Army hired Pratt and Watson Construction Company of Spokane, Washington to construct, commencing in 1919, the recreation and guest facility for the soldiers at the newly created Camp Lewis . . . the Red Shield Inn has three floors, an attic and partial basement, containing approximately 150 rooms. The second floor has 51 rooms and the third floor, 47 which were rented until 1973 when the post established the Fort Lewis Military Museum and discontinued use of the upper floors.”
“The Red Shield Inn is a nationally significant building for the following reasons. First of all, it is one of two extant buildings on the Fort Lewis Military Reservation dating from World War I. Secondly, it is the only surviving building of Greene Park, an amusement zone on the fringe of Camp Lewis created during WW I to provide recreation and comfort for the “doughboys”. Thirdly, it is one of the first constructed and oldest remaining Salvation Army buildings in the United States. Fourthly, it is an excellent example of a rare branch of an architectural style which itself, is quite rare.”
If you find yourself in the state of Wyoming and you are tired from your hiking in Yellowstone, you can rest your head at the Old Faithful Inn, of which the “present and original physical appearance of Old Faithful Inn is that of a great (sometimes advertised as the world’s largest) log hostelry, its configuration individualistic but nevertheless easily traceable to Tyrolean influence . . . Millions of this world’s inhabitants, some living as far removed as halfway around it, could instantly affirm: “Yes, Old Faithful Inn takes its name from Old Faithful Geyser alongside which it is built.” So, the Inn is named for one of the world’s best known natural wonders and for that reason has become well known itself. However, its claim to fame is not entirely based on its namesake, it is a structure possessing a considerable reputation of its own.”
One particular lodger that was impressed by the Old Faithful Inn “was the financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. While himself a boy, he visited during a summer at Old Faithful and elsewhere in Yellowstone; and, during the 1920’s, brought his own children there several times to see and study the wonders of that great national park. His own fascination with what he observed and learned has resulted in several great benefits to the nations–including, south of Old Faithful and Yellow stone’s southern boundary, the great, new Grand Teton National Park.”
Maybe your interests are more of an inside thing, and you want to spend your vacation gambling. You can stay at any number of casino hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada and take your picture under the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, which is “located in the median of Las Vegas Boulevard South, just north of the historic stone pillars of the old McCarran Airport on the east side, and across from the Bali Hai Golf Club on the west side . . . When the “Welcome” sign was built in 1959, the closest hotel-casino was the Hacienda, which was a one-story rambling building on the site of the current high-rise Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino . . . The continuous change that is the hallmark of Las Vegas itself, makes the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign even more worthy of recognition, not only as a remnant from the past but as one of the few constants in the evolving Las Vegas landscape. For residents of the town and for returning visitors, the “Welcome” sign is one of the few things that can be counted on to remain in place after 50 years.”
Maybe you want to get your kicks along Route 66 and spend the night at the Aztec Motel after touring Arizona. The Seligman Commercial Historic District contains 33 resources, including 31 buildings, one structure (an intact, early segment of Route 66), and one historical-archaeological site (the remains of a 1903 hotel). Buildings include a railroad station/Fred Harvey House, an early community hall, a post office, general and specialty stores, restaurants, gas stations/garages, motor courts/motels, a warehouse, and a few residences.” The Aztec Motel “has some adobe room units dating from 1915 and some woodframe ones dating from about 1955.”
If your travels take you north to Alaska, you can tour the Pribilof Islands and see (but not stay in) the buildings of St. Paul, which include the King Eider hotel, which was “operated by Tanadgusix Corporation until 2005, when fire safety concerns shifted hotel operations to the POSS Camp.” You can visit St. Sergius Chapel on St. Paul Island, which “is known as “Little Russian Mission” on the Kuskokwim River to distinguish it from its counterpart, Russian Mission, on the Yukon River. By tradition, this church was built in 1891 by Father Ivan Orlov.” The chapel is the “tallest elevation in [the] remote Alaskan Native village, sited at northeast end of [the] only and main community road, 750 feet on the road line from high tide mark.”
If a beach vacation is more your thing, you can visit the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and stay in San Juan at the Caribe-Hilton Hotel. The Hilton was designed by “Hunter Randolph (1907-1982), one of Puerto Rico’s leading landscape architects of the time, [who] collaborated with Osvaldo Toro and Miguel Ferrer on several commissions throughout his career [including] the Caribe Hilton Hotel (1949).”
“In December of 1945, just as World War II came to an end, architects Osvaldo Toro (1914-1996) and Miguel Ferrer (1915-2004) along with engineer Luis Torregrosa founded Toro, Ferrer & Torregrosa. From that moment on, they embraced the principles of the Modem Movement and adapted them to Puerto Rico’s tropical context. The firm quickly developed a solid reputation when it was awarded first place in the competition sponsored by the government to design a new hotel in San Juan. The hotel, which later came to be the Caribe Hilton (1949) was part of Operation Bootstrap’s strong campaign to accelerate the industrialization of Puerto Rico. Even though tourism already was an important source of income for the State, the post-war policies propelled by Operation Bootstrap made necessary to revise existing facilities and to modernize the tourist industry in order to fulfill its new role.”
If you prefer a Florida beach vacation, you can stay at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Florida, which was also visited by President Obama in 2009. “The Fontainebleau Resort Miami Beach, located at 4441 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, is comprised of two distinct parts designed by two architects. The first part, referred to as the Chateau, was designed by Morris Lapidus and constructed between December 1953 and December 1954 . . . The second part, the North Tower, was designed by A. Herbert Mathes and constructed five years later, between 1958 and 1960.”
“The construction of the Fontainebleau Resort represents a shift in emphasis in providing tourist accommodations in Miami Beach from catering to middle-class patrons to targeting members of the new post-war mobile upper middle class and wealthy. This change would help reinvigorate the tourist economy of the city during the 1950s and have profound effects on the demographic character of the community. Shortly after its construction, a series of hotels went up along Collins Avenue, each catering to a clientele desirous of a resort atmosphere rather than the traditional hotel experience.”
“The hotel attracted rich clientele from all over the Americas and soon was the host to many of the America’s most famous celebrities. Performing in the hotel’s nightclubs and ballrooms were premier show business performers, including Joey Bishop, Dean Martin, Red Skelton, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra. Additional celebrities who frequented the Fontainebleau were Burt Reynolds, the Bee Gees, and Marilyn Monroe. In 1960, the hotel was the scene of “The Bellboy,” staring Jerry Lewis, the first of several movies filmed there. Other films included the James Bond thriller, “Goldfmger” (1968) starring Sean Connery, “Tony Rome” with Frank Sinatra (1967), and “The Specialists” (1994). In 1962, the hotel was the site of a presidential dinner honoring President John F. Kennedy, and on February 27, 1964, a dinner for President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1972, the hotel was the site of the Democratic National Convention.”
This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.