In the glorious, most marvelous lobby of the Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City, South Dakota, where guests like my husband and me mingle in the lobby enjoying a beer before turning in for the night, conversations like these happen–
“If you hear odd noises coming from our room, it’s the ghost,” said the woman with a laugh.
“What room is that?” Our attention was grabbed.
“812. A bride jumped out the window before her wedding night years ago,” said her dad and traveling companion. The dad had talked his daughter into this last minute trip to Sturgis’s 75th anniversary motorcycle rally. “812 was the last room left,” he added.
“Geez, we’re staying in 816. So, this hotel is haunted?”
“That’s what they say,” the two nodded.
The only odd detail we noticed when we were looking for our room on the 8th floor, where this lady in white is said to appear, was a missing ceiling tile above the “Exit” sign near our room door.
I chalked that to a repair in the works. Otherwise, all was aesthetically pleasing with framed art prints of Native Americans and western scenery along the hall’s walls.
The entire hotel is aesthetically pleasing and an historic gem which is the reason I picked it.
Opened in 1928 in downtown Rapid City, the year work on Mt. Rushmore began, Hotel Alex Johnson is one of those hotels that reflects its location and the interests of the person who created it. Alex Johnson, Vice-President of Chicago-Northwestern Railroad at the time, wanted his hotel to be a “showplace of the West.”
It still is. Lakota Sioux designs are worked into the patterns of the floor tiles and the hand-crafted chandelier of the lobby. Rich browns, reds and blues are prominent on the color palate. Taxidermy bison heads are included in the decor that combines rustic and elegant in a perfect blend. The hotel’s German Tudor architecture reflecting the influences of South Dakota’s German immigrants are other design features.
On the second floor, with its wrap around balcony above the lobby, the walls carry the tales of Hotel Alex Johnson history. Framed newspaper articles and photographs tell about the famous guests who stayed here and important happenings over the years.
In addition to the lobby, the top floor’s bar and restaurant, Vertex Sky Bar is a not to miss. Vertex Sky Bar blends art deco with fine dining, drinks and a view.
What a view. When we checked out the ambiance of the roof top seating, we were treated to the Blue Moon’s fiery appearance as it popped up over the horizon.
We headed to Paddy O’ Neil’s Irish Pub on the ground floor, though, for local brew libations and to enjoy the comings and goings of the travelers passing through the lobby. The lobby is also connected to Starbucks and a gift shop which features a mix of Native American and western items from jewelry to dream catchers to fine art.
About the guest rooms: More spacious than what I expected from an older hotel, the rooms have wood beams as ceiling features. The furniture is a mix of polished wood, granite and sleek lines that add a modern touch, as does the 32″ flat screen TVs, coffee maker and refrigerator. There are his and her robes as well. In combination, these make for in an appealing mix that ensures a stellar stay.
When my son slid into bed, his response was, “Man, this bed is nice.”
I slept great and never did hear a peep from that ill-fated bride.
Details of note: The staff is pleasant, plentiful and ready to help. Parking is in nearby garage and is free. Wifi is also free.
The hotel’s downtown location is perfect for enjoying Rapid City on foot. I wish we had longer to stay, in part to take in the hotel’s spa and fitness room offerings, but we left about 11 am which found us among the throngs of bikers heading to Mt. Rushmore as part of their Sturgis experience. Later in the day, we left most of the bikers behind as we made our way to Badlands National Park and our next night’s stay.
We paid $239 for our room. The week before I booked, prices were listed as $100+ more but dropped by the time I decided to book a room. The season dictates prices so keep checking. We booked through Hotels.com. (A queen single is listed for this weekend as $209. You can also try Priceline and the other booking sites.
Rooms range from one queen bed to suites.
Hotel Alex Johnson
523 6th St
Rapid City, SD 57701
*The Alex Johnson is an Ascend Collection Choice Hotel.
Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein