Via magazine
Via magazine - Your AAA Magazine

Hotel Preservationist Barbara Sidway

Barbara Sidway at the Geiser Grand Hotel
Photo caption
Barbara Sidway reigns over the Geiser Grand Hotel


Rollicking ghosts, some say, were the only guests of the 1889 Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City, Ore., for decades after the building was shuttered in 1968. Thirty years later, preservationist and developer Barbara Sidway took over and restored the 30-room hotel to its boomtown glory. Now travelers can relive the town's gold rush days in a truly spirited manner.

Q Why become a preservationist?
A I'm a history geek. Doing preservation work is like being an archaeologist.

Q Is preserving old hotels a big trend?
A People are realizing that there are so many advantages to reusing existing buildings. You can tap into mass transit, sewers, urban culture—plus you keep the buildings' irreplaceable beauty.

Q What were the special challenges of the Grand?
A Odd as it is for a hotel with just 30 rooms, everything about it is oversize, from the 16-foot ceilings to a grand atrium with a stained glass ceiling. We had to hunt for furniture and fixtures, like the 23 crystal chandeliers we got from a palace in Venice.

Q When was the town's heyday?
A In the late 19th century, Baker City was the queen city of the Oregon gold mines. People who enjoyed the finer things in life would come here: dreamers, schemers, capitalists, politicians. There were saloons and bordellos along with churches. It was a wild place.

Q Do you believe the hotel is haunted?
A I've heard tinkling glasses, music, laughter, sounds of a party coming from a banquet room that stopped as soon as the door was opened. I've never actually seen a ghost, but others say they have.


This article was first published in November 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.