If your travel is confined to business, the “standard” hotels or chains suffice.
But, if you are traveling for leisure, historic hotels each offer a unique cultural and travel experience.
Particularly when traveling outside the United States, I favor historic hotels whenever possible because the hotel itself adds another level of experiencing the individual ambiance, past and present, of each country or city around the world.
“Historic Hotels of America (and Worldwide)” offers a directory and planning guide listing 300 hotels in America, including several south Texas hotels: Sam Houston Curio Collection and The Whitehall in Houston, as well as The Menger and La Mansion del Rio in San Antonio. Historic Hotels of America is affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has as a goal preserving “enduring moments in our national history” and “staying relevant by remaining timeless.” I’ve stayed in a number of the listed hotels, including The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., the Coronado near San Diego, Calif., and the Palmer in Chicago.
But many of my favorite historic hotels, including the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., The Breakers in Palm Beach, Hotel Galvez and Tremont House hotels, and the stunning (open summers only) Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich., are not affiliated with Historic Hotels of America. The fun summer after my college sophomore year, I worked in the Grand Hotel gift shop, living with other college students in the hotel rooms over the Grand’s Night Club!
My most favorite historic hotel anywhere is The Gage in the tiny far West Texas town of Marathon. The Gage is owned by Texas oilman J.P. Bryan, who founded a namesake Galveston museum on 21st Street for historic western artifacts and art. People who have stayed at the Gage Hotel speak of it, and star-filled night sky, and the restaurant with a kind of reverence. There is a “new” section with a pool, for those who like “modernity.” But the sections of the old, original Gage, which Bryan has lovingly preserved with “bath down the hall” features remains my all-time favorite.
In the lobby and everywhere, you can feel the soul of historic Texas that was. In the Gage’s White Buffalo bar, you can sometimes still catch a glimpse of an authentic Texas cowboy with dusty boots on a bar stool rung and hear the lonesome sound horns of the night train across the high desert.