restoration of the Geiser Grand Hotel in downtown Baker
City earned the Honor Award of Excellence from the National
Trust for Historic Preservation. Note the clock tower
that stands 110 feet above the sidewalk.
Oregon.com photo/Dan Shryock
Baker City, OR 97814
Grand Hotel provides restful escape, great food in Baker City
restored Eastern Oregon landmark captures community's deep sense of history
throughout Oregon and the nation proudly promote their historic districts.
Few, however, rekindle history as the people of Baker City do.
roots run deep, beginning with the Oregon Trail which provided a steady
stream of overland immigrants during the mid-1800s. The trail ran nearby
on its way north to La Grande and points beyond. With the Powder River
running through it, Baker City became an attractive jumping-off point.
The discovery of gold in 1861 made the Baker City one of the largest cities
in the newly formed state of Oregon.
this history is preserved through local and regional museums. For many,
the symbolic epicenter of this effort is the Geiser Grand Hotel, a painstakingly
restored 1889 Victorian hotel that served as the hub of a booming late
19th-Century Gold Rush city.
of saving the Geiser Grand belonged to Barbara Sidway, who bought the
building and in 1993 began the arduous $7 million, five-year process of
bringing the landmark back to life. Barbara says the community was initially
excited and hopeful yet skeptical about the project.
"That was understandable when you look at the formidable challenges we
faced and the years of reconstruction," says Barbara, who continues to
own and operate the hotel. "But as we opened the restaurant, then the
saloon, then the guestrooms and then the meeting facilities, the community
has come to embrace the Geiser Grand.
"Our mayor says that the best bet he ever lost was on us," she adds. "He
bet that Geiser couldn't be saved. Now he is perhaps our biggest champion."
Anyone who spends a night in the Geiser Grand or enjoys a meal there also
is likely to become a champion as well. It starts with a first step into
the Palm Court, the hotel's dining room and historic centerpiece.
With its meticulously constructed stained glass ceiling, indoor palm trees
and period furnishings, the room might easily serve as a movie set for
an 1890s period piece. The second-floor mezzanine adds the final touch
with its cast iron, wrought metal and Honduran mahogany.
Barbara is especially proud of the 23 1930s-era Italian chandeliers and
the 100 total crystal chandeliers adorning the hotel.
a Guest Can Expect
on the second floor may look down to the Palm Court
dining area (above). The stained glass ceiling (left)
is a unique Palm Court feature.
Oregon.com photos/Dan Shryock
The Geiser Grand offers 30 rooms and suites with many luxury amenities,
most notably the extremely comfortable beds.
are the usual hotel amenities - in-room TV/cable, telephone and data port,
A/C, VCR/movies. The Geiser Grand is notable because it allows pets.
there's the clash of past and present. Rooms are decorated with antiques
and crocheted coverlets, providing that turn-of-the-centry feel.
nothing antique about the bath areas, from the showers to the lighting.
Some rooms and suites feature Jacuzzi tubs. And don't forget those big,
Back in the
Palm Court, a creative menu provides guests selections ranging from pasta,
sandwiches and burgers to mesquite-smoked prime rib, steaks, halibut and
are four valuable notes:
- The Palm Court hosts a pasta bar on Wednesday nights. Select your ingredients
and type of pasta, then sit back and enjoy one of the best plates this
Italian has ever enjoyed.
an omelet bar on Saturday mornings. Much like the pasta bar, build your
favorite blend and let the fine chefs bring you the dish to start your
- The Geiser Grand features an extensive wine list concentrating on Oregon's
- Here's a personal tip straight from Barbara. Try the trout and eggs
for breakfast. It's unbelievably good.
Around While You're There
sure to wander the hotel and get a feel for the restoration effort. "Local
community leaders implored us to come to Baker City and save this jewel
of the historic district, which at the time was in imminent threat of
a wrecking ball and destined to become a parking lot," says Barbara, whose
previous restoration efforts include saving the Oddfellows Building in
historic downtown McMinnville.
"The largest problem we faced was the failure of the structural integrity
of the building, which happened as a result of decades of neglect and
ill-advised modernization and improvement attempts," she says. "Overcoming
this problem took two and a half years."
says the "fun part of the reconstruction" didn't begin the basic structural
issues were resolved. From that point on, the goal was to bring out the
hotel's original beauty. What couldn't be saved and restored was replicated
through research and analysis of historical documents and oral history.
Chapter Being Written
says there's more on the way. "We've
purchased the Baker Furniture building (next door) with 15,000 square feet,"
she says. "This will be a major expansion. We will break through the common
wall on the first floor to create a world-class conference facility that
will accommodate up to 500 people.
have a state-of-the-art audio-visual system. Exceptional banquet cuisine
and service will be the hallmarks of this wonderful space."
also include 10 more guest suites.
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