History has never gone out of fashion at numerous lodgings throughout the Grand Central region. Careful efforts to restore and maintain unique motel and hotel properties is all the rage today, and overnight guests couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to sleep in one of them.
Whether your travelers are into safari huts, motor lodges or historic skyscrapers, there is a unique hotel in the Grand Central states to suit their taste.
Wagon Wheel Motel
The Wagon Wheel Motel, an Ozark sandstone motor court in the tiny town of Cuba, is an architectural gem from a bygone era. It still beckons weary travelers to pull off one of America’s most celebrated highways for the night. The colorful and now-famous neon sign looks like something your grandparents would have seen on their travels.
“The motel is 80 years old and one of the last properties that never closed along Route 66,” said Connie Echols, owner of the Wagon Wheel Motel, Café and Station, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
When Echols bought the place in 2009, it had fallen deeply into disrepair with outdated and dangerous electrical wiring and plumbing and floors that were rotten. “The owners were still renting rooms for $11 a night. There was an older couple that had run it for 40 years,” said Echols.
The exterior stonework was still in good shape, and the roof, with four old layers of shingles, was still in reasonable condition. The rooms were modernized, and some were combined into suites. Echols said it might have been easier and cheaper to have knocked down the place and built it new. But she loves what it represents today.
“It’s the nostalgia and something different. Older people like this stuff,” she said. “We get motorcoaches and car clubs. A Corvette club is coming in summer for a Christmas in July celebration. We had one group from Indiana book the entire place.”
To many, the most inviting area of the Wagon Wheel is out front under the trees, where people gather in sitting areas on comfortable furniture. With the 90th anniversary of Route 66 this year, there should be even more visitors happily stopping at the old place.
Inn at Price Tower
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of Price Tower, the impressive skyscraper of copper and concrete designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright as a corporate headquarters for an Oklahoma pipeline construction company.
“The 19-story tower was created as a multipurpose building, and it is just a little bit different today,” said Brittany Bush, the tower’s hotel and restaurant manager. “Originally, it was office, retail and apartments. Today, instead of apartments, we have the inn. The tower is also home to Copper Bar and Restaurant.”
The Inn at Price Tower has 19 guest rooms, including three of the original apartments that have been turned into two-story suites. People from around the world flock there to see a piece of Wright’s handiwork and to spend the night. That includes fans of architecture and museums and “the older crowd that loves to travel,” said Bush. “They are amazed and in awe of the place because this is the only skyscraper that Frank Lloyd Wright built.”
One of the hotel’s unique features is that every guest room has two full walls of windows with spectacular views of either downtown Bartlesville or, in another direction, the Oklahoma Plains.
The tower’s art museum offers different exhibits that switch out every three or four months. As an example, there was an exhibit by famed movie costume designer Edith Head. Currently, an exhibit called “Mid-Century to Modern: Dinnerware by Russell Wright and Heath Ceramics” is running.