|Blue Wing Saloon across the courtyard from the Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake|
Walking the wide, wrap-around porch of the elegantly-restored Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake is like stepping back in time. Hushed strains of early jazz filters through the lobby. A French wood bead chandelier hangs from the high ceilings. Dozens of framed field-guide etchings and subtle hand-painted murals evoke the surrounding countryside’s flora and fauna. The refinished fir floors and period-perfect architectural details provide the backdrop for a sophisticated blend of antiques, fabrics, and eclectic treasures, including a Tramp Art table trimmed in pine cone scales.
The same exacting period details and refined décor are carried through the guest rooms upstairs. The room I stayed in features 12-foot ceilings, a king-size bed with Eastlake style furnishings, an art-deco chair, hand-painted lamp shades, and a gold scroll chandelier. An unlikely mélange of custom-designed wallpaper and fabrics in a varying patterns (floral, plaid, stripes) and colors (pale blue, chartreuse, ochre, faded reds) merge together seamlessly to evoke a bygone era while appealing to modern sensibilities. The armoire hides a small refrigerator, coffee maker, and a wide screen television with DVD player. The in-suite bath features mosaic hex tile floors, a claw foot tub that is large enough to lie down in, pedestal sinks, and a subway-tiled walk-in shower with vintage fixtures and spray nozzles so intricate they come with a set of instructions. A glass-panel door opens to the second-floor veranda with antique wicker seating and ceiling fans spinning lazily overhead. The veranda overlooks a shady courtyard strung with lights and amusing pieces of art hidden among the trees.
|Tallman Hotel lobby|
|One of the Veranda Rooms at the Tallman Hotel|
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The Tallman Hotel was originally built in the 1870s by one of Lake County’s first non-native settlers, Rufus Tallman. The Western-style hotel, along with its adjacent livery stable and saloon, was popular among many well-heeled travelers who journeyed by stagecoach from Sacramento and San Francisco to soak in Lake County’s natural mineral spring waters. When his original hotel burned to the ground in 1895, Rufus--with characteristic pioneer pluck--rebuilt the hotel. Following his death in 1904 and later, his wife Mary in 1912, their daughter Winnie Riffe and her husband Hank inherited the stately hotel. They changed the name to Riffe’s Hotel and continued running the hotel for many decades. Two additional owners succeeded the Riffes, but eventually, the hotel fell into disrepair. It had stood vacant for 40 years before current owners Bernie and Lynne Butcher purchased the property in 2003.
|Bath of one the Veranda Rooms|
Across the courtyard from the hotel, they re-imagined and reconstructed the Blue Wing Saloon, a popular watering hole from the 1880s that was torn down during prohibition. The rebuilt restaurant and bar has a nostalgic Old West vibe, featuring an antique, wooden back bar salvaged from a 19th-Century pub in Pennsylvania. The wooden dining tables and expansive bar were built on-site by local craftsmen from a 100-year-old walnut tree harvested from the property. Old-growth redwood wainscoting found hidden beneath layers of paint and wallpaper during the hotel’s renovation was repurposed for use in the saloon. The saloon re-opened in 2005, followed by the hotel in June of 2006.
|One of the Lower Garden Room's Ofuro soaking tubs|
|Cottages housing the Upper and Lower Garden Rooms|
|Wine tasting at Lake County Wine Studio|
|Garden courtyard between the hotel and the saloon|
|Courtyard fountain at the Tallman Hotel|
|Porch detail at the Tallman Hotel|
|Swimming pool at the Tallman Hotel|
I feasted on filet mignon with a black pepper sauce served with a blue cheese bread pudding and broccolini garnished with red bell pepper, olives, and feta. It was delicious. I was trying to avoid dessert, but the waitress talked me into their butterscotch pudding with a caramel sauce and whipped cream. “If you can’t finish it,” said the waitress, “You can always take it back to your room, stick it in the fridge, and have it for breakfast.” I did exactly that.
|Breakfast at the Tallman Hotel|
The hotel may look much as it did in the 1890s, but it spares no modern convenience or amenities. In fact, its historic façade also belies the hotel’s state-of-the-art geothermal and solar energy systems. Hidden below ground, a GeoExchange system heats and cools the property and generates hot water for the guest rooms and Ofuro soaking tubs. Hidden from sight on the south-facing roof of the restaurant, solar panels generate electricity to complement and augment the GeoExchange system during peak usage times. And while the livery stable may have served visitors to the Tallman Hotel over a century ago, the hotel now offers electric vehicle charging stations for a new generation of guests.
A continental breakfast is typically served buffet style in the dining room downstairs, and guests can choose dine in the dining room or to take a tray to their room or any of the outdoor seating areas. At slower times--like the night I stayed--the innkeepers can deliver breakfast to the room. In the morning, the innkeeper knocked at my door with wooden tray set with linen napkins and fine china carrying hot tea, juice, a granola parfait, and the hotel's signature item: warm, freshly-baked scones topped with a sprinkling of raw sugar. I carried the tray out to the veranda to enjoy breakfast outdoors in the shade. The highlight was most definitely the scones… plus the butterscotch pudding I had saved from the night before.
9550 Main Street
Upper Lake, CA 95485