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Baker City — The Queen City of the Mines

The jagged glacier carved Elkhorn Mountains rise dramatically and serve as a spectacular backdrop to the sleepy town of Baker City. In the 1860s gold was discovered just outside of town spawning a gold rush that would last over fifty years. At the turn of the century Baker City was known as the Queen City of the Mines. Today the citizens are pulling down the sheet metal and plaster facades erected on the downtown buildings in the 1960’s and restoring the area to its original glory. Baker City can now boast that it has the second largest number of homes and buildings on the National Historic Register in Oregon.

Even though we arrived in the area on Sunday, we rushed into town to see the sights. As we walked around we found the downtown area attractive but strangely vacant. Most of the businesses were closed except for Bella the Main Street Market. With all the wines, gourmet foods, kitchen ware and espresso bar, this delightful shop seemed like it had been transplanted from Napa California. While making an Americano, the barista explained that the downtown shuts down on Sundays because the city council is tightly controlled by the city’s church leaders.

Perhaps the most renowned building in Baker City is the historic Geiser Grand Hotel. It was built in 1889 and was heralded as the most elegant hostelry between Salt Lake City and San Francisco. After being abandoned for almost thirty years and almost being demolished for a parking lot, it was finally restored to its original stature and reopened in 1997.

Click on the photo to see the view we had above us.

We enjoyed an anniversary dinner in the elegant Palm Court dining room. We sat under a dazzling stained glass skylight and enjoyed the specialty of the house … hickory smoked prime rib. After our "special meal" we wandered around the hotel and admired the walnut interior, beaded chandeliers and circular balcony. Of the many historic photos in the lobby and bar, the one that grabbed our attention was one showing several stage coaches parked in front of the hotel … in about the same place where our truck was parked.

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