Jane Porter: Historic Hotels of the West

TheTycoon'sKiss-SMALLI am a history buff with a weakness for historic buildings, and in particular, historic hotels.

My dad, a history and political science professor, passed his love of history to his kids and years after studying American Lit & History at UCLA, I went back and got a teaching credential so I could teach English and Social Studies to junior high and high school students.

Whenever I travel, I try to stay in one of the oldest hotels in a town, or one of those fascinating historic buildings that have been turned into a hotel today, preserving a bit of the past while making the building relevant for today’s generation.

Hubert Howe Bancroft’s Historical Library ( 1883) was my inspiration for Marietta’s Library

In my Taming of the Sheenan series, my hero and heroine in The Tycoon’s Kiss, are both preservationists. Troy Sheenan, a hi-tech tycoon in the Silicon Valley, never forgot his roots in Marietta, Montana and has bought the turn of the century Graff Hotel and restored it to its former glory after the hotel had been abandoned for twenty plus years. Renovating the Graff has nearly bankrupt him, but he had to do it because the hotel was too big a part of Montana history to let it be demolished. Fortunately, he meets the new Marietta librarian, Taylor, who is equally passionate about Montana history, including the town’s 19th century library and my tycoon and book girl fall in love with each other in part because they both love Montana’s rugged history.

The Grand Union Hotel in Montana which was the inspiration for my Graff


ACMFD-MEDIUMThinking back, I could have happily written an entire story just about American Frontier buildings, except I don’t think my romance readers would have been happy with me f I’d left out people and romance completely.

I’ve used Marietta’s Graff Hotel as a setting many of my Sheenan Brothers stories, but it plays a central role in my brand new release, A Christmas Miracle for Daisy.

In A Christmas Miracle for Daisy, single dad, Cormac Sheenan, and his four-year-old daughter Daisy are living at the Graff during the holidays while their Paradise Valley log cabin style home is being remodeled to make it ‘child-safe’. Cormac isn’t big on Christmas and festivities and Marietta has become Christmas town, with the handsome old Graff featuring daily visits with Santa Claus.

Santa from 1900

My new Christmas story is a riff on Miracle on 34th Street, and so I don’t need to tell you the challenges everyone faces. Cormac is a non-Kris “Krinkles” believer, while Daisy knows without a doubt that Kris is the real thing. Santa needs to pull off a miracle but its not easy without magic and faith.

I loved using the Graff for a Christmas setting because I could fill the dark paneled lobby with a soaring fir tree, and put garland and red ribbons above doorways and add weekend holiday teas to the hotel’s restaurant menu. I also added another historic building to my Marietta, Montana collection with the addition of the turn of the century “Crookshank Department Store”, a big brick building on Marietta’s Main Street.   I’m also sharing a couple Pinterest links to boards featuring Marietta decked out for Christmas, along with the great turn of the century buildings I love so much:




Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.17.44 AM
This interior bar from the Montana Hotel in Anaconda, MT found its way into my Graff Hotel in fictional Marietta, MT

As you can tell, when researching, I spend considerable hours pouring over histories and pictures of my favorite old hotels of the West so I thought I’d share some of my favorite recommendations with you. I’ve been able to stay at each of these places, too, and am including a link so you can visit, either in person or as an armchair traveler…which sometimes can be the best way to travel!

Five of Jane’s Favorite Historic Hotels of the West

  1. The Grand Union Hotel – Fort Benton



The historic Grand Union Hotel was opened in 1882, seven years before Montana became a state.   However, within a year two new railroads opened—the Northern Pacific and the Canadian Pacific Railroad to Calgary—and overnight the hotel and town declined.   Just two years after it was opened, the bankrupt hotel sold at a “sheriff’s auction” for $10,000. The hotel struggled on through the 20th Century, before closing in the 1980’s and then undergoing a multi-million remodel over a period of years before reopening in 1999, making the Grand Union Montana’s oldest operating hotel.

  1. The Davenport Hotel – Spokane, WA



Spokane’s 1914 Davenport Hotel is one of my favorite hotels in the West. It was built to be a destination spot where guests could escape from the noise and chaos of the outside world for the Davenport’s elegance and refinement. The hotel was nearly demolished in 2002 but saved at the last minute for an extensive renovation that has once again made the Davenport the place to go west of the Cascades.

  1. The Oxford Hotel – Denver, CO


Opened to the public in 1891, the Oxford Hotel was built by Colorado brewer

Adolph Zang with the newest technology, and stunning grandeur with oak furnishings, silver chandeliers and frescoed walls. The newest technology meant that all guest rooms had rare creature comforts: steam heating, electric and gas lighting and bathrooms with separate water closets.   The hotel was updated a number of times over the next seventy-five years, but restored to its former glory in the 1980’s to the tune of $12 million.

  1. The Browns Palace Hotel – Denver, CO



Browns Palace Hotel is the second oldest hotel in Denver, opened just one year after the Oxford Hotel and name for its owner, Henry Brown. The hotel was designed around an atrium—one of the features I love best about this hotel—and features a gorgeous afternoon tea (my favorite thing to do when traveling…).

  1. The Sacajawea Hotel – Three Forks, MT


The historic Sacajawea dates back to 1910 and was renovated one hundred years later, after spending almost a decade boarded up. Unlike the big city sandstone and red brick hotels, this is a white painted beauty in a small, rural community thirty miles outside Bozeman. I’ve been here several times, if not to overnight, then for a fantastic steak dinner in the hotel’s handsome dining room.   I could write an entire blog about Three Forks, MT as it factors hugely in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as well as being a key stop on the Milwaukee Railroad.


(Plus one extra favorite from my childhood, The Wawona Hotel outside Yosemite, near the Mariposa Grove, a station stop in 1856 with rustic accomodations that were replaced in 1879 with the 25 room hotel. Just 90 minutes from my home in Visalia, the Wawona was a magical Victorian period two-story hotel with lots of crisp white paint and picturesque verandas overlooking the lawn. I could picture the horse drawn carriages at the turn of the century arriving with guests from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The hotel today has 104 guest rooms and has been operated by the Park Service since the 1930’s, and remains my first hotel love….with the Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite valley as a very close second! http://www.yosemitepark.com/wawona-hotel.aspx )

IMG_7686Do you enjoy staying in old hotels or visiting historic buildings?  Leave a comment for a chance to win this fun prize and I’ll be back to pick a winner on Sunday, the 6th of December!





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61 thoughts on “Jane Porter: Historic Hotels of the West”

  1. I love visiting historic buildings. I only had the chance to stay in a historic hotel one time and it was Hotel Galvez in Galveston. I hope to stay in more before I get too old to enjoy them.

  2. Hi Jane – I love old historic buildings! Whenever we travel to the national parks, seeing the old lodges is a favorite stop. You’ve hit two of mine in Yosemite, which holds a special place in my heart. The Davenport is very cool, so glad it was saved. I love the old Yellowstone Lodge, it’s quirky and rustic, with staircases that seem to end at the ceiling. So fun to explore!

  3. Yes I love the old buildings because of the character they have – we live in a converted One room school house that was rolled on logs pulled by teams of horses/mules to where it sits now! Origianl slate is on the wall in my bedroom!!

  4. I love old hotels. The Wagon a is a favorite and some day I will stay at the Ahwahnee. There’s the grand old hotel in Yellowstone too but one of my favorites is the Historic Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, NM.

  5. I just love these photos!!!! My hometown is in Indiana and we had a lovely old hotel, but it burned to the ground in the early 80’s..

  6. Jane, I love old hotels also. One of them is The Menger in San Antonio that was established in 1859 and sits adjacent to the Alamo. So many historical figures stayed there. I also love to stay in the Excelsior in Jefferson, Texas. Very old and creaky and full of history.

    I just love the covers of your books! They’re bright and colorful and The Tycoon’s Kiss is downright sexy. Wow! Wishing you much success.

  7. Hi Jane,
    A beautiful thoughtful post today! I love, your love of old hotels. I always drag dear hubby to the historic sites and buildings whenever we visit a new city. And I will be reading A Christmas Miracle for Daisy this holiday. I’ve already told you, it’s my favorite holiday cover! Really captures the spirit of Christmas!

  8. i love visiting historic buildings and hotels…haven’t been fortunate enough to stay in one…yet. i love the details and charm of older buildings, especially the doors!

  9. I share your love of old hotels and old buildings in general, Jane. My husband and I still laugh about the paper-thin walls of the Jamestown Hotel in the Gold Rush town of Jamestown, CA. There are certain sounds you’d rather not awaken to in the middle of the night. 😉

    And the Wawona is a joy! We spent an Easter there and loved every minute.

    You may not know this but there is a fabulous New Year’s Eve gala taking place at the Graff this year. I just “booked” it.

  10. Yes, I do enjoy visiting historic places/ hotels. I will have to check out the Davenport Hotel next time I am in WA visiting my sister.

  11. what a interesting post,yes I love to visit historical sites and places,i was always a good history student when in school,,really enjoye the post,thanks for sharing with us

  12. for some reason my post didn’t show,so ill try again,,very interesting post ,,enjoyed reading it,,i love any historical site or antique,been a passion of mine for a long time

  13. Hi Jane, wow, what a cool blog! I too adore visiting historic places. One of my favorites is the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. It’s haunted, too LOL. People have seen Richard King there, the founder of the legendary King ranch, and several others. Yowzers! One of the best non-haunted places we ever stayed is the Concord Colonial Inn, in Concord MA. We ate in the tavern where Sam Adams and the other patriots plotted the Revolution!

  14. I love the pictures. I have visited many old historic building and homes but I can’t say I’ve stayed overnight in one but would love to.

  15. I too love the old hotels and stay in them when we travel. Add these to your list Jane. The National Hotel in Nevada City. http://www.thenationalhotel.com/
    McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale OR. http://www.mcmenamins.com/mobile/search/locations/results/browse?page=1&per_page=1&search_query=Edgefield
    And The DeAnza in downtown San Jose, Ca. My parents we part of the restoration investors that returned the old gal to her former glory.
    Just finished another one of your excellent books. Loved it. As always! Ana

  16. My favorite has been the Stevensville Hotel in Stevensville, Montana. Very quaint and such nice owners. I have a picture but haven’t been able to get it to post on here. I believe it was built in 1910.

  17. Growing up in the South, I love all the old architecture and buildings. I can’t wait to explore more!

  18. Jane, Love this post so much. I love learning the history behind old hotels and buildings. I love the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, when I lived there, I used to walk the grounds almost daily, they had beautiful walking trails. The only old hotel I have ever stayed in is French Lick, which is in SO Indiana, I loved the history behind that hotel and West Baden that I took the history tours and bought home several books on the history.

  19. What a great post Jane! I love historic hotels and older buildings as well. One hotel not too far from where I live is The Jefferson in Jefferson Texas. It’s supposedly haunted and my twin daughters wanted to spend their 18th birthday there. So we did, along with a couple of their friends. It was fun – the girls had a blast trying to find the ghosts and I loved exploring the beautiful building.

  20. I enjoy visiting historic towns with old buildings and hotels. These places have charm and are so fascinating.

  21. Exploring historic hotels is extremely interesting and gives me insight into another era. These types of trips are my favorite.

  22. The photos are captivating. History interests me and more than anything the history behind the hotels and buildings which are treasures.

  23. I love visiting historical buildings. I have went through a few that is in a town near where I live and I really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing the photos with us.

  24. love visiting Historical Bldgs. I love when each room is done up with the furnishings of the past and that era.

  25. Hi Jane,
    Thanks for sharing all of that with us about your memories! I do love visiting old and historical buildings myself. I just love feeling the history of them as I walk around. I’ve never been able to stay in one of the hotels though, but maybe I can someday. ?

  26. I love touring historic villages and buildings. I find myself imagining those whose steps came before me and what their lives were like.

  27. My plan for when my children are grown, in 5 or 6 years, is to travel around the US and stay in historic sites. I’ve already started planning, lol. My son who’s 18, but has an autism disorder and is in 11th grade, wants to go too. I’ll take him with me. More fun with one you love. 🙂

  28. I love historical buildings, too! Always sad to see them abandoned.

    If you’re ever in Baltimore, you should stay at the Hotel Brexton. My friend Bob manages it. It was once a residence hotel and the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, lived there as a child. It’s in the heart of the Mount Vernon arts district with lots of things to do. It’s been restored. Its architecture is beautiful.

  29. So precious few of historic buildings have been saved and restored, I love the creak of their wooden floors and stairs, the musty smell in corners from antique wallpaper. The faucets and fixtures, the grand porches on some of the older hotels. Such delightful adventures.

  30. These photos and descriptions are incredible!! I shared them with my so who is a senior in high school and plans to study history and archaeology.. We are fascinated!! Thank you for sharing and for writing such awesome books!!!! Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

  31. Thank you for a wonderful post. My husband and I travel as much as we can and history and natural wonders are our main focus. Old buildings are such treasures. Visiting restored homes and other buildings is almost always a part of any trip. The details and craftsmanship found in the old structures is so hard to find in newer buildings. We traveled through Montana almost 3 years ago showing our grandson the West. We actually stayed in the Sacajawea Hotel. We didn’t eat in the elegant dining room that night but rather downstairs for a more casual meal with a live band. Much more appropriate for a 15 year old. If we ever get up that way again, we will be able to take the time to savor the experience and a good steak. While in the area, we visited the historic state prison in Deer Lodge and the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site and the Lewis and Clark Caverns.
    In Glacier National Park, the old lodges were a delight. Maybe we will be able to stay in one if we go back. The history of the old park lodges like those and the ones at Yellowstone is was interesting as the natural beauty that surrounds them.
    When my husband retired from the Air Force, we settled in the oldest town in Tennessee partly because they have done a wonderful job of preserving the historic Main Street. They have tours of some of the homes at special times of the year and it is always fascinating to see how people have fixed them up. We bought an 1898 victorian farm house about 10 miles outside town. It was really in bad shape when we got it, but the basic structure was sound. 23 years later we still aren’t done with the renovation projects.
    Thanks for giving me more ideas for places to visit and stay.

  32. I’ve only stayed in a couple of old hotels:

    Hilton Garden Inn Milwaukee, Wisconsin located in the historic Loyalty Insurance Company Building The atrium is gorgeous, the stairway too.

    This past summer we enjoyed our stay at Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim. The views from the dining room, living room and terrace are breathtaking!

    My best friend from HS had her wedding reception at the Victorian Pfister Hotel which was built in 1893. http://www.thepfisterhotel.com/

    Finally , I’ve stayed at The Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin campus.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Union_%28Wisconsin%29 Gorgeous views of Lake Mendota from THE TERRACE. It has a German Rathskellar beerhall, and a place to buy Babcock Dairy ice cream.

    It was built in 1928

  33. I’ve just added so many more old buildings and hotels to my list of places to visit. Thank so much to all of you for the great suggestions and also for showing such great support and stopping by to chat with me. Have a wonderful week!

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