July 2018 (with a second visit in November 2021)
Our neighborhood — downtown St. Paul, Minnesota — empties out on holidays. Minnesotans tend to head for their cabins. We’ve never been cabin people, but spending holidays at home can feel a bit lonely, so this year for the Fourth of July we decided to try the Lora, a brand new hotel in neighboring Stillwater, a town about 30 minutes east of St. Paul on the St. Croix River. The Lora had gotten some nice media mentions, and it looked like something a bit different than what Stillwater is known for: the bed-and-breakfast scene. (By the way, we’re also not bed-and-breakfast people.)
Cool reuse of a historic property
We recognized the building — or more accurately the group of buildings — that makes up the Lora as soon as we pulled into town. The 1873 complex originally housed the Joseph Wolf Brewing Company, and it is a Stillwater landmark. It’s clear some serious money went into redeveloping the buildings into The Lora. Nothing seems to have gone untouched.
Our stay followed the hotel’s opening by only a few weeks, and we could quite literally still smell the paint. Everything was fresh, unmarred, and if not for the used Nespresso pod left in the machine, we might have thought we were the very first to stay in the room.
(Note to hoteliers: Guests want the illusion that no one has been in the room before. Evidence of the previous night’s guests is unwelcome. We once checked in to a great Kimpton property in Washington D.C. only to be turned off by finding a nightgown in the drawer. Yuck.)
When we arrived at the Lora, we were able to open the window, which is always a nice feature, and in this case helped with some of the paint fumes.
Aesthetically pleasing for the price
Style-wise, the hotel and our room were tasteful — with the exception of a couch in the lobby that had built-in outlets for charging devices and an odd clothes rack in the room mounted on the dresser next to the TV. Everything from the furniture to the linens was good quality, and we especially liked the three wall hooks — perfect for bags, hats and umbrellas — and the Faribault Mills blanket. We can’t say we were blown away; the decor in the room felt perhaps a little underdone But we’d rather have simplicity than lots of purposeless design elements, and in many spaces such as the hallways, the structure of the building is the real highlight.
Everything was fresh, unmarred, and if not for the used Nespresso pod left in the machine, we might have thought we were the very first to stay in the room.
Not full service, but helpful and friendly nonetheless
It’s hard to say exactly what the Lora offers in terms of amenities. The room didn’t have anything like a guest services guide. A guide — along with a pad and pen to jot down notes — is something you don’t miss until you don’t have it. (The next day in the lobby, we overhead that these were yet to arrive). With that said, the staff offered to recommend restaurants and let us know they were available to help in any way. The hotel does have a coffee shop, a restaurant and a bar right in the complex, and it offers a few fun features: bikes to borrow and some kind of pet program that appears to feature dog beds and bones.
If you’re not into B&B kitschy, this is your place in Stillwater
When we find ourselves in Stillwater again, we’ll surely return to the Lora. It’s within walking distance of everything in the historic downtown. It’s about as sleek as Stillwater can be. And it gave us a good excuse to do something we would never do at home: climb into a big, squishy bed and watch a BBC marathon of Blue Planet.
- The Lora: https://www.lorahotel.com
- Location: On the south end of Main Street in Stillwater
- Our Stay: 1 night — July 3, 2018
- Room: Deluxe King
What we saw, what we ate
- Dinner at Pearl and the Thief
- Coffee at Made (in the Lora)
- Stillwater Historic Walking Tour
November 2021: Second visit
After spending Thanksgiving 2020 in Stillwater at the Hotel Crosby and having a lovely time (even in the midst of an early pandemic spike), we decided that a second holiday in the town along the St. Croix RIver was in order. With fond memories of the Lora, we thought we should return there to see how the hotel was aging three years after its opening. And wouldn’t you know it, we got exactly the same room. All in all, the Lora delivered again, although we were disappointed that its restaurant was completely closed on Thanksgiving day. (The year before at the Crosby, we were able to order room service.) With sandwiches and chips from an area gas station — supplemented by cocktails from the mini bar — we settled in to watch a re-run of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The next day, Stillwater woke back up, and we had a fun time hiking, watching the holiday lights go on at the lift bridge and having a proper dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Feller.
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