Bed Check

A Vir­ginia ho­tel long on quirky charm but a lit­tle short on pol­ish.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - A weekly staff re­view of MidAt­lantic and re­gional lodg­ings. BY NANCY TRE­JOS tre­josn@wash­post.com

Don’t ex­pect ev­ery­thing to func­tion smoothly at the Ho­tel Stras­burg in Stras­burg, Va.

When I asked whether the res­tau­rant was open, the front desk clerk told me that I had missed the last seat­ing but that I could or­der from the full menu at the De­pot Lounge un­til 8 p.m. I made it to the lounge in time, but the bar­tender said that the bare­bones staff would only cook items on the bar menu.

When I asked if there was wire­less In­ter­net, the front desk clerk in­ter­rupted her con­ver­sa­tion with one of the cooks to an­swer “yes.” Then they both chuck­led. “Good luck,” her col­league said. (I man­aged to get con­nected, but it didn’t last very long.)

And when I set­tled into bed to watch TV, I was dis­ap­pointed to dis­cover that the re­mote con­trol wasn’t work­ing. “Oh, I knew about that,” the front desk clerk said when I called to re­port it.

When I asked why it hadn’t been fixed, all she said was, “We’re a bou­tique ho­tel.”

Does “ bou­tique” meanin­dif­fer­ent? I won­dered.

Given that the Ho­tel Stras­burg has been around for more than a cen­tury, though, I had to for­give the lack of mod­ern-day ameni­ties. It was never even meant to be a ho­tel. Mack­all R. Bruin, the town doc­tor, orig­i­nally built the three­story Vic­to­rian as a hos­pi­tal in 1902. It be­came the Ho­tel Stras­burg in 1915, cater­ing not only to trav­el­ers but also to res­i­den­tial guests who would pay $35 a month for a room and two meals a day.

Bruin’s legacy is alive through­out the build­ing. His pa­pers are housed in the ho­tel archives; among them are a nurse’s diploma dated 1907 and a num­ber of bills. Bruin’s orig­i­nal shin­gle rests on a mar­ble and metal wash­stand in the back hall on the sec­ond floor.

I must say that some of the decor was amus­ing: a bust wear­ing a Vic­to­rian blouse rested on a ta­ble out­side my sec­ond-floor bed­room, and a wooden wheel­chair oc­cu­pied one of the cor­ners.

Dur­ing a re­cent overnight, I felt as though I was stay­ing in an an­tique shop rather than a ho­tel. The beds in all 29 guest rooms have unique head­boards. No two mir­rors, chests, dressers or lamps are iden­ti­cal. The doors to the un­oc­cu­pied rooms are kept open so that guests or din­ers can roam around and ad­mire the decor. One room, with a canopy bed lined with pink flow­ers and a jacuzzi in the bath­room, is clearly a hon­ey­moon suite. The third­floor rooms have lower ceil­ings, giv­ing them an at­tic vibe.

My suite held a white, cast-iron king-size bed, a desk, an ar­moire and a dresser. The bath­room, with its pink shut­ters, lace cur­tains and shower cur­tain in a seashell de­sign, re­minded me of the one in my grand­mother’s house. The cracked pink tiles and low wa­ter pres­sure just added to the quirk­i­ness of the place.

Other quirks: the eclec­tic col­lec­tion of mag­a­zines sprin­kled on ta­bles through­out the house ( Van­ity Fair, Coun­try Liv­ing and Gar­den & Gun). And the fire siren that kept go­ing off, start­ing at about 7:47 a.m. (A sign at the front desk warns guests that the vol­un­teer fire depart­ment’s head­quar­ters are nearby.)

Clearly this was a place for early ris­ers, and Bar­bara, one of the ho­tel man­agers, was ready and ea­ger to ease guests into the day with hot cof­fee, ce­real, var­i­ous breads and eggs. Mem­o­ries of the re­mote-con­trol in­ci­dent faded when she of­fered to letme stay as long as I wanted af­ter the 11 a.m. check­out. “Don’t rush,” she said and even fetched me a Diet Coke.

If a bou­tique ho­tel means in­ti­mate and quirky, then the Ho­tel Stras­burg fits the bill.

PHO­TOS BY NANCY TRE­JOS/THE WASHINGTON POST

Each an­tique-filled room has its own iden­tity at the­Ho­tel Stras­burg, which has re­minders of its orig­i­nal life as a hos­pi­tal.

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