In Nevada City, the National Exchange Hotel reopened last spring after a three-year closure for renovations. The results: fabulous.
The hotel, which opened in 1856, began as a gathering place and communication hub – the stage stopped right outside its bar doors and housed Northern California’s first telegraph office at the late 1800s and later, until 1942, a post office. Over the years, The National has adapted to trends and needs: balconies come and go, rooms are added and taken away, ditto for a swimming pool. In 1973, the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The restoration and redesign brought back its splendor and added a lot of color. History is preserved with original brick walls, period furniture and fixtures, and old photos dating back to earlier glory days. Each room – 38 in all – is different, loaded with antiques and today’s luxuries (the towels certainly weren’t so soft in 1856). The rooms do not have a TV, but good wifi works everywhere. Floral wallpapers, meticulously finished dark woods, and crisp whites add freshness to the historic property. In the Grand Lounge, a magnificent golden sofa anchors the room; at the Lola restaurant, teal and blood red benches invite diners to sit down. Enjoy dishes such as western chowder (made from wild salmon, ling cod and mussels), fried chicken, duck confit stew, steak fries or salads, created from as much local ingredients as possible. Start or end the evening with a drink at the National Bar. There you can sit on a plump bar stool or at a candlelight table for two. It’s the perfect environment for a shot of dark, hot and fierce liquor.