Friday, September 26, 2014

Livingston's Murray Hotel captures old west charm, adds contemporary luxury and fine food next door

The Murray's classic style includes nods to Montana and the west, with a contemporary flair.
Elegance, comfort and western suggestions abound, with artful accents.



IF A BUILDING can give and receive love, then Livingston, Montana's Murray Hotel is a veritable Valentine of mortar, imagination and memories.
The venerable historic hotel -- a favorite of my family when I was growing up in the 1950s -- has history, chutzpah and plenty of heart.
But by the 1970s, the building had begun to languish.  Built 110 years ago, it needed paint, plywood, carpets, modernized plumbing, and plenty more.
Dan and Kathleen Kaul to the rescue.
They transformed the four-story building with love and money, tastefully restoring it with a sense of humor and abundant style.
"Check your guns at the front desk," the vintage sign suggests.
The Murray Hotel is a Livingston icon, with a colorful
history and immaculate restoration of its rooms.
ONE WELL known movie director, the late Sam Peckinpah, obviously didn't heed the warning, because the suite he favored still has the bullet holes he shot through the ceiling after, we presume, an ample dose of firewater.
Personal touches are part of the landscape and lore of the Murray.
Since its grand opening in 1904, the Murray Hotel’s guest registry has read like a who’s who of history and Hollywood. Celebrities such as Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane have graced the threshold of what was once an elegant railroad hotel. The Murray was also home to Walter Hill, son of railroad tycoon, James J. Hill. More recently, colorful personalities like motion-picture director Peckinpah rented what had been the largest suite in the place, designed for a creature-comfort-loving heir to the Burlington railroad fortune.
ROYALTY have bedded down at the Murray, too. The Queen of Denmark once spent the night, but no one seems to know if she was amused or impressed.  Humorist Will Rogers and his buddy Walter Hill liked the place so well they decided to share its splendor with their favorite saddle horse, hauling him up to a third floor suite, via the hand-cranked, 1905 Otis elevator.
WE TRANSPORTED our Yorkies, Nick and Nora, in this delightful vestige of bygone days on a trip to the Murray last week.
It was their third or fourth visit to the dog-friendly Murray -- our 15th or so -- and we tried a suite we'd not visited before, one with a pleasant fishing and angling motif.
Fishing memorabilia --
part of the charm. Each
suite has a different motif.
We were on the second floor, and knew we'd hear the railroad whistle a couple times during the night -- the station is just across the street.  But I decided to forego the convenient earplugs, and enjoy the nostalgic sound of the freight trains.  No problem.  I liked it, having grown up with that comforting and musical sound..
Look closely and you'll see two Yorkshire
terriers cuddled in the tapestry and armchair.
We also wanted to watch Ken Burns' magnificent "Roosevelts" series on PBS.  No problem.  We had a fine TV, comfy chairs and a frig for chilling our wine.  Many of the suites have microwaves and frigs since some are designed as condos and privately owned.  When the owners aren't visiting, the public is welcome to enjoy.
Our fisherman's suite had all kinds of angler's memorabilia -- a poster on dozens of trouts, paddles artfully arranged on the wall, fishing signs, and beautiful pillows and tapestries of fish, bears and birds of the northern Rockies.
THE KAULS' sense of community pride is apparent at other places in Livingston.  The enterprising couple has purchased many buildings and rentals, owns a tasteful furniture store with beautiful western and log tables, chairs and more, and they have restored and refurbished rentals.
But the Murray is the most visible and ambitious of their endeavors.
THEIR CAPABLE, well trained staff will gladly guide you to one of Livingston's eateries, including the next-door Second Street Bistro, with its extensive wine list. gourmet appetizers and inventive main course offerings.  The Bistro was packed inside and at the streetside cafe tables.

And on the hotel's other end, the Murray Bar was packed, too, with live country and rock music, and a crowd of locals and tourists enjoying the fishing lore on the walls and reasonably priced cocktails and beer.

THE MURRAY is proud of its celebrity roster -- those famous folks who have shared space and rubbed elbows with cowpokes, railroaders, and other travelers and locals.
Livingston continues to attract a steady stream of writers, musicians, movie stars and history lovers.
A fellow writer stopped us in the parking lot to admire Nick and Nora.  He knew they were named after the famous husband-wife detective team of "The Thin Man." Myrna Loy, a native Montanan, and William Powell, played the dapper Nick and Nora Charles.
The California man, who was working on a piece on historic U.S. hotels for a guidebook, said, "Ah, it's good to know we have Mr. and Mrs. Charles in residence."

COMING UP: Rip roarin' fun awaits the theater lover at the Jackson Hole Playhouse, where "Paint 
  Your Wagon" is packing in appreciate houses. More about this historic, nearly century-old venue. And we're on to the Wapiti Valley, a last gasp for autumn in the Tetons and more.  We strive for a sense of fun and discovery in our pieces!  Remember
to explore, learn and live, and catch us Wednesdays and weekends at

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