For over 150 years, the Murphys Historic Hotel has been offering travelers on their way to the Calaveras Big Trees, or further up the Sierra Nevada, a place to rest and find refreshment. Not much has changed in a century and a half — at least in some parts of the registered National Historic Landmark hotel.
"The bar is historically preserved as a saloon; it makes it nice when you walk in, you feel that nostalgia," said Kevin Clerico, one of the hotel's three owners and the bar manager.
Along with the circa 1800s saloon, the hotel features nine "historic" rooms that are furnished with period antiques and are named after notable guests, such as Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain and Susan B. Anthony.
In the Presidential Suite (the Ulysses S. Grant room) guests will find a 19th century coal stove, the original bedframe from Grant's stay at the hotel in 1880, the barber chair used when he visited, and California’s second oldest piano.
In the "historic" rooms guests are also treated to 1800s-style amenities — no heating or air conditioning, no electronics of any kind (televisions, alarm clocks, etc.) and there are shared bathrooms and showers in the hallway.
"The historical rooms are very charming," said co-owner Brian Goss. "They're warm in the summer, and cooler in the winter; you have to cuddle in the winter."
Goss said many history adventurers enjoy staying in the hotel's older rooms. He also suggested staying during the week for a quieter visit, as the historic rooms are located above the saloon.
There is another type of guest that frequents the Murphys Historic Hotel, said Goss — those looking to have a more ethereal experience with the landmark's past.
"There are a lot of people who like to stay in this hotel, the historic rooms in particular, because of the paranormal activity we have here," he said.
The hotel has welcomed many paranormal investigators over the years looking to capture evidence of ghostly happenings, said Clerico. Eleanor is the hotel's most famous ghost. The story goes that Eleanor worked in the hotel in the 1860s and fell in love with a gold miner. When the miner went off to seek his fortune and never returned, she remained at the hotel ever-awaiting the day he might come back — even after her death.
Those looking for a paranormal experience may want to stay in Historic Room 9.
In the 11 years that Goss has worked at the hotel, he said he knows of five couples who left Room 9 in the middle of the night because of the activity or energy in the room. But they always came back the next morning to share their experiences — "over a Bloody Mary in the saloon," he said.
"We have no bad ghosts, they're all friendly, they're just stuck," said Clerico.
While the hotel definitely lives up to its 'Historic' middle name, the food is anything but old-fashioned. In fact, co-owner and executive chef Joel Metzger describes the restaurant's fare as " contemporary cuisine, with a variety of American dishes."
The restaurant is open seven days a week, 365 days a year and is a favorite gathering spot for holiday meals for both travelers and locals alike, said Metzger.
The hotel 's newest addition is a patio bar that looks like an old miner's shack. The outside bar allows the hotel to better serve large parties on the picturesque patio that looks out onto Main Street Murphys.
Although the hotel's ghostly apparitions are friendly, a little bit of 'Hell' visited the Murphys lodging last June, in the form of Gordon Ramsey and his "Hotel Hell" production crew.
Ramsey, known for other reality shows like "Kitchen Nightmares and "MasterChef," has turned his troubleshooting abilities towards hoteliers in this FOX program currently in its second season.
The Murphys Historic Hotel owners are not able to give out any details about the filming of the show before its airing, which is expected sometime in the next three months, but the hotel's lobby and at least two modern rooms now have a definite Ramsey look to them.
Clerico said the hotel plans on throwing a viewing party when the air date is announced. Details will be posted on the hotel's website atmurphyshotel.com
.Calaveras Big Trees
Calaveras became a State Park in 1931 to preserve the North Grove of giant sequoias. This grove includes the "Discovery Tree", also known as the "Big Stump", the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. This area has been a major tourist attraction ever since, and is considered the longest continuously operated tourist facility in California.
The park is 22 miles northeast of Murphys on Highway 4. The park is open for day use from sunrise to sunset. For more information, visit:parks.ca.gov/calaverasbigtrees