Rooms in the historic section of the St. James Hotel have changed little since the days when the Santa Fe Trail was an important highway. If former guests Clay Allison or Jesse James were able to visit one of the restored rooms today (and who knows -- they may have), they'd likely notice few changes beyond the electric lights and ceiling fans, wall-mounted heaters, and modern bathrooms.
The St. James is an American gem -- this country's answer to Europe's castles-turned-hotels. True, a night in a hotel room that is little changed from the 1880s will not be to everyone's liking. The St. James is most likely to appeal to history buffs or to those curious about its alleged paranormal activities.
Yes, the wooden floors squeak and many of the doors have slight gaps between their frames. But the antique beds have firm, comfortable (and new) mattresses, and the bathrooms have fluffy towels and little bottles of Lord & Mayfair rosemary-chamomile conditioning shampoo.
Every guest at the St. James should have dinner in the hotel's historic Carson-Maxwell Dining Room at least once. Diners should bring patience along with their appetites, though, even with advance reservations. Those enduring a long wait for a table aren't placated by the sight of numerous empty tables, either. I suspect that the hotel has to control the flow of customers through the dining room due to the small number of trained staff.
On the Saturday night I most recently ate there, only one waitress was on duty to handle the entire dining room. I suspect there was only one cook working the kitchen, as well. Once I was seated at a table, however, service was relatively smooth and definitely on a four-star level.
The waitress handed me a menu along with an apology: the kitchen was out of both bison and prawns. Alas, the majority of seafood dishes had shrimp as a major ingredient. Fortunately the grilled pork chop was available, and it was very tasty, as were the accompanying fried sweet potato strips and the vegetable medley of zucchini strips and red and green peppers. Expect to pay between $16-$21 for an entree, and desserts are $4.75. A glass of ice tea, on the other hand, will only set you back 80 cents, and there appeared to be no limit on the number of refills.
As for the hotel's reputation of being haunted: during my first stay at the St. James, in 1997, I reserved the Jesse James Room on the first floor. One night, or rather early one morning, I awoke to hear what sounded like someone pacing in the first-floor hallway. (Remember, it's hard to walk anywhere in the historic part of the hotel without creating some sort of sound.) I glanced at the small digital clock beside the bed (another concession the hotel makes to modern conveniences) and saw it was 4 a.m. The pacing continued for at least a half-hour; the last time I glanced at the clock before dozing back to sleep the time was 4:30. I didn't open the door to see whether it was a restless guest or restless ghost pacing in the hallway because I thought it would be impolite if, indeed, another guest was experiencing insomnia.
On this most recent return trip to the St. James, I stayed in the Governor's Room on the second floor, and the entire night was as quiet as (pardon the expression) a tomb. The silence was broken only by the occasional barking of a dog in the yard of the house across the street from the hotel. Interestingly, though, in the photos I took of the Governor's Room with a disposable Kodak B&W camera, several orbs are visible in the first picture I shot. No orbs turned up in photos of the room I took immediately afterward or in any other snapshots I made in the hotel.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Get into the "spirit" of the Old West at the Express St. James Hotel. Relax in a room where frontier legends stayed but beware, some of our "guests" have never checked out. For those seeking less excitement stay in the modern annex side. Guests can choose from a variety of entrees in the restaurant complimented by a drink in the Bar. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- St James Hotel
- St James Cimarron