NEW YORK TRIBUNE EDITOR Horace Greely in 1859 spoke from this balcony of the Cary House Hotel after a famous stage coach ride from Carson City, Nev., to Placerville with driver Hank Monk. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

NEW YORK TRIBUNE EDITOR Horace Greely in 1859 spoke from this balcony of the Cary House Hotel after a famous stage coach ride from Carson City, Nev., to Placerville with driver Hank Monk. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

Secrets of Success 2010

Cary House Hotel remains close to the action

By From page C9 | December 15, 2010

In the world of real estate, the secret to success is location, location, location. The historical Cary House Hotel in Placerville certainly has that quality. However, it is the mystique of the place that perhaps gives visitors the key to this Victorian hotel’s secret to longevity.

The original hotel was built during the Gold Rush by William Cary in 1847 – hence the name. Historical documents from Placerville’s early history sometimes list the hotel as the “Carey Hotel,” but the name was misspelled. The first hotel burned to the ground in 1856, and a new structure with three floors was built on the spot.

From the very beginning, the Cary Hotel was an elegant place — built for the crème de la crème of Victorian society. It had 77 rooms and boasted a bathroom on every floor with hot and cold running water — a luxury for the era, let alone in the gold country of California.

The rich and famous added the Cary Hotel to their itineraries when touring through the West. Historical figures known to have stayed at the hotel include Mark Twain (who used to write for the Mountain Democrat), President Ulysses S. Grant and John Studebaker. Hollywood figures, such as actress Bette Davis have graced the hotel. Most recently, Brooke Shields and Lou Diamond Phillips filmed a movie at the hotel.

A fourth floor was added in the early 1900s when a hidden cache of gold dust and nuggets worth $600 was discovered. At that time, the hotel had been renamed the “Raffles Hotel.” During construction in 1926, an elevator was added that is now the second oldest elevator west of the Mississippi River.

Today, the hotel has returned to its original name, and retains its original 1950s woodwork and bricks. Today, there are 40 rooms – which have their own bathrooms. Sixty percent of the rooms are suites with kitchenettes. The second floor rooms are named after the grapes grown in the surrounding wine country, while the third floor rooms are named after historical figures, including Twain and Studebaker. The Twain Room has a locked bookcase of the author’s works, while the Studebaker Room is filled with photos and information about the Studebaker family.

The atmosphere at the Cary House Hotel is charming, cozy and comfortable. This place has it all – history, romance, elegance, charm – and for those interested in unexplained phenomena…the paranormal.

It seems in keeping that this lovely space, filled with history, antiques and architectural details galore should sport a spectral tale or two.

No fewer than four ghosts haunt the Cary House Hotel, according to Chris Hodge, who manages the hotel. Not all guests encounter these spectral hotel residents, but it has been known to happen, he said.

“Stan Levine is perhaps our most famous ghost,” Hodge said. “He liked to whistle, he was a womanizer, and he insulted the wife of a guest of the hotel. The angry husband stabbed him on the staircase and Levine died there.”

Some guests have claimed to hear a ghostly whistle at times in the hotel, or say they saw items move by themselves in their rooms. Attractive women have complained that someone pinched them on the derrière — but that when they turned to see who did it, there was only empty air behind them.

“We think it is Stan,” Hodge said. “He continues to be a womanizer, and he definitely likes the ladies.”

The Cary House Hotel is close to the temporal action, too. Nearby activities and entertainment include gold panning, wine tasting, white water rafting, Apple Hill orchards, skiing, golfing and the Red Hawk Casino. The courtyard adjoining the hotel provides a pleasant setting to enjoy a continental breakfast. The Milton Room awaits special occasions, such as weddings, receptions, business meetings, corporate retreats, seminars and conferences.

The history, architectural detail, charm and great service that continues on at the Cary House Hotel all contribute to the secrets of success for this Placerville jewel.

The Cary House Hotel is located at 300 Main Street in Placerville.

Susan Laird

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