The front doorway of the Hotel Planter in La Conner, Washington, opens in on an imposing staircase covered in lush, emerald carpeting. I notice the floral wallpaper as the curved wooden railings guide me up the staircase. At the top, there is a small desk with a crystal jar of sweets, a tiny bell, and a sign that says, “Please ring for service.” An upbeat desk attendant greets me, dropping a room key into my palm.
As per the hotel’s history, this charm is well-earned. The Hotel Planter was built in 1907 on land purchased from Louisa A. Conner, the town’s namesake. In the years leading up the Great Depression, it was a draw for Seattle tourists, merchants, and lumber mill workers and later for writers and artists seeking inexpensive housing while working in the area.
As I push the key into the lock, I look down the narrow high-ceilinged hallway, hearing the muted chatter of a television. I imagine a fellow guest ensconced in a room, socked feet on the floral comforter, suitcase splayed open on one of the green wicker chairs, warm hands clutching a cup of chamomile tea. Once settled, I plan to follow suit.
I’ve been given room four, only a few feet from the front desk and the complimentary coffee bar. It is a small but cozy room, with one queen bed, two bedside tables, a bureau with a television, and a spacious bathroom with a shower. Two massive windows overlook the sleepy street. It is one of six queen rooms of its kind. The decor is meticulously maintained; everything from the bathroom tile to the bedspread possesses an alluring vintage charm.
“This hotel has always been a hotel,” explains Cynthia Hoskins, owner of the Hotel Planter and the fine arts and crafts store, EarthenWorks Gallery, which is at street level below the hotel. “But when we bought it in the 1980s, it was condemned; there were birds flying in through holes in the wall and the area where EarthenWorks is now had a big hole in the floor.”
The Hoskins’ had purchased the building originally to expand their art gallery, but decided they would also undertake “the task of bringing a large part of local history back to life.” From 1987 to 1989, they renovated, working to keep safe the building’s period integrity. “It’s called a ‘National Historic Inn’ because when we gutted it we kept the original woodwork, like the doors, wood trim, and railings, as well as the windows,” Hoskins says.
The couple added some modern amenities, however. Instead of maintaining the shared bathroom setup, the Hoskins’ reduced the 22 rooms to 12, allowing private bathrooms to be added. This decision undoubtedly adds to the hotel’s comfortable, intimate atmosphere. “It’s the difference between staying somewhere with 12 rooms or 1,200 rooms. Here, you’re not just a number,” Cynthia says.
The Hoskins also brought the hotel’s private courtyard back to life through fresh landscaping, captivating art and the installation of a jacuzzi. Hoskins gestures to the secret garden, secluded from the street by lush greenery and a large red-brick wall, which she explains is the remains of another hotel that burned down years ago. “If you look closely, you can see the old arched windows,” Hoskins says. “Our guests love it.”
But really, I can’t find much I don’t love about the hotel. The hotel is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway with your significant other, a fun girls’ weekend, or just for a retreat from everyday life. The accommodations are comfortable (and affordable; even the suite, with a private Jacuzzi tub, runs for less that $200(U.S.) per night), the people are kind, and La Conner is warm and welcoming.
The city of La Conner could be cut from a small-town postcard. You’ll find blue-striped awnings, shuttered windows, quilt shops, and clothing boutiques, not to mention a great array of local restaurants. I had meals at La Conner Brewery and Calico Cupboard during my stay; both with delicious food and obliging wait staff. And, when I wasn’t shopping or eating, I found myself drinking in the view of the sparkling Swinomish Channel alongside it all.
From my hotel room, I watched the sun cast diamonds on the channel and fall behind Rainbow Bridge, which stretches across the water to the Swinomish Indian reservation. I luxuriated on the bed, clicking through channels and reading. That night, I slept peacefully, disturbed only briefly by the morning bakery truck. But I didn’t care; fresh rolls awaited me right across the street.
By Alexa Peters