In Nevada City, the National Exchange Hotel reopened this past spring after a three-year closure for renovation. The results: fabulous.
The hotel, which opened in 1856, began as a gathering spot and communication hub—the stage stopped right outside its barroom doors and it housed the first telegraph office in Northern California in the late 1800s and later, till 1942, a post office. Throughout the years, The National adapted to trends and needs: balconies came and went, rooms were added and subtracted, same with a swimming pool. In 1973, the property was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.
The restoration and redesign has brought back its splendor and added lots of color. History is preserved with original brick walls, vintage furnishings and fixtures, and old photos hearking back to earlier glory days. Each guestroom—38 in all—is different, loaded with antiques and present-day luxuries (towels certainly weren’t this fluffy back in the 1856). The rooms contain no TVs, but good wifi works throughout. Floral wallpapers, meticulously finished dark woods and crisp whites add freshness to the historic property. In the Grand Lounge, a stunning gold couch anchors the room; in Lola restaurant, eye-popping teal blue and blood-red bench seating invites diners to settle in. Enjoy dishes such as Western chowder (made with wild salmon, ling cod and mussels), fried chicken, duck confit ragu, steak frites or bright salads, created from locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. Begin or end the evening with drinks in The National Bar. There, you can sit on a plump barstool or at a candelit table for two. It’s the perfect environment for a shot of brown liquor, hot and fierce.