Home Hotel guest Two Design-Driven Hotel Restorations Paint Historic California Country Gold in Technicolor

Two Design-Driven Hotel Restorations Paint Historic California Country Gold in Technicolor


Two Wild West towns. Two historic hotels, both possibly haunted. And a great vision of Acme Hospitality Group to bring the history of these important places and spaces into the 21st century, while retaining their period atmosphere, even in the cocktails.

Just over 100 miles and a two-hour drive from the Bay Area are the small California towns of Grass Valley and Nevada City – thriving historic places that have more stories than their laid-back charm. ‘involved. But the feeling when you arrive in either city is that there’s a collective focus on maintaining the visual aesthetics of the past while bringing back the hotels, restaurants, shops and cultural activities to their fullest. in the present, with hipster cafes and New Age crystal shops. When planning a trip, you can easily make either city your base.

Grass Valley and Nevada City, just four miles to the north, were primarily mining towns first settled by European-Americans in the mid-19th century. At the heart of each was a hotel that housed not only the usual suspects – gold-digging miners – but also famous literary figures like Mark Twain and legendary performer and courtesan (AKA sex worker) Lola Montez.

When Sherry Villanueva, owner and managing partner of Acme Hospitality Group, decided to embark on the massive business of restoring these two hotels –Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley and The National Exchange Hotel in Nevada City, one of his wisest decisions was to hire designers who could bring these spaces to life for contemporary travelers, while retaining the unique language of each property’s past, often encoded in details of design such as wallpaper, lighting and construction of balconies. Interior designers Bri Ingram, Anne L’Esperance and Doug Washington brought it all home in three years, which seems like a long time until you look at the result, which is nothing short of genius.

Anthony Jones, managing director of the two properties, says that, for him, “The National Exchange is more feminine and Holbrooke Hotel is more masculine”. Indeed, there is a feeling of yin and yang as you enter each property. Holbrooke is all leather, brick, and taxidermy, and its rooms are minimalist and functional. The National Exchange is more about lush, saturated colors and ornate Victorian furniture, and every detail matters, from the William Morris-inspired wallpaper to the antique stained glass window in the original mahogany bar.

Jones is a walking encyclopedia of the history of both hotels, and he leads tours that include stories about the ghosts that are said to inhabit the hallways. Most fascinating to me was not a famous person, but a girl called “Beth” who allegedly died of mumps and still walks the halls of the National Exchange; he’s a friendly ghost that several staff members say they’ve encountered on a regular basis.

It goes without saying that the rooms are very comfortable. Both benefit from light from large windows, as well as all modern conveniences such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth speakers and in-room coffee and tea. Both hotels eschew the cookie-cutter approach to room design: each room is unique in terms of size, shape, and layout. The Holbrooke has a clean, crisp aesthetic, while The National Exchange has a more period-specific elegance and formality – neither cozy nor lavish, but nonetheless decadent as the Victorians were in private. Think Oscar Wilde’s lookbook.

Unsurprisingly, both also have excellent restaurants. And both are classic on their menus, with Holbrooke’s Golden Gate Saloon leaning more Mexican and The National Exchange’s Lola a bit more European. And the bars are worth visiting even if you’re not a hotel guest. At Holbrooke, I recommend the Oaxacan Negroni, with Xicaru mezcal, ancho reyes chile, campari and punt e mes, to pick up the Mexican theme, and The National’s Copper Queen is perfect for the backdrop with St. George’s gin and averna , tonic bitters with lime and mint. It’s really in the two bar settings that the original feeling – place in time – is brought into focus.

Whether you’re a history student or a weekend road warrior looking for an immersive escape, settle into one of these lovingly restored hostels and don a new persona inspired by the stories these places evoke – because, in fact, the walls make people talk.