May 2004

Hip Hotels USA

Thames & Hudson

  • 500 Fifth Avenue
  • New York , NY

212.354.3763

Any book with the word "hip" in the title that lists the matronly Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco is worth looking at if only to find out the author’s definition of “hip.” Herbert Ypma makes a pretty good case for the Mark Hopkins describing the Room of the Dons, “a stunning1920’s ballroom with a series of seven-foot-high murals that relate the history of California in high Art Deco style…with its pilasters, panels and medallions delicately accented in turquoise, melon and persimmon….” In this review of 40 hotels across the United States, stunning photographs further substantiate his choices. In addition to his acute aesthetic sensitivity he brings a social awareness that is as refreshing as it is informative.

Examples of Ympa’s attention to detail on the subject of Haute Hotels, include:

  • The Hotel George in Washington, D.C. and references to Native American chiefs lobbying in the capitol to protect their lands during the westward expansion.
  • Rancho de la Osa, a dude ranch in Arizona, with saddles for seats in the bar.
  • The Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles which boasts “bright red capsules that stand like little spaceships beside the pool [that] were designed for groups of up to twelve to enjoy cocktails sitting on the gently vibrating waterbeds.”

Hipness doesn’t come cheap, however. Prices are mentioned as well:

  • The witty Duchamp in Sonoma Valley, CA with its surrealistic touches comes in at $225.
  • The Cedar Creek Treehouse near Seattle goes for $250 a night.
  • The gorgeous Canoe Bay in Wisconsin for $300.
  • The stately Wheatleigh, a “magnificent Italianate mansion” in the Berkshires rings in at $425.

Most of the hotels listed sound at least intriguing if not downright fabulous, but the only one I could afford was the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ. This funky throwback to the 1950’s is located on the historic Route 66. “The outlines of the white concrete teepees with their graphic red detailing stand out a mile away on this dead flat terrain,” states Ypma. This is high plateau Navajo country, famous for its petrified fossil forests. This truly hip hotel costs $35.00 and up. Can’t wait to get there!

Reviewer: Judith Wehlau, FIDM Library Staff Member, S.F.