If things that go bump in the night interest you, a stay at one of these Grand Old Dames would be a haunting good time! Since around the turn of the century, these hotels have offered exceptional customer service to their guests; so much so that some have taken up permanent residence.
The Brown Palace Hotel – Denver, Colorado
The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado, has been serving guests every single day since August 12, 1892. Built by Henry Cordes Brown for the exorbitant amount of $1.6 million, the Brown Palace has hosted an array of presidents, celebrities, and even livestock on occasion.
Tours are available on Wednesday and Saturday, led by the hotel’s historian offering stories about the people and events that contributed to the landmark’s rich history. Private tours are also available by contacting the hotel’s sales office, themed tours (ghost or affairs of the heart) must be scheduled two weeks in advance.
A story concerning longtime resident, Mrs. Louise Crawford Hill has been removed from the tour. Her life and heartbreak were incorporated in the tour until the switchboard started receiving static ridden calls from her room, 904 which was at the time stripped of all contents for a renovation. When her story was eliminated, the calls stopped.
Other entities have decided to call the Brown Palace home, a quartet from the big band era has been seen in the once San Marco room, now Ellyngton’s – the main dining room and an old-fashioned train conductor strolls through the wall that held the railroad ticket office.
Renaissance Mayflower Hotel – Washington DC
The Mayflower Hotel dubbed the Grande Dame of Washington, D.C. opened her doors in 1925. Hosting its first inaugural ball for Calvin Coolidge in 1925, the Mayflower has been the venue for numerous state dinners and inaugural celebrations. Harry Truman called the hotel the “second best address in DC” using it as his residence for his first 90 days in office.
In 1990, undergoing renovations to undo the “modernization” efforts of previous owners, the Mayflower was returned to her original grandeur and class that distinguish our nation’s capital.
Her most famous permanent guest is believed to be Calvin Coolidge himself. Mourning his son’s premature death due to blood poisoning, President Coolidge did not attend the inaugural ball. Ever since 1937 when the inauguration date was changed to January 20, the Mayflower relives President Coolidge’s ball. The lights in the Grand Ballroom dim and flicker around 10:00 p.m. announcing the guests of honor and one elevator refuses to move from the eighth floor to the lobby until 10:15 p.m. when the President would have left his holding room to arrive at the ball. Hors d’oeuvres and wine have been found on the balcony although neither was served that day.
Another option for Washington DC, is the Hotel Monaco. Taking up and entire city block, this all-marble Old Dame is now known as one of the leading boutique hotels in our nation’s capitol. The classical design of the building sets the tone and the contemporary furnishings give it the edgy coolness to make it a must stay. The Monaco offers a nighttime companion and you don’t even have to spring for dinner; upon request a goldfish is delivered to your room – no feeding required, the staff handles all the care.
Moments away from Chinatown, the Shakespeare Theater, other “must-see” attractions in DC as well as a close Metrorail stop makes this the perfect place to park your car and take a stroll.
While the hotel is relatively new, the building has been in place for over a century. In 1842, the doors opened on the 1839 Tarriff Building, then served as a General Post Office during the Civil War. During the Civil War, all mail was picked up at the post office and it was common to see wives waiting for a word from their husbands at war. One such woman in civil war era attire has been spotted in the courtyard by one of the construction crewmembers working on the renovations for the Monaco. She stared longingly at the street waiting for something or someone, and then disappeared.
The Paris Ballroom holds its own secrets. Used as a Civil War surgical room, murmurs of doctors and nurses during surgery can be heard at times in the Hall and nurses have been spotted in the corridors as they hurry to their next patient.
Hotel Monteleone – New Orleans, Louisiana
Founded in 1866, the Monteleone has been in the family for four generations, one of the oldest family owned hotels in America. After its first renovation in 1903, it underwent two more until it was finally razed in 1954 and totally rebuilt to its current footprint. Throughout its illustrious past, many authors found it to be their home away from home in the Quarter. Authors such as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Truman Capote visited and loved the Monteleone so much, it was mentioned several places in American literature; so much so that the Friends of Libraries USA to designate it a Literary Landmark.
Housing the Carousel Bar, that actually revolves every fifteen minutes, ballrooms, cocktail lounges and a dozen or so permanent employees or guests, makes the Monteleone a ghost of a good time in New Orleans. The International Society of Paranormal Research found more than a dozen spirits, mostly employees; waiters, maintenance workers, and even one dubbed “Ms. Clean”, a maid ensuring the hotel is still kept to her standards being a fourth generation employee herself.
It was during the field visit conducted by ISPR that freed one spirit, a guest named Helen who had fallen during a stay and didn’t realize she was dead. Imagine her surprise when she didn’t get a bill!
Hotel Maison de Ville and the Audubon Cottages – New Orleans, Louisiana
Best known for Room number 9 where Tennessee Williams finished “A Streetcar Named Desire” and the Audubon Cottages where John James Audubon completed a portion of her Birds in America series. The Hotel Maison de Ville sits in the heart of the French Quarter and exemplifies what New Orleans is all about, having the first cocktail named the Sezerac, concocted by Antoine Amedee Peychaud of Peychaud Bitters on those very grounds. The hotel consists of the main building; four once slave quarters, used as garconnieres or bachelor quarters, and the seven Audubon Cottages on Dauphine Street.
Restored with attention to detail maintaining as much of the original historic buildings as possible, the Maison is a step back in time, especially for one roaming spirit. Over two decades ago was the first time anyone encountered “the soldier”, Jewel France, and employee of the hotel was showing a guest their room when she was asked, “Anyone ever tell you this place is haunted?” Ms. France looked in only to see a man dressed in a military uniform. With a chill and a quick shake, the spirit disappeared. Ms. France went on to say, “The solider doesn’t like the classical music played for guests in the room upon their arrival. “As soon as I leave, the ghost changes the radio to loud country music, I’ll go back and reset the radio but when I leave again, it changes back.”
The Don CeSar – St. Petersburg, Florida
While the Don CeSar might not have the most ghosts, it does have the most romantic story. Opening in 1928, the Pink Castle became so well known by its color and Mediterranean and Moorish architecture it became a reference point on Maritime charts.
Thomas Rowe, spent $1.2 million and went almost 300 percent over budget but completed this ten story, balcony and terrace lined resort. Frequented often by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clarence Darrow, Lou Gherig and Al Capone, the Don was deemed the hot spot in St. Petersburg. F. Scott Fitzgerald referred to the Don in many of his novels and used it as a place to dry dock his drunk wife Zelda.
It wasn’t until the depression hit, World War II broke out and Rowe died that the Pink Castle started its downfall. Failing to sign his will leaving his masterpiece to its loyal employees, the pink castle fell into the hands of his estranged wife. In less than three years, the Don lost its personality and ended up being sold to the US Army for a measly sum of $450,000. It was used as a convalescent center for battle fatigued WWII airmen. When the war was over, it turned into the regional Veterans Administration office to be eventually abandoned in 1967 when the VA couldn’t afford the repairs needed, even in its stripped down version.
1973 the Don reopened as a luxury resort after major renovations taking back its throne as the Pink Castle. Two more renovations and expansions have brought the Don CeSar back to its original splendor.
Thomas Rowe created the Don CeSar after he returned from studying in Europe, love struck and shunned by his Lucinda’s parents. For years his letters to her were returned unopened. His original lobby held a replica of the fountain where he used to meet his love. Although the fountain is no longer there, the employees tell of a couple who appear walking hand in hand in the hotel then disappearing.
Brown Palace by cliff1066 on Flickr, Mayflower by FredoAlvarez on Flickr, Hotel Monteleone by godutchbaby on Flickr, Hotel Maison de Ville by David Paul Ohme on Flickr, Don CeSar by Fabio – Miami on Flickr