Karen Newell Young
Nevada City Advocate
In February, Jordan Fife purchased the historic National Hotel, which from time to time has been rumored to harbor a ghost or two. He got a taste of his own medicine as new owner of the Nevada City landmark.
As he was sitting in the hotel bar, his cell phone suddenly levitated and fell to the floor. The circuit breakers tripped, and he heard strange noises at night.
Ghostly figures have also been known to appear over the years at the Holbrooke Hotel, which was built as the Golden Gate Saloon in 1852 and which is considered to be the oldest continually operating hotel west of the Mississippi. But so far, Fife, who is in escrow on the Grass Valley property and expected to close Aug. 15, has seen nary a spook.
Unlike the National Hotel—which is closed until November for extensive repairs, including a new roof, a new rooftop terrace restaurant and bathrooms—the Holbrooke will stay open and will be completed in phased renovations.
“The Purcell house and grounds (located in the back of the property) will be done first,” Fife said. “Then we will move to the lobby and restaurant, then the Iron Door” in the basement of the hotel, which he plans as a speakeasy. “Following this we will stage a re-launch of the property.”
Fife said he has several ideas for the new Holbrooke, which he sees as “the central hub of the business community in town.” The venue is already home to several community service groups that meet for lunch.
Although both hotels will reflect their time period, “the National is more Victorian in style than the Holbrooke, which is more California Klondike,” Fife said. By which he means, more rustic.
He added that he hopes to use the front of the Holbrooke as potential retail space. “We want to bring people into shop, eat and use the space for various uses.
“I want to be very conscious of buying a historic property, yet still allow it to stay open to meet the tourists’ needs and keep jobs open.”
Fife says moving from Gold Rush-era prospecting to hunting hotels in quaint towns is the focus of his company, the National Exchange Hotel Co. It is reviewing other properties in historic towns, including Asheville, N.C., and Carmel Valley, although none has approached the escrow process.
He is about to launch a new chapter in his life in another small town, Chico, where he has been asked by CSU to be a guest lecturer.
“I go once a quarter to lecture to the business and hospitality school about entrepreneurship, design, architecture and business management,” he said.
“It’s a very positive and rewarding experience to be able to share my knowledge with younger people who may want to break into the hotel management and business startup field.”
About the Photo:
Jordan Fife’s company is closing escrow this month on the purchase of the Holbrooke Hotel in downtown Grass Valley.
Photo by Karen Newell Young