Tag Archives: antique archaeology

“Through all these years, The Driskill has served as a pivot around which great men and great events revolved, the rendezvous of those who have written the glorious history of a glorious state.” — Daily Texan

The Driskill Hotel exterior

Walking through the doors of The Driskill hotel in Austin, Texas is like jumping back in time. Once you’re inside, your mind begins seeing things that aren’t there anymore — like the memories of those that lived long before you. That’s the kind of magic that occurs only when you enter a historic building with more than 130 years of American history that has survived the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and other national tragedies. You open your mind and welcome the spirits of the past to lead you across the marble lobby floor giving you a glimpse of what life was like here before Austin was the capital — back when it was a Two Lane town.

Because the hotel is more than a century old, it had become part of many stories for the community, visitors, and even presidents! You can feel the presence of Lyndon B. Johnson in and his wife, Lady Bird laughing on their first date in the hotel restaurant… You can imagine the tenacious and tactical energy brewing in the very ballroom where the Texas rangers plotted their plan to capture Bonnie and Clyde… but more on that a little later.

Let’s start at the beginning. The year is 1886.

LEFT: Downtown Austin at the turn of the century. (That’s the Driskill in the background) RIGHT: Front desk of The Driskill

Colonel Jesse Driskill, a wealthy cattle baron during the Civil War, and established businessman saw a moment to make his mark. Knowing that Austin would soon see a boom in growth after being named the capital of Texas, Driskill decided to move his family to Texas and get to work building a grand hotel.

The Colonel commissioned The Driskill to outshine the other majestic hotels of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. In fact, when it officially opened its doors in 1886, The Driskill was revered as “One of the Finest Hotels in the Whole Country.” 

Fun Fact: The Driskill is so old that it was built before the state capital! For a brief time state business was done at the hotel until the capital was completed in1888.
 

After Colonel Driskill passed away in 1890, for the next century the hotel bounced around from owner to owner with each one attempting to build on its grand reputation. Until one day, the well went dry.

The Driskill Was Almost Demolished
The Driskill before and after renovations

In 1969, the hotel was closed for necessary renovations, but the funds weren’t there. Though it was scheduled for demolition, the community wasn’t ready to see it go. So, they got to work and quickly created a plan organizing a “bake and bond” sale selling $10 bonds and treats.

The community’s efforts were matched by The Heritage Society of Austin (now called Preservation Austin) raising more than $700,000 and eventually forming the nonprofit Driskill Hotel Corporation. In 1973, The Driskill reopened with a triumphant celebration with new renovations and a new title: National Historic Landmark.

The Driskill lobby
Fun Fact: Because The Driskill was saved, it has been able to maintain its tradition of hosting every Texas governor’s inauguration party starting with Saul Ross in 1897! 
 
Ties to President Lyndon B. Johnson 
LEFT: LBJ watching the results of his Senate Campaign. RIGHT: LBJ at Driskill for event

The Driskill Hotel played a big part in the lives of president Lyndon Baines Johnson and Claudia Taylor or “Lady Bird”. Here’s are a few examples:

  • In 1934, the couple shared their first date in the hotel restaurant — Lyndon asked her to marry him that same day!
  • LBJ returned to The Driskill in 1948 to await the results of his Senate Campaign in Jim Hog Parlor Room and again in 1960 for the results of his race for Vice President with John F. Kennedy.
  • The couple even had their own TV station at the hotel called KTBC TV where it was housed from 1954-1958!
LEFT: LBJ suite bathroom RIGHT: Presidental Suite entrance
Fun Fact: The Jim Hog Parlor Room is also the room where the Texas Rangers met during the Great Depression to plot the capture of famous American criminal couple, Bonnie and Clyde.

The Johnson’s visited The Driskill so many times over the course of their marriage, that the hotel finally dedicated a 1,200 square foot presidential status room to them called the “Lyndon B. Johnson Suite” that’s available for guests to book. A special detail we love is how Lady Bird’s favorite flower, bluebonnets, are sprinkled around the room — especially in the bathroom’s stained glass windows!

Speaking of unique decor…

Decorated With History
Driskill hotel restaurant

It’s difficult to miss the western elegance influences of The Driskill. (Welcome to Texas, y’all!) Stroll through the opulent lobby with its marble floors and stained-glass dome, corridors filled with museum-quality artwork, and grand mezzanine for a glimpse into the hotel’s storied past. The hotel has time-honored decor of horns, chandeliers, tufted leather, cowhides, and cattle taxidermy as a nod to the Driskill family business. When you first walk inside you’ll be greeted by a large portrait of Colonel Jesse Driskill that has hung in the lobby since 1890!

Driskill room with a view

Of course, this place has stunning architecture both inside and out, but follow us into the room of gold known as The Maximilian Room.

Maximillion room

This room was given its name from the eight famous Austrian gold leaf framed mirrors that hang on the walls. These once belonged to Emperor Maximilian of Mexico and his wife, Carlotta, a Belgian princess widely praised as the most beautiful woman in Europe. He had presented them to her as a wedding gift with her likeness adorned in each frame via a gilt medallion. The mirrors were discovered in a San Antonio antique store in 1930. They were dusted off and now hang at The Driskill in a room where folks today make their own vows of true love at the hotel.

Fun Fact: The Driskill isn’t the only place decorated with history! Check out Mike Wolfe’s vacation loft rental furnished his items found on American Pickers HERE.
 
Why This Place Matters
The Driskill at night

Even as everything grew up around the hotel, The Driskill has managed to fend off demolition and kept its character. We need to hold on to these places as a living testimony to true craftsmanship and a time we’ll never see again. The Driskill is a solid representation of our past, and how there is room for historic architecture like this in our future.

The best way to make sure places like The Driskill stay alive is by your curiosity. Spend the night surrounded by American history, and we guarantee you’ll have a better story to tell when you check out.

 
 
Photos courtesy of The Driskill Hotel
 
 
 
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Previously published by CBS NEWS February 2, 2020, 9:23 AM

Antique stores are generally home for relics of the past, not newly-minted celebrities. But at Antique Archaeology, in Le Claire, Iowa, shop owner Mike Wolfe gives the customer some star power along with the dust. “Every one of these people write my check,” Wolfe said. “Every one of them do. So, I try to spend as much time as I can with them, and if we don’t rise to the occasion all the time, then I feel like I failed.”

If you recognize him, it’s probably because you’re not only into rusty bits of Americana, but you’re also a viewer of the History Channel series, “American Pickers.” It’s like “Antiques Roadshow” mixed with an episode of “Hoarders.”

Wolfe tried to sell the show for five years. But nobody really knew what a “picker” was, including the History Channel. “I said, ‘Here’s the deal, man: You’re the History Channel, let’s educate them. Let’s tell them what a picker is!'” said Wolfe.

In short, it’s someone who picks over other collectors’ collections, hoping to buy a piece or two to give it a new life somewhere else.

With his longtime buddy Frank Fritz riding shotgun, they drive some 70,000 miles a year, hunting for pieces of history that capture their attention. “When you walk into an antique shop, chances are 95% of the time, that dealer is not buying all of that stuff,” said Wolfe.

“It comes from folks like you?” asked correspondent Lee Cowan.

“Yeah, exactly. We’re in the trenches, we’re on the front lines looking for these things for them.”

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CBS NEWS

But for Wolfe, the show, and his career, aren’t really about the hunt – or surprisingly, even peddling what they find. It’s about the people in small town America who collect all this stuff to begin with.

“That’s the passion of it for you?” asked Cowan.

“Yes! And it’s fascinating to me, and people constantly ask me to try to get into the mind of a collector. And I’m a collector myself – and I don’t even understand my mind as much, trying to explain it half the time, so I’m trying to explain everybody else’s mindset.”

“Do you think you’re a little bit eccentric?”

“I don’t think I’m smart enough to be eccentric,” said Wolfe. “Don’t you have to be smart, like super-genius like, to be ‘eccentric’?”

Wolfe is the product of rural America he finds to fascinating. He grew up the oldest of three kids in Bettendorf, Iowa, raised by a single mom. “My father left when I was two,” he said. “My mom told me a story once that he was supposed to come for Christmas, and I stood there at the window all day looking for him and he never came.”

His family couldn’t afford luxuries like a bicycle. But one day, on his way to school, Wolfe spotted one in the trash. “It was one of those big garbage days. I was cutting through this yard, and I remember seeing it; it was a girl’s bike. And I picked that up, and I was amazed that someone would throw out a bike! And so, I thought to myself, if someone would throw out a bike, what else would they throw out? So, that’s why I started digging in the garbage, constantly, even if it wasn’t a big garbage day I was always in the trash cans and stuff!”

He still spends his days that way. He relishes rust in the way the rest of us savor a glass of wine. He especially digs motorcycles – old Harleys and Indians have a habit of making their way into his own collection. “All of these things in here were someone else’s dreams,” Wolfe said. “They were someone else’s world. There’s a magic to it; it’s magical.”

And that magic doesn’t just stop with rescuing old relics in those small towns. Sometimes it’s trying to save the towns themselves. Wolfe has become a one-man preservation army. He’s spent millions buying and restoring old Main Street buildings. He started in his native Iowa – Le Claire, specifically – and then expanded his restoration efforts to the charming little town of Columbia, Tenn., outside Nashville.

“I love old buildings; they speak to me,” he said. “They really have personalities. When I walk into a building that has such historic presence, it gives me the chills.”

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Restored buildings in Le Claire, Iowa.  CBS NEWS

One of his projects includes an old Chevy dealership, built in 1947. He’s turning what used to be the showroom, into brand-new retail space.  “This was, like, a huge asset, like a flagship for the community, and that’s kind of, to be honest with you, what I want it to be again,” he said.

The oldest building he’s rescued is one built in 1857, which he bought three-and-a-half years ago. Now, it’s a bustling bicycle shop. Above the showroom are two AirBnB apartments for those who want to experience small town Main Street for the night.

“These aren’t just buildings, and these aren’t just small town corridors,” Wolfe said. “All of these places matter for one reason or another, and some can survive, some can’t. But if we don’t try as individuals, then who are we as a society?”

It’s such a passion of his that when he was younger it led him, in Le Claire, Iowa, to run for city council for no other reason than to help restore Main Street. “I ran for city council, because I used to walk down these streets and night with my dog, and think about what this place could be.”

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Mike Wolfe with correspondent Lee Cowan. CBS NEWS

One of the restorations he’s most proud of is one that used to be Le Claire’s grocery store. And he’s not done yet. He wants to buy more, before they crumble away. “I tell people all the time: If you want to see small town America, if you want to see Main Street, get in your car and drive and go take a trip with your family, because it is disappearing rapidly,'” he said. 

To Mike Wolfe, the past isn’t just bits of rusty gold. It’s a reminder of where we came from, a lifestyle we can still touch and learn from, if we give our Main Streets a chance to speak. 

Cowan said, “You almost talk about some of these towns like a first date.” 

Wolfe laughed: “You know what? I do have emotional affairs with a lot of these communities! 

“This is our time to make a difference. If I can do that in any way, I want to be a part of that,” he said. 

 

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Celebrate 10 years of American Pickers with our throwback poster of every town the guys picked during season 1. SHOP NOW!

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Like the song says, “For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.”

We spend all year chasing Two Lane back road sunsets, exploring old towns, and searching for something we’ve never seen before. While on any other adventure, it would be nice to have a map to follow, our destination today doesn’t need directions. As you turn your wheels onto that same street, your heart skips in anticipation of the family, foods, gifts, and games waiting for you on the other side of the door. You’re almost home!

The bustle of the year can keep us busy, but the holidays are here to remind us to slow down, put work away, and unplug. Family and friends are gathering in homes across the country to make memories with the ones they love, dust off cherished family heirlooms, and tell stories of the past while catching up on the present. There are many things to appreciate about this season, but here are our favorites. (Curious to know if y’all feel the same way.) 

Unpacking The Past

Keepsakes are capable of capturing decades of memories. It’s always so incredible how we unpack the pieces of our past every holiday, and they still manage to remain whole. Thinking about how we allow our minds to travel back to little happy moments of our lives when it was our job to hang that one special ornament, or thinking about the way your favorite toy felt in your hands. These heirlooms have become the tangible memories of our lives that we get to share with grandchildren, spouses, and friends.

Traditions Both Old and New

Holidays seemed so simple back when the toys we received didn’t require batteries or need to be charged. Sometimes it can feel like the holidays have gone too commercial. We crave that simplicity for playing outside all day until your shoelaces freeze instead of Instagramming our food. This is a great opportunity to show the current generation how to bond with family without cell phones, electronics, or Netflix. Get a game of jacks or pick up sticks going, grease up some sleds, go take a drive to see the lights, or just run outside all day until you can’t feel your toes.

Even more than games, think about different decorations were! Real trees, real pine garland, going out and picking pinecones off the ground to paint for centerpieces. Holiday decor was less about LED candy canes and more about cranberry popcorn garland. It was more fun to be resourceful with nature than buying decor at a hardware store. 

No matter how simple or specific a tradition is, the point is that it is shared between the generations because someday it will be their duty to keep those special little moments alive for years to come.

 

Sensory Memories

It’s not just the smell of cookies that have a way of jogging our memories. Scents of family memories stick with us too! You can never forget those tight squeezes from your uncle always smelt like pipe tobacco and cold air, or a hug from gramma that smells like old literature books and vanilla that’s spilled on her apron from being in the kitchen making that special dessert she only makes this time of year. 

Just as smells connect us to a memory, so does a song. All those years of gathering around the piano as your Aunt Susan lead the family in a never-ending round of singing “Jingle Bells”. The great thing about music memories they don’t have to be from family sing-a-longs to be special. Maybe your dad always plays Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” while rigging up the lights Maybe your mom always played The Carpenter’s Christmas album while you decorated cookies to deliver to the neighbors. Speaking of baking…

Preparing Family Recipes

There are always those special treats and dishes that families whip up for a holiday feast: Gramma’s walnut pie, pumpkin rolls, maybe a secret recipe for the ham. Participating in the kitchen to stir, sift, mix, and measure gave you a behind the scenes look into your favorite dishes. Someday they’d be yours to prepare! 

A great lesson we learned in the kitchen was how it didn’t cost money to give gifts. Neighbors often exchanged homemade gifts like fudge, tea, ornaments, — gifts intended to be shared with the family. Maybe your family always made baskets filled with fruits, chocolates, and hard ribbon candy wrapped up in colored cellophane to deliver to those who were snowed in or unable to leave. It’s amazing was some sweets can do!

 If that wasn’t your style, you could always set the table, light the candlesticks, polish the silverware, or go gather pinecones for a centerpiece!

 

 
Cross Country Connections With Holiday Cards

We’ve mentioned in the past about the romanticism of writing a letter, and how that art of pen to paper is something that never goes out of style. For those of us that sent and received holiday cards, it was a chance to share with others updates on the kids as they grow, new adventures, and best wishes for the New Year. Gilded cards with delicate cursive salutations on full display as you walk inside to the sounds of kitchen commotion, crackling fire, and the laughter of children playing. Making memories to write about in next year’s card. 

No matter if your home is large, small, bought, or rented, Traveling the Two Lanes road home means greeting the people and places that shaped our lives. While some people maybe be missing, you know the season will still be special because traditions remain. Let us know your favorite holiday memory in the comments below.

 

Photos by Meghan Aileen

We took our classic rooster logo off the American Pickers van and put it on a sweatshirt!  SHOP NOW!

 
 
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Found My Animal in New York makes beautiful artisan pet accessories with a meaningful purpose and message

If you’re already following Mike Wolfe on social media, you know how much he loves sharing photos of his adopted dogs, Izzy and Francie. And how could he not? Dogs are loyal, playful, and our favorite shotgun riders on a country drive. If you’ve ever rescued an animal, you know how the experience improves the quality of life for both animal and human. 

Since the holidays are the perfect time to spoil the ones we love, we wanted to make sure our furry friends had something to unwrap, too! This season, give your dog a thoughtful gift that’s both useful and makes a difference for another pet in need by purchasing pet accessories from Mike’s American made backroad adventure brand, Two Lanes in collaboration with Found My Animal.

Assembling dog bowls. GIF via THUSS + FARRELL

Found My Animal was established in 2007 by Bethany Obrecht in Brooklyn then relocated to the Hudson Valley of New York. Since then, her and her team have been on a mission to make products that were useful to pet parents but also advocated for animal adoption.

“I want people to see how rescue dogs come in all shapes in sizes, but underneath all that fur they have the same common characteristic: loyalty,” explains Bethany. “All dogs want to do is give love to people. It’s a natural behavior they have as pack animals to want to be in the company of others. After rescuing my dog, Walter, I was inspired to create stylish, well-made, accessories not just for him, but for all dogs. That’s why every product we make is meant to raise adoption awareness and spark positive conversations.”

Today her small company continues to make a big impact by donating part of their sales to support animal welfare and rescue organizations. 

This mission statement inspired Mike to see what collaboration opportunities were possible.

Izzy and Francie Mike Wolfe’s rescue dogs

Mike’s Two Lanes brand is all about finding adventure on the backroads and supporting American made craftsmanship. Mike wanted to make sure your road dog that’s along for the journey had the best, high-quality adventure gear, too! The result of this collaboration produced two quality pet accessories including a custom brass dog tag and waxed canvas portable dog bowl. The solid brass dog tag has special engraving from Mike which reads, “Less People. More Dogs”.– a play on one of our favorite travel mottos, “Less people, more life”.

There’s a lot of work and care that goes into sewing each piece of the dark green waxed canvas dog bowls.

“Currently we have a team of fewer than 12 talented women making accessories in our studio space,” explains Bethany. “Both the waxed fabric and straps are hand-folded piece by piece.”

 
Sewings dog bowls. Photo credit THUSS + FARRELL

FUN FACT: Both the dog bowl and brass tags are made using vintage equipment: the ladies a Juki sewing machine for the bowls and stamp the tags on a 1970s leather press machine. 

The dog bowls are made out of an American sourced waxed canvas and stitched with a special metallic gold thread.

“We work with a high-end supplier to get the best quality materials for all the products we make, including the golden thred,” says Bethany. “Both these details add style and dependability to the dog bowl. It’s our way of making our product extra special.”

Vintage sewing machine used to credit dog bowls. Photo credit THUSS + FARRELL

“The essence of Found My Animal is to urge people to adopt and go into the shelters to rescue these animals,” says Bethany. “We want the products we make here to evoke a positive message that any “lost” animal can always be found.”

This holiday season, give your animal the gift of American made below:

SHOP The Two Lanes Dog Tag HERE

SHOP The Two Lanes Dog Bowl HERE 

Get Your Two Lanes Road Dog Gift Bundle which includes both the bowl, the tag and our USA made bandana HERE!

 

If you’re interested in adding a new furry member to your loving home,  browse Found My Animal’s virtual bulletin board of adoptable animals HERE

 

 

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Famous Hotel Monte Vista neon sign of the roof. Photo credit Jacob Prose via Pexel

At the intersection of Aspen Avenue and San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona sits a brick hotel with a haunted history that predates the Great Depression. Just to give you an idea of how active this place is, an experience here left John Wayne, America’s favorite gritty cinema cowboy spooked. Let us show you why this place is worth the detour on your next Two Lane adventure.

If phantoms, unexplained voices, and gruesome history get your blood pumping, then follow the bright buzzing neon Monte Vista Hotel sign atop building. The sign replaced a previous emergency light once used to relay danger, but today draws in those looking to navigate its haunted halls of the oldest operating hotel in the state. Let’s get you checked-in. 

The Hotel Monte Vista lobby + cocktail lounge. Photo credit Bill Morrow via Flickr

History 

When the tourism boom struck Flagstaff during the Roaring Twenties, its residents began fundraising for a first-class hotel to host travelers. Thanks to the generous contributions of the community and novelist Zane Grey, $200,000 was raised in time to break ground in 1926. 

The four-story, 73 room hotel was originally called the Community Hotel to honor the citizens of Flagstaff who made it happen. However, a contest to rename the hotel was chosen by a 12-year-old who declared it ‘Monte Vista’ meaning “mountain view” after the hotel’s views of the San Francisco Peaks. It officially opened its doors on New Year’s Day 1927.

 

Exterior of Hotel Monte Vista. Photo credit Franck Michel via Flickr

Famous Guests

During its prime, the Hotel Monte Vista was the premiere lodging choice for many Hollywood stars. This was because of its convenient proximity to Sedona and Oak Canyon where more than 100 movies had been filmed in the 40’s and 50’s. It was during that Golden Age of Hollywood when the hotel began hosting famous stars like Bing Crosby, Jane Russell, Clark Gable, Debbie Reynolds, Bob Hope and more. The story goes that even scenes from the cinema classic “Casablanca” were filmed here during Humphrey Bogart’s stay.

The Bing Crosby Suite. Photo credit Al King via Flickr

Rockstars like Bonjovi and Freddie Mercury have also been guests of the hotel! There have been so many famous guests over the years, that the hotel has named the rooms after the person who stayed there. 

Today, the Hotel Monte Vista is recognized by the U.S. Registrar of Historic Places. People travel from all over to get a glimpse of it, but what they’re really wanting is a connection… with the other side.

 

Meet The Permanent Guests of Monte Vista

The stories and haunted happenings swirling around this hotel have been legendary for more than a century. In most cases, to have an extraordinary experience at a hotel you’d think to order room service or upgrade to a suite, but here at the Monte Vista, things are more out of the ordinary.

The haunted rocking chair in room 305. Photo credit @justinjohnsonlive via Instagram

Countless accounts of paranormal activity have occurred inside the hotel walls including apparitions, physical touches, and intelligent responses. Hotel employees are happy to prep you before check-in on what’s normal and not normal activity for your room. (We recommended asking the housekeeping staff for the best stories from past shifts.) There are more than a dozen ghosts here, but the following accounts have caught our particular attention.

 

The Rocking Chair Inside Room 305

Walk through the door of room 305 and you’ve just entered one of the most active rooms in the hotel. This room once belonged to an elderly, long-term renter who was always seen rocking in her chair looking down into the street. While it’s unclear who she is looking for, everyone from guests to housekeepers have reported seeing the chair move on its own, even hearing knocking coming from inside the closet! We’d recommend either asking the spirit for permission to sit, or finding a different place to tie your shoes. 

 

The Women of the Night

During the 1940’s, Flagstaff’s Red Light District existed two blocks from the steps of the hotel. The story goes two prostitutes were brought to room 306 and never left. They were said to have been killed and thrown from the third-floor window and into the street below. Guests have reported feeling restlessness in the night and unable to sleep because they feel like they’re being watched. Men are warned that the spirits in this room will not be particularly fond of them. Many men have said they’ve woken up unable to breathe feeling like hands were over their throats and mouths. Proceed with caution.

Monte Vista Cocktail Lounge. Photo credit Deb Etheredge via Flickr

The Bank Robber

In 1970, three men robbed a bank near the hotel. During the event, a guard got a successful shot one of the accomplices. Despite being hurt, all three men dropped into the hotel cocktail lounge to celebrate with a drink. Unfortunately, for the wounded man, the party didn’t last long because he bled out at the bar. Since then, staff and patrons say they’ve heard a voice greet them “good morning” when there’s no one else around, barstools pushed out of place, and even glasses moving! In here, we’d say “cheers!” to another day above ground.

 

The Phantom Bellboy

This is the spirit John Wayne met during his stay in room 210. Those who have caught a glimpse of the bellboy describe him as a young male in a red coat with brass buttons. Guests report hearing a knock at the door followed by a muffled voice saying, “Room service!”, only to open the door to an empty hallway. If you see the bellboy you are not to feel threatened  — he is just doing his job. An all-new meaning to the phrase “work until you die”.  

Hotel Monte Vista elevator. Photo via Wikimedia

The Elevator Attendant

Here’s an interesting fact about the Hotel Monte Vista. It was home to one of the first self-service Otis Elevators in the state of Arizona. Even though it has been modernized since then, it’s as if the attendant is still on their shift. Guests often hear a faint voice asking, “Which floor?” What’s even more chilling is the staff has witnessed a phantom hand closing the elevator’s gate — even a reflection in the mirror upon exiting of a man standing behind them inside the elevator. Eyes down. Walk forward.

 

The Meat Man of Room 220

The most frightening active room in our opinion is 220. Hotel history says that in the 1980s the long-term renter of this room had a bizarre reputation for hanging raw meat from his chandelier. After not hearing from the man for three days, he was discovered in his room dead. Needing to prepare the room for the next renter, a maintenance man was hired to work on some repairs. Needing to run to the store to grab some supplies, the worker shut off the lights, locked the door, and left. When he returned he opened the door to discover the tv on full blast and the once made bed scattered about the room. While we will never know what happened to the renter, he continues to make himself known to anyone staying in his room. Guests report the tv having a mind of its own and feeling the touch of cold hands on them as they try to sleep. Bring bacon as a peace offering perhaps? What could it hurt.

 

Hotel Monte Vista downtown Flagstaff, Arizona. Photo credit Roderick Eime via Flickr.

When dealing with haunted spaces and places, the most important thing to do is to be smart and safe. Do not antagonize spirit, or else you may find yourself becoming one. If it sounds like your kind of haunted holiday, book a room HERE.

 

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the Hotel Monte Vista is a unique place to explore. Visit our recommendations of things to do in town and nearby on our Two Lanes blog below:

 

Shop MIKE WOLFE AUTOGRAPHED gifts this holiday. SHOP our gift bundles HERE!

 

 

 

 

 

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Main Street in historic downtown Hannibal

Mike Wolfe and the crew of American Pickers traveled the Two Lane back roads to Hannibal Missouri 100 miles north of St. Louis. As the crew grabbed a bite after a long day of picking, they learned that there was a strong paranormal presence to this seemingly quaint river town. 

What Mike and the crew discovered, is that people here are exceptional storytellers. Lean in close to hear the lore that has been passed down through the community for generations about the spirits who love Hannibal so much, they never left.

Hannibal is unique for many reasons, and like most towns, it has a light and dark side to its history. On one hand, as the boyhood home of author Mark Twain, as well as the setting for timeless novels like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, it evokes a sweet nostalgia for visitors. On the other hand, its history of blood-stained war and tragic deaths still linger in the air. 

Mark Twain’s boyhood home (photo via Mark Twain Museum Instagram)

When you roll into town, the first thing you’ll have to do is secure your seat on the Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tour. This nighttime trolley ride is a history-based/guided ride around the secrets of many of Hannibal’s most notoriously haunted sites. You’ll hear stories of murder and mischief during Mark Twain’s boyhood days in Hannibal, meet the present-day ghosts of the mansions on Millionaires’ Row, and the incredible people who lived in Hannibal and are buried at the Old Baptist Cemetery est. 1844. The haunted tour includes an investigation of that same cemetery where some people have rested for more than 170 years.

Old Baptist Cemetery

Word of advice — When you’re in the graveyard, watch out for the following spirits: the 5-year-old-girl playing peek-a-boo, the tall, dark man in the long coat watching you from the fence line, the Civil War soldier, and a man named Edward who isn’t fond of the living. You’ll even get to try your hand at communicating with them via dowsing rods. Yes– Full body apparitions, EMF readings, and intelligent responses have all been reported and recorded on these tours.

Java Jive Coffee House. Downtown Hannibal (photo via Java Jive Facebook)

If you’re brave enough to go ghost hunting solo, head to Main Street for a coffee at Java Jive. Both it and the building next door, built-in 1868, have reported strange paranormal activity.

The story goes that back then, that Maine Street was at one time Hannibal’s “Red Light” district. It was a place of gambling, taverns, and brothels. Both employees and customers alike will tell you it still feels and sounds like the party never ended. Java Jive employees often hear ragtime-type piano music playing inside the empty building and often have an eerie feeling of being “watched” during closing time. White orbs have been captured on camera!

But what we find more spine-tingling is that attempts at using copper dowsing rods to detect electromagnetic fields in the space have resulted in the rods spinning in people’s hands! If you’re a sensitive person, maybe just get your coffee to go this time…

 

Garden House Bed and Breakfast

If you have a goal in life to sleep with a ghost, check in to the Garden House Bed and Breakfast. (The Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tour makes a stop here, too.)  There is a sad string of deaths tied to this Queen Anne Victorian home first beginning with its builder Albert Pettibone who completed it in 1896.

A well-known man about town, Albert’s family owned the Hannibal Saw Mill and Sash Company. Shortly after getting married Albert died just a few years later in 1899. The house was sold to a new family only to lose their young son at the age of three. 

Guests often report depressions left on the bed, as if someone is sitting looking out the window watching people. The owners even say the breakfast silverware and place settings prepared the night before for guests will be moved by morning. When the Today Show traveled to the bed and breakfast to film a segment, their cameras would always die in the same particular place.

If ghosts aren’t your game, that’s OK— Hannibal has enough history, breweries, and activities to entertain you. You’ll notice how Hannibal has paid homage to its previous and most famous resident, Mark Tawin in many ways. Here are our recommendations for exploring the town without encountering a spooky spirit. First up. You’ve earned yourself a drink.

FOOD + DRINK

Mark Twain Brewing Company is a microbrewery in the heart of historic downtown offers views of the Mississippi River from its second-floor seating. Enjoy a tasting flight, and be sure to come back for seasonal offerings! The brewery is also a restaurant with something for the whole family. Live music and entertainment can often be found. This is the perfect place to grab a meal and a pint with friends! Craft beer growlers are available, as are cans you can purchase to take home and enjoy.

Drink up! Mark Twain Brewing Company in Hannibal

If you’re looking for a homemade pour the whole family can enjoy, head to the Mark Twain Dinette; a family tradition for over 75 years. Enjoy an ice-cold mug of homemade root beer!  You can also purchase bottles to go. Also, check out Cave Hallow West Winery while you’re on a roll! 

If you want to eat at the same place Mike enjoyed, head to Hannibal’s LaBinnah Bistro on Millionaires’ Row located inside an 1870 Victorian home. The food features unique, memorable European, Mediterranean, and American selections. 

Mike Wolfe at LaBinnah Bistro with the friendly staff

ART + HISTORY

As part of Hannibal’s Bicentennial Celebration in 2019, (Happy 200th Birthday, Hannibal!) ghost signs of businessess that at one time operated in town have been hand-painted in the historic downtown area on brick walls. These signs emulate the era advertisements the way they would have appeared on the sides of buildings years ago.

Hannibal ghost signs

Many of the historic buildings on Main Street are on the National Historic Register. You’ll notice on the sides of the structures read each one you pass for a walking history lesson as you explore this historic river town! Take your time and read them all for a unqiue, solo guided tour of the local history. For even more stories about all things Hannibal, visit The Hannibal History Museum! 

Mike Wolfe visits Mark Twain Museum (photo via Mark Twain Museum Instagram) & historic signs like this are found throughout downtown Hannbial

You can’t come to Hannibal and miss the Mark Twain Museum! Not only does your ticket get you into the boyhood home of Mark Twain (a National Historic Landmark), but also Becky Thatcher’s house, Huckleberry Finn house as well as two interactive museums.  Thanks to their incredible interactive exhibits, folks of all ages can wander through some of Tom Sawyer’s most famous novels, ride a raft, explore a cave, pilot a steamboat, and paint Tom Sawyer’s famous whitewashed fence! You also can get an up-close view of Mark Twain’s Oxford gown, his white jacket, two of his inventions and other personal artifacts! 

For more hands-on things to do in Hannibal, explore the world-famous Mark Twain Cave or take a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat down the mighty Mississippi.

HANNIBAL EVENTS

The Annual Autumn Historic Folklife Festival has been a Hannibal tradition for more than 40 years!  Every October the locals celebrate the annual Autumn Historic Folklife Festival. Downtown returns to the mid-1850s as vendors and artisans demonstrate the crafts of times gone by. All food vendors are local non-profits, so eating at the festival is always for a good cause!

Caramel apple vendors at the Annual Autumn Historic Folklife Festival in Hannibal

Hannibal’s Halloween Festival is a month’s worth of ‘spooktacular’ events including two Halloween parades (one for people and the other a “Howl”oween pet parade!). Afterwards, the downtown windows transform into spooky LIVE scenes! Real people will dress up in the windows; from silly to scary, you never know what you’ll see!

If you’ve got the guts, every Friday and Saturday in October, the local Junior Chamber (Jaycees) organization puts on a haunted house called Warehouse of Nightmares guaranteed to make you shake! Each year they add something new from zombie paintball to escape rooms, this experience is not for the faint of heart so don’t be a hero.

Hannibal Halloween Festival + Warehouse of Nightmares

It’s historic Two Lane towns like Hannibal that remind us that charm is charm, and history is intriguing whether it’s spooky or not. With a plethora of things to do in Hannibal, this river town is the perfect destination for a unique weekend getaway or if you’d dare…a full week of history and adventure — Just mind the ghosts!

Main Street Hannibal

nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people — Mark Twain  

 

 

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Today, Shaw & Tenney still make wooden oars and paddles on the same machinery they did in the early days of the business. These photos date back to 1890!
 
Small team of craftsman in Orono, Maine continue to make heirloom products trusted by the US Coast Guard, Carnival Cruises and canoers alike
 

The year is 1858. Minnesota has just been admitted as the 32nd U.S. state and we’re only two years away from Abraham Lincoln being sworn into office. Since it will still be another decade before Edison introduces us to the first electric light bulb, the craftsmen of Shaw & Tenney work in the dark shaping and sanding oars and paddles on machinery powered by the river flowing outside the workshop in the two lane town of Orono, Maine.

More than 160 years later, many of those same machines are used today by the next generation of woodworkers producing one Maine’s best exports other than lobsters and blueberries.

Shaw & Tenney has called Orono home since opening day 1858. Inside their workshop, their hand-crafted oars and paddles come to life—the old-fashioned way, from their hands for yours.

In this small community just two hours northeast of Portland, the talk of the town is Shaw & Tenney and their large, but quiet, reputation for high-quality and traditionally built marine products in the United States. (In fact, they’re the second oldest company in the country doing this!)  Steven Holt, his wife Nancy, along with their team have wisely chosen not to make any modifications to the way things are done —  to stay on course with the company’s legacy.

Shaw & Tenney craftsmen inside their workshop in Orono, Maine.

“In 2003, Nancy and I became the third family to own the Shaw & Tenney brand,” explains Steven. “As avid lovers of boating and all facets of water recreation, this was a company we already admired and believed in so much. It’s our honor to carry the torch today and maintaining a reputation to high quality, trusted products worldwide.” 

Every aspect of building these wooden oars and paddled is done in house by a team of fewer than 10 talented craftsmen. These guys sketch, sand, paint, and varnish each product by hand. They even know their way around a sewing needle as they personally stitch oar leathers too!

Sewing oar leathers by hand for an extra special touch.
Spotted! Where You’ve Seen A Shaw & Tenney Product:
  • They created a wooden flagpole used in the movie Lincoln
  • Their oars are trusted by Carnival Cruise Liner lifeboats
  • The gondoliers at The Venetian in Las Vegas use Shaw & Tenney’s longer oars to guide through the canals of their hotel
  • The United States Coast Guard is a fan too!
While technically founded in 1858, this hand-painted sign dug up from the archives shows that the company was actually doing business two years before that!

Local Lumber

If you have a reputation for being the best, the wood had better be good. At Shaw & Tenney, each oar or paddle begins and ends as one solid piece of lumber. While you’re able to customize what type of wood you’d like: curly maple, ash, or cherry, the crew here prefers to work with native-grown, clear Eastern spruce. No knots. No defects. Once sanded, shaped, and varnished, the spruce produces a lightweight product.

“It can take about a year to learn how to use our equipment and that’s why I value our craftsman so much. I love that they enjoy being here and are proud of their work,” explains Steven. “The level of hand-eye coordination they have on the drum sander is like a performance all its own. They move and rotate the wood like a dance pausing at every third motion to review their work.”

Custom paddles and oars are available in an array of wood types too!

After the finish is applied and the seal of approval is wood-burned on the blade, the product is almost ready to be presented to the customer. There’s one more requirement to pass inspection, by Shaw & Tenney’s level of standards.

“The final test is to ask the craftsman if they’d use the product in front of them. If so, then the product is complete,” says Steven. “Our crew is not working to meet a deadline or units per day — it’s all about making sure the quality of the piece is so great that it’s something that they’d be proud to own themselves. These guys work incredibly hard to create products that are matched with performance on the water and beauty in your hand. We’re proud of them.”

Every blade is wood-burned with the company’s name.

Sustainability 

Another great thing about Staw & Tenney is not only their consideration for detail, but also their consideration for the planet! Everything in their workshop gets a second life — right down to the sawdust! Any leftover wood under 12 inches is sold as kindling for firewood, and the sawdust is donated to a nearby university to bed horses. 

Casting Beyond Paddles

With their product line casting beyond wooden oars and paddles, Shaw & Tenney is also proud to offer handmade boat hooks, masts, spars, wooden flagpoles, and full complement of marine hardware. — All made in America. Additionally, they also offer a collection of American-made products and gear like tees and hats.  

“Shaw & Tenney is a nugget of American manufacturing genius,” says Steven. “We make our products just as we did in 1858 – that’s why they last a lifetime. That will forever be our legacy.”

 

The Legacy Lives

The Two Lanes way of life is about respecting the past and not discarding it. It’s about putting in the time to master something of real value that contributes to your community and the world. True quality will always out-live the next hot trend. The longevity of companies like Shaw & Tenney, remind us that we dont always have to be chasing what’s new — we can simply look back to the time-tested roots of heritage craftsmanship.

“These products will last generations,” explains Steven. “Not only that, they feel good in your hands and perform well in the water. You can see it in a person’s eye when they hold an oar or paddle, it’s clear they can feel that they’re holding more than 160 years of techniques and history in their grasp. It’s a purchase that requires a shift from the perspective of disposable consumerism to investing in heirloom pieces that will last a lifetime and beyond. Shaw & Tenney creates products that carry you to your destinations and lead you through the adventures that become the best days of your life. If we’ve done our job right, we’ll be in Maine doing this for another 160 years.”

 

 
 

We love a good piece of leather too! These are hand-made by a family business in Franklin, Tennessee. SHOP NOW

 
 
 
 
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Travelers who’d like to be immersed in Mike Wolfe’s Two Lanes backroad lifestyle can now make themselves at home in his Columbia, Tennessee loft, the Two Lanes Guesthouse.

 

Mike’s Two Lanes Guesthouse is officially open to the public as a unique, Main Street loft vacation rental in Columbia, Tennessee. This is the first time that fans of American Pickers get to see picks from the show that Mike has pulled out of barns and sheds across America presented as decor. 

“Some people may not know, but for the past 30 years, I have been selling to designers and decorators,” says Mike. “It has been a major part of my business. This is the first time that I’ve been able to utilize that experience inside my own space for other people to enjoy. I’m on the road six months out of the year. I check-in to a lot of hotels and Airbnbs, so I understand what travelers need when they’re looking to relax after a long day in a space that feels like home. This entire project is all about creating an experience not just for a few hours in Columbia, but for a long weekend.”

Here’s a first look inside Mike’s Two Lanes Guesthouse.

Living and kitchen space of Mike Wolfe’s vacation loft rental, Two Lanes Guesthouse in Columbia, Tennessee

THE INSPIRATION

The roomy, 1,100 square foot one-bedroom loft is located on the second floor of a building Mike recently bought in historic downtown Columbia. (There’s a bike shop on the first floor!) The guesthouse offers modern kitchen and bathroom amenities set within the perfectly-sized living space decorated with Mike’s one-of-a-kind style. We are after all talking about a man who has motorcycles inside his own living room! The decor inspiration came while Mike was filming American Pickers out west.

Mike’s wild west picks decorate the guesthouse.

“We were in California picking for about a month finding vintage Navajo style rugs, worn leather goods, original cowboy paintings, and more,” explains Mike. “Looking at the pieces in the back of the van, it hit me —  this is the inspiration for the Two Lanes Guesthouse. It just seemed fitting to include the spirit of exploring the wild frontier in this space. I wanted it to represent the grit and passion one needs to chase down the road ahead, whether it’s through the mountains of the west or down a country back road.” 

After that trip, Mike came home and started digging through his private collection to see what else he could bring into the space that could create moments that connect to his passions. He wanted guests to see that “as found” pieces, though dirty and worn, are beautiful just the way they are. And indeed, visitors will be delighted to see how Mike has expertly displayed pieces of his collection recognized from American Pickers as home decor. 

AS SEEN ON AMERICAN PICKERS

King suite bedroom with custom sliding barn door

Visitors will appreciate how Mike has integrated items of different vintages and locales to create one cohesive look. The incorporation of natural pieces, like antlers and bison partner well with the more Industrial rusted picks. Intentionally places vintage signs delineate and organize spaces — like the hand-painted, wooden sign outside the bedroom which reads, “Rooms for Tourists” or the double-sided turquoise “City Cafe” sign, Mike picked in Alabama and now hanging over the kitchen island.

Kitchen area off of the living room

Fans of American Pickers will also spot throughout the loft memorable picks like the model of RCA’s beloved dog Nipper, the giant fire eater circus banner, and many others. The artwork on the walls speaks of Mike’s well-known passions — hand-painted leather motorcycle jackets and 130-year-old wooden bicycles hung like art.

An original wooden tourist sign and Nipper the RCA dog statue are places above the king suite.

Since it can be tricky to do a full renovation while on the road as much as Mike is he enlisted the help of two of his favorite friends and collaborators, Trinity Shay and Sam Robertson on the project.

“The three of us live in a little village called Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee,” explains Mike. “In a small town like ours, you quickly get to know your neighbors. I was always a huge fan of their aesthetic and ability to see the beauty in distressed, and sometimes discarded artifacts. I was honored and excited to work with them. The first time I was at Trinity’s house, which she is building from scratch, I was blown away by her attention to detail and her loving way of creating moments that are timeless.”

LEFT TO RIGHT: Trinity Shay and Sam Robertson. RIGHT: Trinity and Sam posing on the 1951 Vespa inside the guesthouse. Guests are welcome to do the same!

“As a designer, you have to be a little bit of a picker at heart because you’re not always going to find what you need inside a catalog,” says Trinity. “You never know where that final establishing piece will be discovered. It’s great to bounce off Mike’s big ideas and actually make them come to life in the details. The real work to make this come together is rooted in love and appreciation for style, design, and history.”

“What I appreciated about Sam is her free-spirited approach to design,” says Mike. “Sam’s style is well-traveled, bigger than life, yet comfortable and approachable.”

“I believe we’ve created a special space that not only gives you a peek into Mike’s world of motors and rust but also honors the charm of this historic building,” says Sam.

“The three of us worked on the guesthouse for about a year,” says Mike. “I am proud to see how our collaboration of thoughts, ideas, and passions are woven into what you see when you walk in the door.”

MIKE LEFT A VESPA FOR YOU INSIDE

Expected to be the most photographed part of the loft is the mint green 1951 Vespa. Mike wanted to create an Instagrammable moment for guests to share, so he parked the ride inside, an invitation to hop on and pose in front of the fire eater backdrop!

WHY COLUMBIA, TENNESSEE

Mike has long advocated for small town heritage tourism. He fell in love with Columbia while learning about its transportation history. (He has also been working hard to renovate and preserve a 1947 Chevy dealership and Texaco station on the street he is calling Columbia Motor Alley — just a block from the guesthouse!) Columbia has proven to be a place that keeps Mike connected to the values and community he had growing up as a kid in the Midwest. However, he realized there was something missing — there were no places to stay in the historic downtown area.

Living room and bar area off of the kitchen showcase original exposed brick walls, unique art, and a used cars sign picked on American Pickers.

“There’s so much to see and experience here,” says Mike .”I wanted to create a space that allowed visitors to experience the charms of staying on Main Street in a small town. One of my favorite things is to look outside the 13-foot windows at the 1905 courthouse and hear the clock in the tower on top of it chime every hour. You can walk downstairs into the street and see the shopkeepers preparing to open for the day — you can even smell the biscuits and bacon Puckett’s is cooking up for breakfast.”

LEFT: Original 13-foot windows in the living room show off Columbia’s courthouse across the street. RIGHT: Foyer entrance leads you to the hallway decorated with a wooden windmill blade and framed vintage motorcycle attire from Mike’s collection.

GUESTHOUSE FAST FACTS

  • Sleeps four comfortably
  • One-bedroom (king bed)
  • Green couch in living pulls out (queen bed)
  • Full bathroom
  • Full kitchen
  • Washer/dryer
  • WIFI/cable
  • Family-friendly
  • No pets please
Guesthouse bathroom with one-of-a-kind concrete and iron vanity

 ATTRACTIONS WALKABLE FROM THE LOFT

SUPPORT SMALL TOWNS 

The mission of Two Lanes Guesthouse is to draw people out of the major hotels and back onto Main Streets. Mike’s hopeful the guesthouse will be a getaway destination for families, couples, anyone who wants to retreat and reconnect to what makes small town life so relatable.

“Staying in the Two Lanes Guesthouse is like revisiting your own hometown,” says Mike. “It touches your heart in a way that you may have forgotten since you were a kid. I want everyone who stays here to feel like they’ve walked away with a better appreciation and respect for America’s Main Streets and why they deserve our support. The best part is — you have to travel the Two Lane back roads to experience it.”

 
LEFT: Mike’s mint green 1951 Vespa parked in the living room. RIGHT: Mike in the kitchen

FOR PRICING AND RENTAL DETAILS for Mike’s Two Lane’s Guesthouse CLICK HERE

FOLLOW Two Lanes Guesthouse 

FOLLOW Mike’s adventure brand Two Lanes for back road travel inspiration 

FOLLOW @muletowner for Columbia news and events 

Visit www.themuletowner.com

Photos by Meghan Aileen

 

Our sunset tee was shot inside out the Two Lanes Guesthouse. American-made and ready for the back road ahead! SHOP NOW

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