Holbrooke Hotel prepares for open house next week | TheUnion.com

Holbrooke Hotel prepares for open house next week


What: Holbrooke Hotel Grand Reopening

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday

Reservations: For one-hour slots, visit http://www.Holbrooke.com

Tours: Sign-ups taken during the event

The wait is over.

The Holbrooke Hotel will resume its place next week as a legendary landmark in Grass Valley and California’s Gold Rush country.

Locals are invited to a grand reopening open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday, before doors open to the public on Saturday.

Due to COVID restrictions, guests are required to reserve a one-hour time slot to visit the hotel. Guests can RSVP at http://www.Holbrooke.com. Once on site, guests can sign up for guided tours of the newly renovated hotel, the Golden Gate Saloon, and Iron Door speakeasy.

“We’ll take people on a tour of the hotel, share the history of the building, and perhaps tell a few ghost stories,” said Erin Lewis, hotel sales and events manager, who stressed local designers and crafts people did most of the work. “This project has exceeded the goals and hopes far beyond what any of us could have imagined.”

The new Holbrooke is bright, open and airy.

“Opening up the main floor has been the most exciting part,” said Lead Designer Anne L’Esperance, “revealing beautiful stone walls that were covered by lath and plaster, historic brick and wood arches that were filled with dividing doors and windows. Our goal was to celebrate the existing architectural elements and let them speak for themselves. 

“We worked with the space and building to reveal what was already there, sometimes just a little hidden and in need of some love and care.” 

The front desk is located at the entrance to the hotel, no longer tucked away at the back. Retail shops near the entrance may include a wine shop.

The restaurant boasts a new menu featuring California cuisine with Mexican influences. The bar of the Golden Gate Saloon has a new, elegant marble top. The saloon and restaurant open toward each other and the lobby, and the removal of several interior walls has created an open, great room ambiance.

Stylish furniture pieces are either antiques or new replicas with a similar antique style. Light fixtures are new or restored originals.

Each guest room contains a vintage radio and rotary dial telephone. A stately “H” is ensconced in the floor of all freshly tiled bathrooms. Original claw foot tubs have been restored, and two bathrooms have been upgraded with large, walk-in showers.

“My vision for the Holbrooke Hotel was to use local talent to respectfully preserve its historic bones and their memorable charm so it could endure many years into the future,” said Bri Ingram, one of the design team members. “As a miner’s daughter, I wanted the design to tell a story through the restored, original lighting, claw foot tubs, and artwork, while simultaneously creating a clean, comfortable and highly functional gathering space for guests and the community alike.”

The Holbrooke, declared a California State Landmark in 1974, is expected to be busy. Room reservations and a bridal party are already on the books. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve dinners are planned. The hotel will host afternoon high tea through the holidays.

There are 17 rooms in the hotel’s main building, and another 11 in the Purcell House behind the Holbrooke. The Purcell House is graced with artwork and décor with a nod to the building’s beginnings as a livery stable.


The Holbrooke will be able to accommodate weddings and other celebrations with up to 100 guests next year. The Iron Door, a downstairs bar with a speakeasy atmosphere, will be a craft cocktail bar and venue for stand-up comedy, storytelling, trivia, musical bands, and other performances.

The outdoor patio behind the hotel has been redesigned, and will include heat lamps and a fire pit.

The grand reopening has been nearly two years in the making. It all began in January 2019 with an estate sale.

“We had to get rid of 28 beds, dressers, and many other things,” said Lewis. “We had to sift through everything and determine which items held historical value versus what were reproductions.”

The multi-million dollar renovation project included modern installations such as an information technology command center with 10 platforms that offer touchless guest check-in, room doors that unlock with the click of a guest’s cell phone, and other high tech features.

All electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems were updated or replaced. The hotel is on PG&E’s “hospital grid,” so it shouldn’t lose power during Public Safety Power Shut-offs. The hotel will likely offer discounted “staycation rates” for locals so they can shelter in place at the Holbrooke when they lose power at home.

Rack rates range from $175 for a room during the week to $370 for one of the larger king suites during a holiday weekend.

Nationally renowned Acme Hospitality based in Santa Barbara has overseen the renovation project and will manage hotel, restaurant, and bar operations at the Holbrooke. Acme is concurrently spearheading renovations at the National Exchange Hotel in Nevada City, and will manage that hotel when it reopens next spring.

To fill the Holbrooke’s restaurant, bar, kitchen, housekeeping, front desk and other staff positions, 43 people were hired locally.

The Holbrooke’s storied history is filled with class and calamity. The Golden Gate Saloon, little more than a bar under a tent, opened in 1852. A hotel was later added, but a fire destroyed both in 1855. After a quick rebuilding project, the hotel again was burned by fire in 1862. The next reincarnation was a two-story hotel that still stands, although its roof of 12-inch thick dirt and brick to fend off fire has long since been replaced.

Lewis said what is most striking about the renovation project is how it revealed the former glory of the landmark.

“It’s been like unearthing history,” she said. “This project has been more than a renovation. It’s been a restoration.”

“The building is 150 years old with 100 years of deferred maintenance,” said Sierra Foothills Construction Company owner Keoni Allen, who served as general contractor on the project. “Our community is extremely fortunate to have this amazing historical asset owned by a company able and willing to take on a project of this magnitude and cost.

“We all need to patronize the Holbrooke to help make it the success it was in its Golden Years,” he added.

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com

This story has been updated.

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