Skeleton keys reveal charm of Orleans Hotel
Stepping back in time isn’t usually something you expect when checking into a hotel. However at the Orleans Hotel in the heart of the Republican River Valley, proprietors David and Marilyn Snodgrass are combining hospitality with nostalgia and the outcome is preparing them for a very bright future.
In a time when online travel sites can find you the best hotel rate in the click of a button, it’s comforting to know that a place still exists that continues to use skeleton keys for their guest rooms. If you even need one.
“We find most people don’t even ask for a key,” David said, polishing fine dust off one of the leather-pressed key tags.
The reasoning behind that might have something to do with the hotel’s location in rural Nebraska, but I expect it is more a direct result of the Snodgrass’ charm and customer service. Those inherent traits of caring for people seem to come naturally to a couple that have only been in the hotel business for a year.
Finding the perfect owner
In May 2014, the Snodgrasses purchased the historic building. It had been on the market for more than six years but had never found its rightful owner. Some perspective buyers thought the hotel was an undesirable property because of its age and location; David and Marilyn saw it in a different light. They considered it their calling.
“When we walked in we just knew this was where we needed to be,” Marilyn said. “It seemed like the perfect fit for us.”
Built in 1929, the Orleans Hotel has always been a staple just one block off the town square in Orleans, a charming community that at the time the hotel was built had the world’s largest creamery. Noted historian Alfred T. Andreas once described Orleans in his 1882 book, The History of the State of Nebraska, in the following manner, “Situated as it is, on the crest of a sloping wave-like terrace, and extending toward the river down this slope, a more pleasant location could not have been found.”
The landscape hasn’t changed much since that book was written and now the hotel is in service again, welcoming people to bask in the natural beauty. In a very short time, the Snodgrasses have single-handedly revitalized tourism in this section of Harlan County.
When David and Marilyn took over the hotel, it was in relatively good shape, due in large part to the fact that they were only the fourth owners of this nearly 86-year-old property. However, a building of this scale and age required much needed improvements and renovation in order to accommodate modern day guests.
They spent the first few months of ownership making upgrades to the interior and exterior of the hotel. Central air was added to the two upper floors and a handicap accessible ramp was constructed by David to allow everyone the opportunity to experience the hotel. Together David and Marilyn landscaped the grounds, decorated the guest rooms and brought the kitchen up to standards so it would be available for people to rent. They even traveled to Oklahoma to purchase an antique telephone booth to replace the one that once stood in the lobby of the Orleans Hotel many years ago.
Sipping cider and sharing memories
By October 2014, they were ready for guests and each room was outfitted with quilts handmade by David’s grandmother and mother. They hosted a soft opening for the community during the annual Apple Fest and people streamed through the hotel, sipping cider and sharing memories of the hotel. Their first reservation was for a wedding party who rented out the entire hotel and things haven’t slowed down since.
“We have had everyone from hunters to quilting groups and everything in between,” Marilyn said with a confident smirk.
However opening your doors does not guarantee business, even in a small town. As a result, the Snodgrasses sought out local talent and enlisted the help of a neighboring high school student to develop and maintain their presence on social media. Through their partnership with GROW Nebraska, they found a web developer who will soon take their business online. Their intention is to keep the Orleans Hotel rooted in its history yet catapult its marketing into the modern era.
For those seeking a unique experience
The 22 guest rooms have a rate of $45 per night and cater to people seeking a unique experience as opposed to those who would rather check in at a franchise hotel. There are rooms that appeal to the bed-and-breakfast crowd with antique studded suites offered with shared bathroom facilities. Other rooms provide guests with an equally charming aesthetic and en-suite bathroom. Just state your preference when booking over the phone with the Snodgrasses. They will gladly accommodate your request.
Although David and Marilyn have been overwhelmed by the influx of business, the positive response from guests is something they knew would come quickly. The retired mechanic and teacher set out with one simple mission: Open up the doors to a regional iconic location and provide guests with a place to congregate and relax.
They knew the Orleans Hotel would continue to tell a great story. It just needed the right people to bring it back to life. Book your stay today.