National Trust Historic Hotels of America Has
an Affinity for Animals
|WASHINGTON, D.C., April 26, 2005 - Think pet-friendly hotels are a
recent phenomena? Guess again. Some of America's oldest hotels have hosted
guests of all persuasions, from four-legged friends to songbirds and steers.
While many made their mark with a special appearance, others are beloved
residents or even valued employees.
Alligators with Attitude
For nearly 50 years in the early 1900s, live alligators graced the fountain of Palm Court at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Va. According to legend, travelers purchased the 'gators for pets while on vacation in Florida. The creatures accompanied them to Richmond and upon checking out, the owners decided to bestow them upon the hotel. The 'gators reputedly had a hankering for the finer things and bellmen would often find them reclining upon the hotel's luxurious lobby furniture.
Where's the Beef?
In keeping with a long-standing tradition, the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver showcased the 2005 Grand Champion Steer from the National Western Stock Show in its elegant lobby during afternoon tea. The tradition of livestock animals in the lobby of the Brown Palace Hotel dates back to 1945 when Dan Thornton, who later became governor of Colorado, sold two Hereford bulls for $50,000 each. A Life magazine photographer wanted to shoot the picture of them in the lobby of the Brown Palace, hence the animals were led into the hotel.
In 1998, as that year's champion left the hotel, he escaped from his handlers and ran down the street. Fortunately, his vanity got the better of him and was safely subdued when he stopped to admire himself in the window of a nearby office building.
The Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Wash., once featured live cattle auctions right in the hotel. Entitled "Ladies in the Lobby," the events were held during the 1980s. Memories linger however, and one group recently insisted upon a "no cattle" clause in their event contract due to an unfortunate bovine encounter some twenty years earlier.
A Horse is a Horse… of Course!
During a visit to the Music City in the 1940s, singing cowboy and cinema star Gene Autry checked into the elegant Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. Naturally, he was accompanied by his faithful companion and favorite co-star, his horse Champion. Photographs of Autry signing the hotel register show Champion by his side in the hotel's lobby.
The venerable Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans' famed French Quarter has graciously welcomed guests for more than a century. Some of the hotel's more memorable visitors were of the four-legged variety. Long-time employee Charlie Farrae still vividly recalls the day he reported to work and found two enormous Clydesdale horses in the middle of the hotel, shooting a commercial. William A. Monteleone, the hotel's owner, was a close personal friend of August Busch of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. The giant animals filled the hotel's lobby, but the Hotel Monteleone proved up to the task, its century-old marble floor never cracking under the horses' combined weight of nearly two tons!
The Little Hotel by the Sea, located at the Grande Colonial Hotel in
La Jolla, Calif., consisted of seven small guestrooms when it opened in
1925. After doubling in size, the hotel underwent a major remodeling effort
in 1939 which incorporated a beautiful six-passenger mahogany elevator,
making it "The Littlest Hotel in the World with an Elevator." The hotel
was owned by Helena Chase Johnson, a publisher and author of children's
stories. The Johnson brood included five children and two Shetland ponies
named Peanuts and Pardner. The ponies became popular residents of the seaside
village and were considered members of the family, participating in everything
from holidays and birthday parties to nightly dinners. The Johnson's planned
a grand celebration of the hotel's reopening in 1940 with a party in the
hotel's rooftop solarium, accessible only by the hotel's celebrated elevator.
As usual, Peanuts and Pardner were featured on the guest lists. Sadly,
repeated attempts to load the pair on the new elevator were unsuccessful
and the pair was relegated to the ground floor where they served as official
Guests entering the Admiral Fell Inn in Baltimore often remark on the unusual portrait of a Dalmatian dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte. The dog belonged to Admiral Fell and his wife, who literally found the pup on their doorstep. Ensconced in a basket, the puppy had a small chew toy clenched in its mouth. On closer inspection, the toy turned out to be a small figure of Napoleon. In addition to his favorite Emperor, which he was rarely seen without, the dog loved to chew bones of all shapes and sizes. This penchant earned him the nickname Chewy, short for his proper name, Chew A. Bonaparte.
The Williamsburg Inn in Williamsburg, Va., has found a four-legged friend that helps keep a gaggle of geese from destroying its manicured greens. Meg, a border collie, roams the hotel's three championship golf courses and engages in mind games with the geese. Instead of biting or growling at the birds, Meg needs only to "give them the eye." It seems that border collies have eyes similar to those of wolves and one look from Meg and the geese sense a predator on the premises. The geese simply fly away to "greener" pastures.
The Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston has truly gone to the dogs with their newest employee, a black Labrador named Catie Copley. In her role as the hotel's canine ambassador, Catie meets and greets guests, is available for walks and runs and serves as a community liaison. Catie was originally trained as a guide dog for the blind, but after developing cataracts, she was forced to change career paths. The concierge staff maintains Catie's appointment book and she is often spotting relaxing between jobs in her cozy dog bed or assisting the bell staff with room deliveries. Catie even has her own business cards and e-mail address.
A Bird in Hand
Visitors to the famed Biltmore in Coral Gables, Fla., are often overwhelmed by its beauty, but it is the hotel's fine feathered friends that bring music to their ears. Owners Robert and Enid Kay, who raise songbirds at their home in New York, felt that the lobby needed to be brought to life. Kay would occasionally bring the birds from his collection-the first "flight of the nightingales" took place in 1994 on American Airlines 757 from New York to Miami. Architect Barry Berg fashioned two nine-foot tall mahogany birdcages with porthole windows to house finches and nightingales. Observant guests will note that the cages' design is actually an inverted version of the chandeliers that hang in the lobby.
Each Christmas, the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, N.C., is festively decorated in a classic Twelve Days of Christmas theme. The tableaux's real draw isn't the partridge in a pear tree, but the two snow-white turtledoves named Bill and Coo. Throughout the holiday season, visitors "flock" to the inn to see the doves in their grand Georgian-style cage. Bell and Coo spend most of the year with their original owner, but enjoy VIP treatment while at the inn. The staff checks the doves frequently to maintain their well-being and even provide daily maid service.
In the late 1930s a rather disheveled feline wandered into The Algonquin
Hotel in New York, searching for food and shelter. The quintessential host,
owner Frank Case welcomed the furry traveler into the Algonquin and a tradition
was born of having a hotel cat (Matilda when the cat is female and Hamlet
when the cat is male). Matilda, the current resident cat, has the run of
the house. Each year Matilda is given a birthday party. In 2002, while
celebrating her seventh birthday with 150 of her closest friends, she jumped
on her cake and ran out of the room, leaving a trail of paw prints.
The Greyfield Inn on Cumberland, Ga., was originally built as a wedding
gift for Margaret Ricketson and was eventually inherited by Miss Lucy Ricketson
Ferguson and her husband. The eccentric pair shared a love of a nature
- and a few personality quirks. Miss Lucy never left the house without
her dagger strapped to her hip and her husband was frequently spotted roaming
the island dressed only in a loincloth. The couple cohabitated with an
eclectic array of pets, from a tapir, a distant cousin to the anteater,
which she eventually donated to the Washington Zoo, to an abandoned vulture
chick which considered Miss Lucy's black Labrador as its mother, to a muntjac,
a miniature deer. The latter must have held a special significance as it
was stuffed upon its demise and now sits atop a shelf in the inn's library.
A little bit of Scotland has made its way to the American Club in Kohler, Wis. A flock of Scottish blackface ewes have found a home on Whistling Straits, one of the resort's championship golf courses. The presence of more than 40 sheep enhances the course's look of timelessness and provides a view as memorable as any to be found in the Celtic countryside. As natural, low-maintenance grazers, the flock requires little more than the grass they feed upon and have long been used for landscape management and as four-legged fertilizers.
It has long been said that novelist Stephen King penned his horror classic The Shining at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo. Could the hotel have inspired yet another King classic? A short distance from the hotel sits a pet cemetery, a loving memorial created by one of the hotel's former general managers. While living on the property, a number of beloved family pets were interred, complete with personalized head stones. One can't help but wonder if the view from a guestroom window gave King inspiration for his horror tale Pet Cemetery.
Some Historic Hotels of America member hotels provide special packages and amenities for non-human guests. For a listing of more than 60 pet-friendly hotels, visit the Historic Hotels of America website.
Historic Hotels of America is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Historic Hotels has identified 219 hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and ambiance.
|Also See:||With Hotels Dating Back to the 17th-century, National Trust Historic Hotels of America Often Played Host to Presidents and Sometimes the President Leaves Behind an Interesting Tale / February 2004|
|Heavy Footsteps, Doors Slamming, Cool Drafts; Unexplained Occurrences at Historic Hotels of America Member Hotels / September 2004|