Some of the best representations of the 1800’s are the historic hotels of America that are spread all over the United States. Many if not most of these hotels are still in operation and are very popular with tourists. Restored and refurbished, these historic landmarks offer the vacationer and traveler a comfortable and historic experience. As an added advantage, most of these hotels, because of their age, are located in the town center and make sightseeing very convenient.
A few examples of hotels with a lot of history attached to them include the National Hotel in Nevada City California. The hotel is also referred to as the National Exchange Hotel. This hotel takes you back to the days of the California Gold Rush of the 1850’s. The hotel also happens to be located in one of the most scenic areas of the Sierra Nevada foothills, north of Auburn and Grass Valley California.
The National Hotel opened for business in 1856. Historians will point out that the National Hotel in Nevada City California is one of the oldest continuously operated hotels west of the Rocky Mountains. The hotel burned somewhat in a fire in 1863 but reopened shortly after. The national Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as being a California Historical Landmark. Another must stop when you are visiting Nevada City is the Nevada Theater which is the oldest continuously running theater in California and featured many famous 19th century performers such as Mark Twain. Nevada City is about a one hour drive east of Sacramento.and about two and one-half hour drive from San Francisco.
Another historic old gold mining town not far from Nevada City is Grass Valley California. Grass Valley turned out to be the site of one of the larger gold strikes. Grass Valley is also the site of the Empire Mine State Historical Park. The Empire Mine has been recognized as the largest and richest gold mine in California. The Empire Mine operated for 106 years, from 1850 to 1956. It produced a total of 5.8 million ounces of gold. Hikers will be please to find an abundance of trails at the Empire Mine State Park which covers some 845 acres.
Today, when you visit Grass Valley you’ll no doubt see the Holbrooke Hotel located at 212 W. Main Street. This is another historic hotel of America. The Holbrook was originally built in 1862 and at that time was given the name Exchange Hotel. The name reportedly was given due to it’s close proximity to the Gold Exchange. A couple by the name of Holbrooke purchased the hotel in 1879 and thus it’s current name as the Holbrooke Hotel. Although Mr. Holbrooke passed away in 1884, his wife Ellen operated the business until 1908.
The hotel building itself was fairly neglected through the 1900’s until interest arose in the 1970’s and a project started to restore the building and it’s former hotel rooms. This was completed and the Holbrooke opened in 1982. Rooms were added to the original hotel when the adjacent building was purchased. The Holbrooke Hotel during the 19th century was visited by many prominent figures of the era such as Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, Bret Harte, James Garfield and others. The Holbrooke Hotel is an excellent place to stay while visiting Grass Valley and it also features a very good restaurant. Grass Valley California is located about 4 miles southwest of Nevada City on Hwy 49/20.
Our next historic hotel of America is far from the California gold country. The Driskill Hotel located in downtown Austin Texas at 604 Brazos Street is arguably the most famous hotel in the state. The Driskill was built in 1886 and is well known for it’s beautiful architecture. The hotel was built by Jesse Driskill, a very wealthy Texas cattleman who set out to construct the best hotel south of St. Louis. The tale that goes along with the Driskill is that due to economics, Jesse had to close the hotel just after one year and reportedly lost the hotel shortly afterwards in a poker game. At least that’s the story handed down. After that, the Driskill went through many different ownerships but remained ab absolute gem of a hotel. The Driskill was also used at one time in the 1880”s as the Texas state capital while the current capital building was being constructed.
Today, the Driskill Hotel is one of Austin’s premiere hotels as well as an historic landmark. The Driskill was made a National Historic Landmark in 1969. The hotel is the venue of many Austin events. Early in his career, former President Lyndon B. Johnson used the Driskill as his headquarters during his campaigns for Congress. When you visit Austin Texas and see the Driskill Hotel be sure to go inside because the interior is absolutely stunning, especially the large staircase from the lower lobby. Both the exterior and interior of this famous hotel exude 19th century elegance.
There are a great many historic hotels all around the U.S. and many if not most are still in operation with their original name. Most are on either state or national historic registers or both. We will be featuring more historic hotels of America in future articles on Trips Into History. I hope you have an opportunity to visit one of these excellent hotels.