Romy the Otter, Alexandra the Mermaid and I are making plans to stay at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California!
Mama Snail stayed there as a teenager with her family circa 1970, because Grandpa Snail, an engineer, knew the owner, construction magnate Alex Madonna. The Snail Family was appointed the España Room: Nothing like thick air blown plaster…As you can see, the Madonna Inn is the kingdom of kitsch. Founded in 1958, the exterior is all Swiss chalet, while each of the 110 rooms has a theme of its own–the Caveman Room, the Safari Room, the Highway Suite… There’s also the Gold Rush Dining Room, and a rock waterfall urinal in the men’s room!
All this got me thinking about the iconic status of hotels in the West. After all, what would a western road trip be without a night at a motor inn with a neon sign and a swimming pool?
If you’ve been following Snail’s Postcard Post for a while, you’ve seen this postcard a few times already because it’s one of my favorites. Yes, it’s a painting!
Mama Snail writes, “Heaven on earth. A Russian style lodge on the Mendocino coast, redwoods, a little logger’s cabin all our own, a tiny stove an outdoor shower, loft bed. Not even a phone.“
Vintage postcard of St. Orres:
“Our first stop was the Red Castle–cutest place,”Mama Snail wrote the summer of 2002. The owners have since retired and the inn is now closed. But you can see it up close and learn a little of its history in this short youtube video on the inn’s ghosts!Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, Colorado. Established 1892.
The Brown Palace is the second oldest hotel in Denver, and the second hotel in the country built to be fireproof. To quote the hotel’s website, “Every U.S. president has visited The Brown Palace since Teddy Roosevelt (1905), with the exception of Calvin Coolidge.” Among the hotel’s early guests was Denver crime boss Jefferson “Soapy” Smith, and Colorado’s own Unsinkable Molly Brown. The Beatles stayed at the Brown Palace in 1964, resulting in a swell in applications for hotel maids. Amangani resort, Jackson, Wyoming
This is the Big Dipper Swimming Pool, the largest pool in Nevada at the time. When it opened, the Stardust was also the largest casino in Nevada, the largest hotel in Vegas, and had the only first-run drive in theater on the Strip. The Stardust was demolished in 2007.
Speaking of Vegas hotels, I found these cool matchbooks at Grandma Snail’s:
Founded by mobster Bugsy Siegel in 1946, the still-running Flamingo was the filming location of the original Ocean’s Eleven. Hunter S. Thompson’s inspiration for the lurid hotel room scenes in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came from his stay here.
Opened in 1941, El Rancho Vegas was a hotel and casino on the Strip. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward married there in 1958. Stripper Candy Barr was headlining at El Rancho Vegas in 1959 when she was arrested by the FBI after her appeal on a marijuana conviction. The following year, 1960, Betty Grable was performing a late night show when the hotel caught fire. It was never rebuilt.
Now vacant, The Morrison Hotel was an SRO downtown. The security guard wouldn’t allow The Doors to shoot there, so they rushed in when he went on break. This webpage puts the famous album cover in context, with photos of The Morrison today, maps, and other photos from the Doors’ shoot.
Check back soon for postcards of Hotels of the East!