Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Join the Inn Crowd

Wolf Creek Inn
There is no sign claiming “George Washington slept here!” at the Wolf Creek Inn in Southern Oregon. Unfortunately our first president was born a bit too early for an overnight stay, but another president, Rutherford B. Hayes, did spend the night here as well as many other famous folks.

The Wolf Creek Inn, located about 20 miles north of Grants Pass near Exit 76 on Interstate 5, has been receiving guests longer than any other hotel in the Pacific Northwest. It was built in 1883 for local merchant Henry Smith, and, for its time, was exceptionally well-crafted and constructed. For many years, the inn and tavern served as a welcome rest stop for travelers on the long, arduous stagecoach trip from San Francisco to Portland. It earned a reputation for clean rooms and hearty meals.

During the early days of the movie industry, the inn served as a popular hangout for celebrities seeking a quiet retreat from Hollywood; and the likes of Mary Pickford, Orson Wells, Fredric March, and Carole Lombard have all signed the guest register. Clark Gable was a friend of the owner in the 1930s and often stayed at the inn while on fishing trips to the nearby Rogue River. Author Jack London wrote a short story and finished his novel, “Valley of the Moon” while a guest at the inn. It is rumored that he may still be residing here as his ghost has been spotted wandering around the second floor near his old room.  

In 1975, the property was acquired by the State of Oregon as part of its mission to “protect outstanding natural, scenic, cultural, historic and recreational sites for the enjoyment and education of present and future generations.” Historians from the state’s Historical Preservation office, carpenters, and local craftsmen spent four years completing major structural work and restoring the inn to its 1920s look and feel. Today, nine rooms offer guests an opportunity to enjoy a glimpse of the past with period furniture and décor. In keeping with the spirit of the times, there are no mini-bars, televisions or telephones in the room, but guests may spend the evening in the parlor reading books and playing checkers. However, as a concession to the 21st century, free WiFi is available in the rooms for those who cannot be parted from their computers and iphones.

Prices are relatively reasonable from $85 for a single to $125 for the Clark Gable Suite which includes a hot breakfast. The on premise restaurant serves three meals daily featuring local ingredients and home-baked breads and desserts.  It is especially famous for its fried chicken and prime rib dinners. At Thanksgiving, the restaurant will be offering a full, holiday meal with all the trimmings.

Even if you are not an overnight guest, you are welcome to dine here or tour the inn. It is a part of the Oregon State Park system and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Be sure to wander around the grounds as well to view the heritage roses and 125 year-old fruit trees.
Autumn vineyards, Umpqua Valley

While the summer months tempt visitors with a variety of nearby outdoor recreation options such as fishing, rafting or jet boating on the Rogue River, the autumn and winter months offer a selection of things to do as well. The inn serves as a good home base for day trips to many Southern Oregon attractions including the historic, gold rush town of Jacksonville, Oregon Caves National Monument, Oregon Vortex, Wildlife Safari, and the Applegate Trail Interpretive Center. Wine tasting, always a popular year-round activity, can be enjoyed at any number of wineries scattered through the Umpqua, Rogue, Applegate, or Illinois Valleys. And, in February, the season kicks-off at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
Additionally, the inn has special events scheduled throughout the year including live music and winemaker dinners. Reservations are highly recommended.

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