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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Lager Legend Historic Dayton Is Home To Unique Weinhard Hotel

The gourmet menu at the renowned Patit Creek has made Dayton a real destination for adventurous eaters. (It’s the only restaurant east of the Cascades to receive a four-star rating in “The Northwest Best Places” guidebook.)

But there’s more than just good eats to this tiny town 30-some miles north of Walla Walla on U.S. Highway 12.

This area was one of the first settled in the state - farmers began arriving in the 1850s - and history buffs are tickled to find such significant attractions as the state’s oldest courthouse, built in 1887, and more than 80 turn-of-the-century homes on the National Historic Register.

One of the more impressive old-timers is a hotel built by the nephew of the famous Henry Weinhard. Jacob Weinhard opened a brewery in Dayton in 1880, and later built an opera house and saloon with a lodge hall upstairs.

The current owners, Ginny and Dan Butler, renovated the former saloon several years ago, turning it into a hotel. Because it had deteriorated over the years, much of the work had to start from scratch. Still, every effort was made to retain the original charm while adding modern conveniences.

Guests enter the antique-filled lobby through a side door off the parking lot. The open, airy space is where morning coffee and muffins are set out, and where live music is performed each weekend.

During my stay, an older local couple played piano and drums, filling the lobby with tunes like “As Time Goes By” and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby.” The woman on the piano also acted as unofficial social director, introducing the guests who had gathered to sip wine. It was charming, in a goofy way.

The hotel has 16 rooms on two levels, all decorated with various antiques from the period when it was built. The only hitch is that some of the ornate beds are tiny by modern standards. Don’t check in expecting to loll on a king-size mattress.

The rooms upstairs are nicer, larger and slightly more expensive. A signature suite includes a small parlor and Jacuzzi tub. Number 15 has French doors that open to a small balcony.

On the main floor, many of the windows face parking lots, with the expected thumps of car doors slamming and motors being revved up early in the morning. But they still have the high ceilings that give the place the impression that you can really spread out and make yourself at home.

All guests are invited to use the peaceful rooftop garden. It has a fairly decent view of the surrounding area, pots of petunias and comfortable Adirondack-style rocking chairs.

Other nice touches included upscale toiletries in the private bathrooms, an abundance of reading material, air-conditioning and cable TV in all the rooms.

There is a restaurant on-premise, but after a disappointing dinner, I suggest you make reservations at Patit Creek instead.

Room rates at The Weinhard Hotel range from $65 to $110 for the signature suite. For reservations, call (509) 382-4032.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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