Archive for the ‘Historic Hotel’ Category

Once you see my photo of the renowned Hot Brown Sandwich at the historic Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY you will know why we HAD to stop here for lunch en route to Cincinnati. Does the word NOM come to mind? nom!

Hot Brown at The Brown Hotel Louisville KY

We were on a deadline to get to The American Sign Museum and had but a scant few minutes to race through the Brown Hotel, and did a quick race around to snap some photos.But in that short time we knew that this was a place we’d love to stay, so on the map it goes!

Built in 1923, closed in 1971, restored and reopened in the early 1980’s, the Brown is on the National Register of Historic places.

Entering the empty lobby and hearing the disembodied sounds of piano music coming from an un-manned grand piano, we thought we perhaps had slipped back into a ghost-decade of the hotel’s historic past. AKA The Best Feeling Ever.

Lobby and Piano The Brown Hotel Louisville KY

The opulent two-story lobby has a hand-painted, coffered ceiling, Bottocino marble flooring, finely carved mahogany furnishings and Palladian-style windows. The Georgian-Revival style exterior is trimmed in stone and terra cotta. The Brown Hotel’s ornate hand-painted plaster relief ceilings, intricately carved railings, decorative crown molding, and other classic architectural details make her one of the finest hotels in the South.

Here’s Retro Roadhusband being tres elegante in one of the many pieces of period furniture in the lobby.

RetroRoadhusband in the Big Chair At The Brown Hotel Louisville KY

A big Thank You goes out to the swell lady behind the counter, who instead of chasing us meddling kids away, gave us brochures about the history of the hotel – and their famous sandwich – and encouraged us to check out some of the rooms on the floor above.

I loved the empty, yet still wallpapered booths that once held payphones. Young readers may not remember pay phones, or The New Yorker Cartoons that illustrate the wallpaper, but they’re both wonderful evidence of the history and longevity of the hotel.
Empty Pay Phone Booths The Brown Hotel Louisville KY

But enough about architecture, wallpaper and payphones, says Retro Roadhusband – let’s get one of those SANDWICHES!!!!
RetroRoadhusband Says Lets EAT! The Brown Hotel Louisville KY

(You can see additional of the great details of The Brown Hotel here at the Photo Gallery link on their website, which includes a number of 360 Virtual Tours.)

Thanks to the great folks at the Roadfood.com “Where Should I Eat?” forum, we knew that the Hot Brown was a not miss delicacy on our breakneck trek through Louisville.

Butter + heavy cream + Romano cheese + roasted turkey breast + bacon + omatoes + texas toast +salt & pepper = NOM!

Hot Brown at The Brown Hotel Louisville KY

(This totally reminds me of a little something my dear, great-aunt Agga would assemble in her small apartment kitchen when I’d come over to help her organize her stuff. Wonderful memory and wonderful tasty food.)

Here’s the history of this treat From The Brown Hotel’s description of their signature sandwich:

In the 1920’s, The Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dance. In the wee hours of the morning, the guests would grow tired of dancing and retire to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Diners were growing rapidly bored with the traditional ham and eggs, so Chef Fred Schmidt set out to create something new to tempt his guests’ palates. His unique creation was an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce.

The sandwich was rich and delicious, and while we tried to be healthy/frugal and ordered one to share (along with a salad) I totally wish we had indulged and gotten one for each of us. The Brown gives the recipe for this Hot Brown delicacy on their website, so once the weather cools, we may try to recreate them at home.

While this was too short of a visit to truly absorb the wonderfulness of The Brown Hotel and their killer lunch, hopefully we’ve shown you enough to encorage you to visit when you’re in Louisville yourself!

Brown Hotel & Famous Hot Brown Sandwich
335 West Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 583-1234

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While w would have loved to stay at the posh Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, TN we did  scurry ourselves over there to witness the daily parade of ducks as they make their way to the fountain in the lobby, as they have every day since the 1930s!
Peabody Hotel BookThe place was an absolute madhouse of families and tourists all lined up on the red carpeted path from the penthouse elevator to the fountain, but it was fun to be part of this tradition. We managed to catch a quick glimpse of a duck butt or two as they waddled quickly to their aquatic destination, and I could not help but laugh at how quickly it was over. We did catch a glimpse of the elevator that takes the ducks from their penthouse suite to the lobby, and lo and behold, there’s an egg.

The Peabody Duck Egg Memphis TN

We decided to return to the Peabody later in the day when it wasn’t so crowded, and I’m glad I was able to get some shots of this glorious downtown hotel. As well as the ducks, up close and personal.

Here’s the beautiful centerpiece of the lobby, the Italian travertine marble fountain where the ducks swim daily:

Fountain at Peabody Hotel Memphis TN

And a closeup of the webfooted fiends and their little friends:

Peabody Ducks and Kids

So how did this tradition of the Peabody Duck March of the ducks start?

Funny enough it started with the General Manager returning from a hunting trip and thinking it would be funny to leave their live duck decoys in the fountain (much to the delight of guests). This tradition was given the added pomp and circumstance of the march when a bellman – who happened to be an ex-animal trainer for the circus was put in charge of the ducks. He trained the ducks to march (more like scurry) to the fountain to the strains of the Sousa King Cotton March and it has been a tradition at 11am and 5pm ever since.

This has also become a tradition at the Peabody hotels in Orlando and Little Rock.

Now onto the hotel!

The Peabody Hotel we see today was built in 1925, continuing the tradition and history of The Peabody hotel that had been on a different location in Memphis from 1869-1923. Built in an Italian Renaissance style it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Peabody Hotel Lobby

A destination in its heyday, The Peabody was famous for it’s rooftop “Skyway” venue – one of just three national locations for live radio broadcasts during the 1930s and 1940s.

Peabody Hotel Skyway Postcard ebay mikeleach

I may sound like a broken record when I remind readers of the dark times that many of these historic downtowns went through in the 1960s and 1970s, and Memphis was no exception. The Peabody closed down in 1975 but then was luckily saved and restored, to once again serve the public in 1981.The reopening of The Peabody is considered by many to have been a major inspiration for the downtown revitalization that continues to this day in Memphis.

One of the many interesting thing to note about the Peabody is that it has 13 floors – not a particularly lucky number to many. Because superstition is so strong about this number in many hotels, the Peabody has replaced the number 13 in their elevators with the letter S – for Skyway. Bad luck avoided!

House Phone

So if you’re in the mood for some silly swimmers or a swanky swig at the Grand Lobby Bar (named by Esquire as a Top Ten Best Watering Hole in America) waddle on over to the Peabody!

The Peabody Hotel
49 Union Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 529-4000

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Summer’s officially here and I am so very excited for all of the fun we have planned – like our stay at the lovingly restored 1950s Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, NJ. There’s us, in line for a hot dog, in this vintage photo from the Caribbean, courtesy of our pals at RetroStockPix.com.

Caribbean Motel Wildwood NJ Vintage Photo Cookout RetroStockPix.com(don’t you just love my turban and sunglasses? Trying to keep a low profile, lest I get mobbed by fans!)


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Built in 1886 The Driskill is the oldest operating hotel in Austin – and rumored to be haunted! This is a first for us. We did not stay here (it’s ultra swanky) but we got to tour around a bit during South by Southwest this spring. Come on along and we’ll show you what we saw!
Driskill Hotel Austin TX


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Since today is our wedding anniversary (9 years!) I was reminiscing about ways we had celebrated this day in years past when it occurred to me to share one of the most fab ways – at the wonderfully cool Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, CA. We spent a glorious long weekend at this historic Hollywood hotel and will never forget it!

Chateau Marmont Entrance


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Built in 1923, beautifully renovated and reopened in 2009 after laying dormant for 40 years, we had the most elegant stay of our trip at the historic King Edward hotel in Jackson, MS (now called the Hilton Garden Inn.)



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Union Station in downtown Nashville TN is one of a handful of beautiful old train stations converted into hotel space (remember the Lackawanna Train Station Hotel in Scranton we went to a few months back?) Built in 1900 it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It’s quite a grand sight along popular Broadway in Downtown Music City USA.

Union Station Hotel Nashville TN Exterior
While RetroRoadhusband and I were not able to stay at Union Station the folks there were very gracious in letting me snap a few photos, and gave me some brochures detailing the amenities of this luxury Wyndham Grand Hotel (also one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s designated Historic Hotels). You can tell the scale of the architecture by just looking at how dwarfed RetroRoadhusband is when compared to the fireplace and clock above!

Union Station Nashville TN Fireplace (more…)

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I find the “where are we going to sleep?” part of planning a retro road trip to be the least fun part of all roadtrip preparation. While I want to champion the vintage retro and cool old places, some motels and hotels that opened with the best intentions years ago now just give me the willies!  You can see this by the small number of hotels and motels listed on the retroroadmaps- I’m very picky about where I stay, and even more concerned about recommending a place for others to spend the night.

Luckily we have a little bit of help with the Memory Motel department of American Road magazine to help us with some vintage motel suggestions.
Memory Motel American Road Magazine Rip Van Winkle Retro RoadmapAccording to the editors at American Road Magazine (which “celebrates our two-lane highways of yesteryear, and the joys of driving them today!)

Our Memory Motel department offers pleasant memories of days gone by and how you can recapture them. Be sure your car keys are close by because you might discover a little slice of heaven just around the bend!

I’m spending the evening looking at their list of Memory Motels which have been featured in the magazine over the years while I plan our rockin retro roadtrip to SXSW in Austin TX…we leave next week!

motelWish me luck! (and no judging me if we end up staying at chain hotels :-))

And if you have any tips or suggestions, please put them in the comments, I’m sure they’d help everyone who has to book a hotel / motel.

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Many of the people who came to the RetroRoadmap / Roadsidefans meet-up in Scranton told me that the tour we took of the historic Lackawanna Train Station – now a Radisson Hotel in Scranton, PA was a highlight of their visit. As this tour was my idea I was pleased that this was such a success, and recommend you stop by the Radisson if you’re ever in Scranton. It’s Beautiful!
Lackawanna Train Station Radisson Hotel FrontThe building itself was constructed in 1908 and while it did go through the decline that many historic rail stations have, I am  happy to report when a classic gem like this avoids the wrecking ball (see my post on Worcester’s Union Station as an example).

I cannot rave more about the prompt and professional service that I received from the staff at the Radisson in Scranton, from my first email exchange with General Manager Michael Kearney to the friendly, informed tour given by Front Office Manager Rae Lynn Barrett. I have recently planned a lot of events via email and have to say that these two definitely left a positive impression on me.

The hotel was in fine form as we arrived, serving an elegant brunch in the main hall with live accompaniment on a grand piano. While we were all technically looking forward to eating in the Glider Diner, each of us commented at one point that had we known the brunch would look and smell so delicious, we would rather eat here. RetroRoadhusband and I have put it on our map for a nice Sunday drive for sure.

Lackawanna Train Station Radisson Hotel Stained Glass InteriorThe stained glass roof above the main hall is reported to be Tiffany glass – and (horror of horrors) the reason that the middle sections are missing is that during a period of decline and closure of the property years ago, construction workers threw the furniture from the floors above THROUGH the wonderfully decorative glass ceiling!!! At least there are some sections left to admire.

When we met up with Rae Lynn I did not know what to expect from the “tour” and thought perhaps she’d just point to a few areas of interest and let us roam around. Our entire group was delighted when we realized we were getting a behind the scenes guided tour of the property, including trips to the old safe, wine bar and even the…MORGUE!

Yes, that’s right, the morgue.

With the blessings of management she guided us downstairs through the bowels of this old building, to a small room with an antique door…Lackawanna Train Station Radisson MORGUE Door

And behind that door…another door!
Lackawanna Train Station Radisson MORGUE!And behind that door….well it was just a small cement lined room. But still, how cool is that, a creepy ancient morgue, that you would never know existed unless you took the tour. Rae Lynn tells that when the property was still a train station they needed a place to store bodies that were waiting to be transferred onto trains that hadn’t arrived yet. The painted warning was added recently for effect :-)

We were then brought up to the 6th floor (added to the station in the 1920’s) to get a glimpse of one of their guest rooms, which was well appointed and nicely decorated. Taking a peek outside the window I was thrilled to see the famous Scranton Electric City sign in the near distance:

Scranton Electric City Sign from Lackawanna Train Station Radisson Hotel WindowRae Lynn knew many facts about the property and her pride in working in such a wonderfully historic property was in evidence. We too were caught up in her enthusiasm for the details she pointed out, such as the green tiled walls that now line the Trax bar, to the decorative marble surrounding the main hall and cozy wine bar.

I was feeling bad for not taking more photos but doing a little internet search I found a WONDERFUL 360 tour you can take, to show you some of what we viewed in real life:

Click here to check out the 360 tour of the Radisson Lackawanna Train Station Hotel

Even if you don’t arrange a private tour like we did, do yourself a favor and poke your head into the Radisson at the Lackawanna Station if ever you’re in Scranton. It’s a marvelous testament to the grandeur of the past, and a thumbs up to a company like the Radisson who are keeping this gem viable for hopefully the next 100 years!

Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel Scranton
700 Lackawanna Avenue
Scranton, PA 18503
(570) 342-8300

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I’m very excited to be putting together a get-together of  retro roadside fans, travelers, bikers, RVers, roadtrippers, bloggers, authors, photographers and more, and you’re invited! Glenn Wells of RoadsideFans.com and I are hosting a Retro Roadmap / Roadside Fans meet-up at the Glider Diner in Scranton PA on Sunday November 14 from 12-2.

If you like cool old vintage and retro places, mom and pop businesses and taking the scenic route, then please join us and meet some like minded folks, no experience necessary!


Glenn has hosted a number of get-togethers throughout the existence of Roadsidefans.com and since this one was almost in my neck of the woods I was excited to help plan this gathering of roadfans, diner enthusiasts and retro-roadtrippers. We’ll meet at the diner, get to know each other, eat hearty and tip heavy (paying for our own meals from the regular menu), share stories of the road and more.

I did a reconnoiter of the Scranton area a few weeks ago and will be posting in detail about some of the great finds I found in the North East Pennsylvania area. There are plenty of cool old places in NEPA worth checking out, heading to or from the meet-up, so why not make a day of it? I’ll be creating a Google Map to give an idea of what to see / do in the area but here are a few things on the short list for Retro Roadhusband and me:

*Just confirmed that the cool old architectural salvage mecca Olde Good Things – right next to the Glider diner – is open on Sundays!
Egypt meets Greece in Pennsylvania

* Old Forge PA is famous for its Trays and Cuts of pizza – Revello’s open on Sundays!

Gallia Flower Shop( This sweet shop is right across the street from Revello’s)

* The Circle Drive In Movie Theatre in Dickson City has its Flea Fair on Sunday mornings starting at 7am!
Circle Drive In Movie Theatre Sign

* Those looking for other diners in the area can scope out Chicks in Scranton and The Six East restaurant in Dickson City.
Diner At 6 East Restaurant - 1949 Mountain View(The 6 East Restaurant is built around a 1949 Mountain View)

* The old Lackawanna train station downtown has been converted into a Radisson…these interior photos look gorgeous!

radisson-scranton-lackawanna-train-station( Speaking of Lackawanna, we’re thinking of taking the Lackawanna county coal mine tour after the meet-up, come along! )

There’s also a Harry Houdini Museum, The Electric City Trolley Museum, The Steamtown National Historic Site, The Scranton Cultural Center and plenty of old neighborhoods in the area,  harboring great vintage storefronts and signage:

Polish Falcons Nest 128 Close up


Komensky's Market

Let me know if we can expect you so I can give a head count to the folks at the Glider as the event draws closer. I’ll also be posting about this on The Retro Roadmap Facebook Page and  The Retro Roadmap Twitter feed, so we could have a great turnout of fun and interesting folks, who are interested in cool old vintage places. Come along!

Retro Roadmap / Roadside Fans Meet-up
Sunday November 14 12-2pm

Glider Diner
890 Providence Rd
Scranton, PA 18508
(570) 343-8036

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