Some Grand Hotels In Old St. Paul

The Ryan Hotel (Wikimedia Commons)

When my mother was a college student in Minnesota back in the 1940s, one of the things she and her friends loved to do was to take a road trip into the city of St. Paul. I’m not sure which of the St. Paul MN hotels of that era were familiar to her but I’ve been learning about some of them as a way of visualizing what she might have seen and done there, as a young woman.

The Ryan Hotel was the first building to exceed six stories in height in downtown St. Paul when it was built in 1885 by Dennis Ryan. He was an Irish-born miner, only 28 years old in 1885, who had made his money as part owner of the Horn Silver Mine near Frisco, Utah. In the early 1880s he and the other owners sold the mine for six million dollars. So he had plenty of money to spare when building the hotel that bore his name. As you can see from the stereograph (this is a double image, as you probably know), it was a huge and magnificent building. Sadly, it was demolished in 1965.

The St. Paul Hotel (Wikimedia Commons)

Happily, the St. Paul Hotel at 350 Market Street remains to this day. Opened in 1910, it was designed by Reed and Stem, architects from New York who had also designed New York’s Grand Central Terminal. It featured a garden on the roof and grand restaurants and even had a ballroom. I would like to think that my mother and her friends might have come here for afternoon tea or perhaps even for a St. Paul Sandwich.

The St. Paul Sandwich is a local delicacy that reflected the Swedish and Irish heritage of the city’s original settlers, according to America Cooks (1949). The recipe is given there, as follows:


1 slice ham
1 slice onion
1 green pepper ring
1 small sweet pickle
1 egg, beaten
toast, lettuce, olives

Chop ham, onion, pepper, and pickle together, stir in egg, fry brown on both sides, serve on toast with lettuce and onion. The city of St. Paul was settled largely by Irish and Swedes, both of whom seem to have contributed to this combination sandwich. [America Cooks, 1949, pp 431-2]

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post; however, all the views and points are my own.


“Dennis Ryan, Miner and Capitalist of Old Time, Is Dead,” The Morning Leader, Dec. 24, 1917, p. 9.
St. Paul Hotel history at Historic Hotels

Gold Flecks and Karpet Squares

I guess I’m having a hard time imagining Desi Arnaz being so interested in some rubber carpet squares. So interested that his disembodied head – and Lucy’s, too – are floating above said rubber squares with facial expressions that convey Burning, Brooding Intensity.

But let’s pretend that he did, back in 1957 when this ad appeared. That he did care deeply about what was under the carpets at the Desi Arnaz Western Hills Hotel in Indio, California. Allen Industries made these fetchingly misspelled Karpet-Squares of the finest…um…rubber. And look, they were even tested by McCall’s Magazine. Sold!

I didn’t even know that Desi had had a hotel. According to the Kentucky New Era of March 30, 1957, it was “a multimillion-dollar hotel country club resort.” It was right next to the Indian Wells Country Club which was also owned by Desi.

Each of the 42 rooms had its own private bar, as well as “original paintings, gold fleck draperies and [a] private patio.” In the main dining room there was a sunken bar – very trendy – and a lot of the drinks recipes were Desi’s personal favorites.

All of this splendor cost Desi a million dollars. I don’t know how much of the budget went to Karpet-Squares, though.

Over at Flickr there is a great picture of the hotel in a 1958 ad for the National Lock Company. Lucy does not appear in this one, so I am not sure if she liked the golden doorknob featured in the ad. And here’s a postcard from the hotel, depicting with ladies on lounge chairs around a pool.

Never mind the fancy rubber carpet squares. I was sold as soon as I heard about those gold fleck draperies.

A De Luxe Mo-Tel Room

The word motel (or mo-tel, as it was originally written) is short for Motor Hotel, as you probably know – the motel was designed around the idea of car travel and the concept of being able to park your car right outside your room. The first one, the Milestone Mo-Tel, dates from 1925; you can read about it over here at Beach California, too.

This wonderful postcard is from the Park Mo-Tel in San Antonio, Texas. I am guessing that this dates from somewhere in the 1940s. Although I did have a night table and single bed with fake gold curlicues on them, not quite so De Luxe as these, though – and that was in the 60s. So it could be the 50s or 60s. Somewhere in there, anyway.

And speaking of De Luxe – check out that Bed De Luxe, as noted in the postcard caption. It may seem like an ordinary double bed – albeit with some curlicue trim that matches the bureau, the mirror and the wastebasket (very fancy!) – but it is, in fact, De Luxe. But why it is so, no one can say.

It just….is.

Other De Luxe elements of this mo-tel room include the swirly table legs (on your left), the pedestal sink and the snappy radiator in the corner. We had radiators just like that once in Boston and I enraged the landlord (who lived downstairs) when the Radiator Guy came to check them, because I hadn’t – done something, let the hot water out, or had not let it out, or something. Didn’t learn a thing from the Radiator Guy, did I?* I’d be avoiding the radiator in this room, anyway. Think I’ll just sit in the chair (just visible, a bit, in the right foreground) – and drink in the incredible De Luxe atmosphere.

*I may have told this hilarious anecdote before – have creeping sense of deja-blab. If so, please disregard, just like I seem to have disregarded the lecture I got on the Care and Feeding of Radiators way back when.

[The postcard image is from SA_Steve at Flickr.]

Not Just Delicious Meals

Greetings from the Jordan Inn in Monetta, South Carolina! According to Wikipedia, Monetta had a population of 220 according to the 2000 census. The Inn was on Highway 1, west of Monetta, and was run by John Jordan in the 1930s. According to a quick internet search, the postcard appears to date from 1939.

This looks like it was a lovely place to stay, but my favorite part of this old postcard is the charmingly boastful text on the back: the Jordan Inn not only has “Delicious Meals” but also has “Heat” and “Parking.” There is something quite charming about Heat and Parking being considered exciting attractions. As far as I could tell, the Inn no longer exists (at least, not as an inn) – which is too bad.

Apologies for the blurry text image – it was the best my scanner could manage (this one is from my collection, so my scanner was pressed into service).

How Jaws’ Grandma Spent Her Vacation

This is, of course, Jaws’ grandma summering on Nantucket in the summer of 1937, accepting the accolades of the crowd. She looks a little cranky. She might need a snack or a cup of tea. This is always good when that cranky feeling hits around the middle of the afternoon!

Would you believe that this was part of an elaborate hoax? How could it have possibly fooled anyone? That thing looks like it was part of a carnival midway. See here at Cabinet of Wonders and over at the Nantucket Historical Society’s Flickr page for more.

Postcard from the same, the NHA’s collection at Flickr.

Coffee and Banquettes

This place is a restaurant and just to make sure you realize this, the sign outside says “Restaurant Restaurant.” It’s twice as good as anywhere else in Dallas in the 1950s. In town or in the country!

And I especially love the banquette seating that wraps around that central pillar. I’ll have my cocktails there, please.

I’ll be having a Country Club, which according to my Jimmy of Ciro’s cocktail recipe book – from the 1930s – is made with 1 part French vermouth, 1 part Bacardi Rum and a teeny dash of Orange Curacao.

The Cowboy cocktail, which is also appropriate here at the Restaurant Restaurant, is made of 2 parts whisky to 1 part cream. That might be nice mixed with coffee, later on, since it is National Coffee Day. (Thank you so much to Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations for this info, otherwise I would have been swigging coffee all day not realizing that I was actually celebrating something as well as dosing myself with caffeine. I always like this kind of multi-tasking.)

So – scratch the Country Clubs and let’s have Irish Cowboy Coffees instead.

And thanks to coltera at Flickr for the fabulous postcard!