In the realm of popular attractions in the United States, it often should be said that the richest path to American history occurs often in the small, out-of-the-way towns that nobody ever really thinks about. In large cities, old buildings get torn down and rebuilt into large glass obelisks, neighborhoods expand into suburbs and preservation is a luxury. Out in the boonies, however, there are towns left intact, with elegant brick edifices which have been lovingly preserved and repurposed to house hotels, restaurants, boutiques and more. An American road trip is nothing without a stay in one these refined historic hotels.
Designed by the legendary West Texas architect, Henry C. Trost, Hotel Paisano opened in 1930 and retains the architectural features that are strongly associated with not only its original designer but also the style of the American Southwest, with Spanish Baroque elements, detailed tile work and art deco embellishments. The 1956 movie Giant, starring Rock Hudson, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor, is immortalized at the Hotel Paisano: the hotel played host to the esteemed actors during filming and now guests can even sleep in the Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor suites and visit the Giant Museum in the hotel. Other rooms at Hotel Paisano are comfortable and traditionally preserved, appointed with modern amenities. Guests can chill out in the lounge complete with a fireplace, piano and overstuffed chairs, and dine at the hotel’s restaurant, Jett’s Grill, famed for its giant burgers and margaritas. The gift shop is a one-stop souvenir treasure trove offering tons of Marfa-inspired clothing and tchochkes, beaded necklaces, woven rag trunks and woven sea grass baskets handcrafted by various artists.
There’s little else one can ask for when they stay at this historic 134-year-old hotel. Located in Virginia City, 30 minutes from Reno, a town that is most known for its wild west characters and historical sights owing to gold and silver mining. Built in the tradition of the American West, the Silver Queen Hotel offers hokey ghost tours, an in-house wedding chapel, an antique store and a massive wood-paneled saloon decked out with old west trinkets and a miner’s vibe. Guests at the hotel can enjoy 28 period restored rooms with tall ceilings and even claw-foot bathtubs.
The DeSoto House Hotel is the oldest hotel in Illinois, having opened in 1850. In that time, as one can imagine, it has been witness to some of the most momentous periods of American history. As the town of Galena became a major mining and trade center, the hotel became the principal social and political hub. The hotel threw a 2,000-person reception party when Ulysses S. Grant returned after having defeated the Confederacy, and years later, rooms 209 and 211 became the future-president’s campaign headquarters. The world of technology continued to evolve and adapt to the needs of the hotel’s everchanging inhabitants. Now it stands as one of the great landmarks of Galena, itself weaved into the very fabric of its rich history. Each of its 55 rooms are appointed with modernity and comfort, all housed in a Victorian building right on historic Main Street.
Reliably, there will always something to see in Medora, North Dakota. The Badlands are 110 desolate square miles of layered rock formations rising around the Interstate 94 with dusty canyons and patches of grass and eagles circling the unobstructed blue skies above. It’s even nicer in the winter: imagine miles and miles of silver mounds reaching into the abstract horizon. In town, there’s plenty of small-town charm with a Western flare and much dedicated to the preservation of its history of dinosaurs, ranchers and settlers with a "Cowboys and Indians" throughline. The Rough Riders Hotel is a throwback to that tradition – a historic, Western-themed hotel in the middle of downtown Medora that dates back to 1884. The hotel has been newly renovated, so it’s not nearly as rough as it sounds, and offers 68 modern guest rooms and eight historically appointed guest rooms. When visitor aren’t out exploring the badlands of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, they can kick back at the hotel’s Theodore’s Dining Room or TR’s Tavern.
Wine and mines may not be the most conventional combination, but it’s only natural in a place like Placerville and El Dorado County in California’s Gold Country. With a long, storied history in the California Gold Rush set against the backdrop of hills upon rolling hills of vineyards, the county is popular retreat for thirsty history-buffs. Its mining past and current gourmet sophistication culminates into the Cary House. Each room at this hotel is uniquely outfitted with antiques, in-room coffee and amenities by Bath & Body Works, which allows modern luxury in an old-world setting. Cary House is located next to Zia’s Cafe, the Courtyard Cafe, Highview Vineyards and is within walking distance to a ton of other restaurants, meaning it’s perfectly situated for those who just love trying new restaurants! In a novel feature, the hotel has reserved an entire floor for guests who are interested in sleeping next to ghosts, which is a good indication of just how long this building has been around, which, by the way, is since 1857.