The "Queen of the Mines"
Baker City’s Beacon, the Geiser Grand Hotel
Rolling up to the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City, Oregon, with the sun saying its final goodbye for the day, two thoughts tumble around in my head. The first being that the architecture — described as Italian Renaissance Revival — is truly gorgeous. So much so, it seems out of place in the wash of landscape that is Eastern Oregon. The second thought was that I wouldn’t let our mud-caked, stinking and disheveled vagabond group of misfits anywhere near its doors, let alone traipse our dirt clouds inside. And yet, the concierge greeted us with open arms and a large smile. He encouraged us to leave our bikes where they were for the night — illegally parked right in front of the doors no less — to be watched over by himself and the hotel’s staff. And then he invited us into the opulent Geiser Grand Hotel.
Originally opened in 1889, the Geiser Grand was regarded as the finest hotel between Salt Lake City and Portland. The “Queen of the Mines”, as it was once known, stood as a signifier of just how much gold there was in them thar hills. It even lay claim to having the third elevator built west of the Mississippi. Of course, the gold rush halted and, like many boom towns, some things went bust. The Geiser Grand closed its doors in 1968.
After an extensive restoration and internal renovation that saw suite sizes double and available rooms cut from 70 to 30, Barbara Sidway reopened the Geiser Grand in 1993. Her efforts were quickly recognized and the Geiser Grand received The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s coveted Honor Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation. Carved mahogany pillars vault towards the stained-glass ceiling of the Palm Court’s dining area. Overlooked by a second-floor wraparound balcony, each guest is treated to this view when leaving a suite. The decorations are ornate and period correct — silk damask accents, gilt mirrors and crystal chandeliers are featured throughout — with modern luxuries like televisions and coffee makers hidden as best they can be.
I tried to place my bags and gear down in a way that wouldn’t make too much of a mess. After a long day riding a motorcycle, it’s hard to judge a bed — a sidewalk can be comfortable — but a shower is a different story. The water pressure in my suite’s shower was second to none. It’s the simple things in life that sometimes make things more luxurious, and I’m not embarrassed to say I hung out in there a little longer than normal to blast every granule of dust from my body.
Downstairs at the adjoining 1889 Cafe, local craft brews line the draught taps and a well-stocked selection of bourbon and single malts tease discerning palates. We didn’t stick around for dinner, but breakfast before our morning departure was divine. You can’t go wrong with either the signature hash or the house eggs benny. Between cups of locally roasted coffee we asked Ms. Sidway about the rumors of the Geiser being haunted. She isn’t convinced. “We have a lot of fun with the rumor, as far as marketing goes, but my personal opinion is there aren’t any ghosts around here.” We also mentioned our discomfort with our collective state upon arrival. Ms. Sidway laughed and said never to worry. She’s hosted numerous riders exploring the wilds of Eastern Oregon before, including a couple from England who had shipped their bike to Baker and used the Geiser as a home base, and understands that even the scruffiest adventurer enjoys being spoiled now and again.