1. Back to school
Pieces of original slate decorated with chalk drawings hang on the walls of the hotel that’s a four-hour drive from Seattle in Washington State. It functioned as the Bingen School between 1908 and 1975, but instead of reading, writing and arithmetic, you’ll now find rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Architect Ben Waechter took on the challenge of creating thoughtful design that combines adaptive reuse with new construction, converting the main building into a mix of classrooms-turned-bedrooms. For instance, in the old Spanish classroom, vocabulary charts and maps labelled in Spanish hang on the walls; while two bunk rooms are now stacked with triple bunks and lockers for guests.
2. Roughing it in style
Twenty private cabin rooms stand in a circle on the old sports fields, all built with local lumber and connected by a winding roof. Each comes equipped with a hammock and picnic table for lounging around. Adding to the compound’s rustic-chic vibe are enamel dishware – reminiscent of mess kits – and lush Moroccan throw rugs. Through the windows, you’ll occasionally glimpse a lone train chugging through the town.
3. Hydrotherapy under the stars
In the centre of the ring of cabins is the spa and bathhouse, a modern-rustic wooden structure that mimics the roofline of the schoolhouse. Guests congregate to splash under skylights in the warm salt water pool, cold plunge pool, dry sauna or outdoor hot tub, where bathers get to soak in the open air. A massage therapist is available for treatments too.
4. Nostalgic recreation
If you’ve caught a spirit of mischief, head to the site of the old principal’s office, where a bar and café now stands. Grab sandwiches, locally roasted coffee or a craft beer and retreat to the library and lounge where you’ll find leather chairs, wooden tables, a stack of board games and a wall of books. There’s also a sanctuary space at the edge of the property that’s a great place for yoga or quiet reflection. All the public spaces throughout the hotel are built with community in mind, so if you’re feeling even more social, head over to the gymnasium, where you can shoot hoops or play shuffleboard with whoever’s game.
5. A magnificent natural playground
Bingen – located in Washington State’s Klickitat County – sits in the stunning Columbia River Gorge. Driving east, Mount Hood stands craggy and proud on the horizon, while silvery waterfalls emerge intermittently from the heights. The area is bound on one side by hills rising straight up and on the other side by the glittering Columbia River, and is an excellent base for hiking, windsurfing and visiting local microbreweries. Be sure to consult the “adventure wall” in the lobby, replete with suggestions of local hangouts and hidden gems by guests who came before. And in a nod to preserving the abundant local flora, the grounds of the hotel are strewn with native plants to serve as a pollen corridor.
SEE ALSO: Review: The State Hotel, Seattle
This article was originally published in the March 2020 issue of SilverKris magazine