Wish You Were Here


It was a cool morning at the Orleans Hotel as I sat on the veranda and scribbled out a post card…”Hello!  Having a wonderful time!  Wish you were here.”

Once I wrote those few words that described my stay at this historic spot, I took in my surroundings and realized why that statement was true.  It was the kind of morning that highlighted the Republican River Valley beautifully. A much needed rain had blanketed the landscape and as a result everything seemed to come alive; the dusty window panes were washed clean, the trees appeared more vibrant, and a single rose even blossomed beneath the “For Sale” sign that loomed in the lobby window…


The Village of Orleans was eerily quiet; so quiet that I would close my eyes and force myself to search for sound. How rare and beautiful is that task?

I first fell in love with the Orleans Hotel a few years back. I was living in Los Angeles and stumbled upon the Nebraska Rural Living website. They highlighted a story about a brilliant hotel essentially untouched by time and it was accompanied by beautiful photos of a local photographer, Dan Christensen…

orleans exterior

orleans staircase

orleans dining

orleans room

It was amazing AND it was for sale. I called the listing agent at the time and got the details of the property. It seemed too good to be true but at the end of the day,  I wasn’t in the market to move back home to rural Nebraska.

It turns out that I DID move back to Nebraska. I also got to tour the Orleans Hotel. I met the owner and was immediately charmed by his affection for the property. I learned the story of this South Central Nebraska gem and couldn’t quite draw myself away from her mystique. As a result, I fell in love with this place. I began to photograph and write about the Orleans Hotel and sought to find a proper proprietor for the next chapter in her life.

For the past two years, I have blogged about the Orleans Hotel and I have helped the owner search for a buyer. I have made many trips down to Orleans to document the beauty and details of the space…

hotel sign3

hotel key and blotter

I have always been a brief visitor, never staying more than a few hours. Awhile ago, Glenn told me he was leaving for Colorado to visit his family, so I asked if I could officially be a guest. Glenn gave me the keys and I invited a close friend to share the experience.

I invited my friend, Betty of Nebraska Rural Living because I knew she would appreciate the Orleans Hotel in all her glory. I couldn’t think of a better travel companion. I also invited Betty’s son and his family to join us for dinner.  My goal was to highlight some of the amazing aspects of the hotel, take photos, write about the experience and hopefully find a future owner in the process.

Once I arrived to the Orleans Hotel, I went about adding a few details to create that boutique hotel vibe. I have always felt that with the proper branding and advertising, this hotel could be a goldmine! I wanted my guests to be greeted with same flair and ambiance that would await them at a five star hotel. I took over the check-in desk and began setting up a cheese and charcuterie tray that I made out of local reclaimed barn wood…

cheese tray4

I created soy candles that had a custom label as well as a scent exclusive to the Orleans Hotel. I thought notes of oak wood floors, leather key tags and prairie winds would be a fitting fragrance…

candle hotel4

Simple sprigs of freshly cut lavender accented the rustic theme of the tray…


Small bell jars housed the cheese and charcuterie selections with personalized labels…





When Betty and her family arrived they were encouraged to nosh, have some wine, and tour the hotel. While they were enjoying the details of the space, I was putting the finishing touches on the dinner and slightly stressing since it had been awhile since I had made a bearnaise  sauce…


The menu highlighted some of my favorite dishes and it was a great opportunity to utilize so many local resources such as Schwartz Farm’s organic lettuce, Star Beef tenderloin, Flatwater Creamery goat cheese, and my County Seat lemon and ginger ice cream sandwiches…

plate setting


The charming dining hall in the hotel was where I set the stage for our dinner.  For the dinner decor, I used nothing but the hotel’s charming table clothes, some barn wood for a centerpiece tray and assorted clear glass containers for votives…




Without doubt, the honored guest at the table was definitely the china that is original to the hotel.

dish and fork


We retired to the veranda for dessert. It was the kind of rural Nebraska evening that makes this part of the world exotic; moths fluttered around the soft glow of the street lamps, an occasional vintage pick-up truck sputtered down Main Street, a train rumbled down the tracks in the distance. The red “HOTEL” neon sign began to pierce the summer sky…

hotel sign2

We conversed about our overnight stay to come and the unbelievable charm of this historic hotel.

It was one of those incredible evenings in rural Nebraska.  I’m glad I took notes!

FYI: The Orleans Hotel is still seeking a new proprietor.  The possibilities are endless!

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Scott Rager

Robert Scott Rager is a writer, designer, entrepreneur and blogger living in south central Nebraska. You can read more of his work on his blog, County Seat Living (http://countyseatliving.blogspot.com/).


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    This paragraph is actually a pleasant one it assists new web people, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

  2. Joy Richter October 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm -

    BTW, Roger’s ideas and photography bring a fresh and interesting aspect to this blog.

  3. Joy Richter October 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm -

    Great story. I think it would be a privilege to own the Orleans Hotel. Your photos captured the essence, ambience, and soul of the hotel’s history.

  4. John Dunlay October 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm -

    Thank you for the report on the Orleans Hotel. I know it well from my many visits to Orleans as a child, and hope you find a buyer and a new path to its renewed prosperity. My great, great grand parents settled in the village in the 1880’s when they immigrated from Ontario. Have you visited the Orleans Historical Society Museum? If you do ask about the Dunlay Brothers’ Rail Road Construction Co. They kept their wives and children in Orleans as they build the narrow guage rail road grades through norhtern Nebraska, eastern Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. I have about 100 photos from 1895 of their work, crews and equipment.. It’s an interesting story. I’m a classmate of you FaceBook friend, Linda Swam. will be in Kearney in a couple of weeks and plan to see her.
    John Dunlay, Madrid Spain.

  5. LuAnn September 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm -

    I’ve visited quite a few towns across Nebraska and have seen plenty of old hotels that have so much character that have been left to ruin. I hope someone purchases the hotel and shares its ambiance.

    Like the china, too! So pretty!

  6. Leslie September 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm -

    What a great place to visit. Everything looked almost untouched by a lot of technology and pretty traditional. The photos were great, thanks for sharing.

    • Betty Sayers October 10, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      Thank you for writing and observing, Leslie. thanks for liking the photos. What more can we do to your liking? betty

  7. Bill Poppert September 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm -

    I lived in Orleans 60 years ago. We would eat at the hotel from time to time. We lived in the basement of the hospital, which was just across and down the street a little way. I am so glad to see it is still elegant and beautiful. I do hope a new owner will be found that can appreciated this great hotel.
    God bless,
    Bill Poppert

  8. betty sayers August 27, 2013 at 10:25 pm -

    We will remember the dramatic setting, our rich conversation, superb steak with Bernaise sauce , the fresh salad, lemon ginger icecream sandwiches, the lovely evening. Thank you Orleans Hotel and Glenn for saving it and maintaining it. Thank you Scott for finding the soul and spirit of the historic hotel and sharing your discovery with the world.

  9. Jann Clark August 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm -

    My folks lived in Alma for many years and when I went to visit I would always travel trhough Orleans and never realized that this existed. What a beautiful hotel and yes the drive through there is one that you have to take to see the wonders all 4 seasons. Thank you for taking an interest in this small spot of our state and putting it out there for people to enjoy. An evening there is a blessing to enjoy.

    • Scott Rager August 27, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      Hello Jann! Thanks for reading the Nebraska Rural Living blog and sharing your story of rural Nebraska. If you know of anyone looking to become a proprietor of this amazing space, let us know!

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