What do a tee-pee, a school house, a lighthouse, a library, and train cars have in common? All across the country, properties such as those are being rehabilitated into unique inns. Properties that may have suffered a terrible fate are saved and shared with the public while making a profit! It certainly seems better than turning it into a static historic site museum, huh? Without further research, I am not able to verify a property’s historic integrity or if it meets the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation, but I still think it’s fascinating.
A friend’s parents recently visited the Grassy Creek Cabooses & Depot in Fancy Gap, VA, which has inspired me to look up similar places. The cabooses were transported to the site, so integrity can be questioned; however, check out the moving pictures on the site. If the owners of Grassy Creek had not bought these cabooses, then they’d probably be long gone! It turns out that you can rent a train car in many states. I’ve known about lighthouse inns, but none of the others.
Rehabilitating a school house into an inn seems like a very environmentally friendly idea. Many historic school houses face neglect and demolition because they are deemed to small to suit a district’s needs or not up to fire code. After all, there can only be a certain number of viable historic school house museums. School houses have rooms and probably enough space for a reception area. In similar fashion, many school houses are being converted to apartments or lofts. School houses are typically in a downtown setting, therefore nearby many tourist friendly activities. And historic school houses are typically beautiful and visible. Check out this one in Lava Hot Springs, ID and this one in Bisbee, AZ.
Lighthouses must be wonderful places to spend a few nights as well. After all, they’re small, solitary, on the water, romantic, gorgeous…and sadly out of use in the nautical world (the historic ones that is). Lighthouse inns are easy to find, but this one in California is beautiful.
The website, Unusual Hotels of the World, lists many in the United States (disclaimer: not all are historic) including a library in New York City, the Route 66 Wigwam Hotel, more lighthouses and more trains. And of course, you should check out the National Trust’s Historic Hotels of America.
In regards to all of these historic properties, mentioned and unmentioned: there is nothing more satisfying than seeing that property finds new use once it has fallen out of favor with its old use. We live in a society that needs to recycle buildings and sites and bring the past with us to the future. A misconception is that historic hotels or unique inns are much more expensive than the chain hotels, when in fact it is often not true. A solution? Branch out from your usual lodging on trips. Those privately owned motels are not necessarily better or worse than the chain hotels. And share the love – where have you stayed or where do you want to stay? Do your preservation tendencies influence your lodging choices? If not yet, do you want them to influence your decisions?