This article was originally published on NebraskaRuralLife.com. This publication went offline in March 2020. All photos by Kristine Jacobsen.
by Kristine Jacobson October 06, 2016 Articles, Rural Success Stories
Step back in time with unique rural bed and breakfast
When you check into the Orleans Hotel, you won’t receive a plastic card key to open the door to your room. Instead, you’ll receive an old-fashioned key.
Although the hotel has WI-FI, there’s no business center lined with computers or the smell of chlorine wafting from a hotel pool.
Instead, visitors are welcomed into a comfy lounge with everyday living room furniture draped in blankets that beckons guests to sit and visit without distractions.
Throughout the hotel, black and white pictures tell the story of the hotel owners’ families and the history of Orleans, a town of 394 people in south-central Nebraska.
It’s like stepping back in time, and owner Marilyn Snodgrass said history is what draws visitors to her unique overnight accommodations.
“If you are just looking for a room, it’s not for you,” Marilyn said. “But if you are looking for an experience, it’s next to nothing.”
Each of the 22 rooms in the Orleans Hotel Bed and Breakfast has a different theme. Sunflowers in one room, cowboys in another and red, white and blue in another. Creativity flourishes in each room as Marilyn, a former teacher at Oxford and Southern Valley schools, puts to use the decorating skills that once helped her thrive as a home economics teacher.
The theme of each room is carried out to the smallest details — in the wallpaper, on the night stand and on the quilts that adorn each bed, handcrafted by her husband’s mother and grandmother.
Earning an A+ in choosing a second career
Marilyn and her husband, David, purchased the hotel in 2014 after it had been for sale for six years. Marilyn had retired from teaching seven years before that and realized she didn’t really want to retire. After several years of substitute teaching, she was ready to enter the hospitality business at age 71.
“My husband and I are both very ambitious,” she said. “He (David) can fix anything and do anything. In here, you are always going to have something that’s broken or kind of broken.”
Since purchasing the hotel, the couple has added central air-conditioning, a handicapped-accessible ramp, replaced some windows and spruced up the landscaping with colorful flowers and yard decor.
Snodgrass said the hotel was built in 1929 by a group of Orleans investors. The Snodgrasses are only the fourth owners in the history of the building, which has always served as a hotel.
The building has three levels — the main floor, the second floor and the basement. Guest rooms are available on all three levels.
Hunters often stay on the lower level. They find comfort in the lodgy feel of the basement lounge and the Husker-themed game room. Families enjoy the second floor with a deluxe family suite that includes three beds, a mini kitchen and lounge area. The suite can be rented for the bargain price of $120 a night and sleeps up to eight people, if the couch is also used as a bed. Other rooms start at $65 a night and include breakfast.
Holiday season is busy time for bed and breakfast
The main level is where guests are welcomed and where the dining room and old-fashioned kitchen serve as a place for parties. With the holidays just around the corner, the hotel is booked every weekend in November and December for office or family Christmas parties.
Marilyn said the hotel is the perfect location for office parties because after guests eat, they can linger and visit in the comfortable lobby or go downstairs and play ping pong or board games or enjoy the history lessons that emerge each time Marilyn gives a tour of the hotel.
The hotel is also popular for family and class reunions, spring bird watchers, wedding and baby showers and other events.
The Snodgrasses have teamed up with Harlan County Meat Processors down the street to offer once-a- month Saturday prime-rib nights, which have been attracting between 30 to 40 guests each time offered.
Marilyn employs three part-time workers to help with the cooking and cleaning, but she believes a lot of the hotel’s success comes from her and David putting in the effort to make it great.
“Hard work and sticking your nose to the grindstone,” is what Marilyn said has made the project come to life.