My Kind of Hotel.
I really like elegant old hotels . . . with an emphasis on “elegant”. For example, several years ago, I was in Portland, Oregon, and spent a couple of nights at the Benson Hotel before taking the Empire Builder on it’s two-night trip to Chicago.
The Benson is my kind of hotel: old, yes, but comfortable, and beautifully preserved and maintained. And—this is a sure sign of a first-class property that’s been run the right way—with people on the staff who have been there for decades.
For instance, there’s a lounge just off the main lobby and on the day I was there, Bobby is in charge of the lounge—mixing drinks, serving lunch, bringing snacks and advising guests where to go and what to do in Portland. Bobby has been at the Benson for 31 years.
The Palmer House in Chicago is the same kind of property, although on a much larger scale. The original hotel opened in September of 1871, but burned down just 13 days later in the Great Chicago Fire. The owner, Potter Palmer, rebuilt the hotel with a $1.7 million dollar personal loan . . . a spectacular amount in those days. The hotel was rebuilt again in 1925 and, still spectacular, is now part of the Hilton chain.
Still, it’s hard to imagine any hotel anywhere that can match the beauty and elegance of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu. Built in the late 1920s, “the Royal” as it is known to the kamaaina families, has been a fixture on Waikiki Beach, lovingly preserved for four and five generations of visitors. Thirty-or-so years ago, the hotel management announced that they were considering repainting the hotel in a more subdued color. The uproar the followed ended all such radical thoughts and today the iconic, wonderful, regal, classy Royal Hawaiian Hotel remains uniquely and most definitely pink.