I’ve been busy working on the next book in my Baker City Brides series, set in historic Baker City located right along the Oregon Trail in Eastern Oregon.
The series begins in the early 1890s when Baker City was experiencing its second gold rush period. (The first came in the 1860s). Baker City was the geographic center for booming gold, copper, and silver mines. It became a center for trade and commerce and was the second city in the state to boast electricity and paved roads. In fact, it’s said Baker City almost became the capital of Oregon.
During the heyday of Baker City, new buildings and businesses were popping up all around. The town had earned the name “Queen City of the Mines.”
And one of those new buildings just happened to be a wonderfully luxurious hotel named Hotel Warshauer. Merchants Jake and Harry Warshauer opened the hotel in 1889. Built in an Italianate Victorian style, the building was designed by architect John Bennes and constructed using mined volcanic tuff from the region.
The hotel featured a four-story clock tower and a 200-foot corner cupola. Supposedly, the hotel cost $70,000 to build and included 80 guest rooms as well as seating for 200 in the elegant dining room.
A second-floor balcony overlooked the dining room’s marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and mahogany paneling. Presiding over it, was a beautiful stained glass ceiling (reportedly the largest in the Pacific Northwest) that allowed light to drift into the interior.
The Hotel Warshauer was innovative and ahead of its time. It offered electricity in every room along with hot and cold running water and bathrooms! The hotel also boasted the third elevator built west of the Mississippi River.
They even had a little gold tasseled cloth that hung in each room with a list of rules.
Rule #2: “Fires in rooms charged extra.” Presumably, this was the fire in a stove to warm the room, not setting the room ablaze.
Rule #6: “We will not be responsible for boots and shoes left in the hall. Guests desiring them blacked will please leave with the porter.” I love this one because in Corsets and Cuffs (book 3 in the series) the heroine leaves her shoes in the hall to be cleaned and polished, and they disappear. I wonder how many people had that happen back then?
The hotel was eventually purchased by the Geiser Family of the Bonanza Mine fame. They renamed the hotel the Geiser Grand Hotel, a name it carries to this day.
Baker City and the hotel did well through the 1920s, up until the depression. After that, the hotel began to lose business and fell into a state of disrepair. One highlight was the cast of Paint Your Wagon staying at the hotel when the movie was filmed in 1968. (The movie starred Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. Several fun tidbits about the filming of the movie and even a few costumes are on display at the Baker Heritage Museum.)
The hotel was closed in 1969, though. The exterior cracked, the interior sustained massive damage and decades later, the threat to tear it down was real.
In 1978, the Baker Historic District was added to the National Register of Historical Places, including the hotel. Attempts were made to preserve the hotel, but it wasn’t until Dwight and Barbara Sidway purchased the Geiser Grand Hotel in the early 1990s and poured millions into a restoration and renovation that brought the hotel back to life.
Today, guests can step inside the hotel and find that it looks much as it did back in its days of glory. The stained glass ceiling still floods the restaurant with light, and the opulence of days gone by prevails from the mahogany wood in the lobby to the chandeliers in the guest rooms.
To enter for a chance to win a digital copy of Crumpets and Cowpies, the first book in the Baker City Brides series, please post your answer to this question:
If you were traveling in the year 1890, what luxury item or amenity would you want to find in your hotel room?