story by Stephanie Farrell, featured in the Amador Ledger Dispatch September 7, 2012 photos by Steve Farrell, www.farrellphotography.net
The wait is over, the National Hotel in Jackson is open for business. Many people in the community have watched the changes take place. It’s been the topic of conversation for months. And, now it’s time to have your curiosity satisfied, the doors are open and the rooms are ready for guests.
The rebuilding of the National Hotel is reminiscent of many stories from the old west and gold rush history. This story features Stan Lukowicz as the the central character. Lukowicz is the quintessential rags to riches story. He is a self made man who started working at the age of 14 and bought his first property at the age of 18. Lukowicz lost his father at a young age and was fortunate to have mentors teach him about business from the age of 12. He listened, learned and put in to practice those lessons that are still producing results for him to this day. These mentors were in the pawn business and Lukowicz worked for them until he owned his own pawn shop at a very young age.
When Lukowicz came to Amador County in 1970, he was married with 3 children that soon became 8 children in total. He started a real estate business immediately that was focused on buying and selling property. Before long he started to rent out his properties and ventured in to commercial buildings and at that time he became partners with local businessman, Mike Spinetti. Together in addition to real estate, they built the Sierra Trading Post chain of stores, ran Spinetti’s Honda business to become hugely successful. In 1982 Lukowicz opened a pawn store when his son graduated from high school and now they have several successful pawn stores in Amador and Sacramento.
With his partner, Lukowicz owns 25 buildings on Main Street in Jackson. According to Lukowicz, “The economy got bad and Prospect closed and it was getting harder and harder to keep tenants in our buildings.” He decided to buy the National Hotel, “with my sons as my partners with the idea to help revive the town.” He continues, “When we bought it, I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted it to be.” His son, Stan Lukowicz Jr. says, “Our whole family has been involved from day one. My father has a vision for the hotel that is awesome and gives back to the community that he loves so much. I consider myself to be very lucky to have the smartest man teaching me.”
The result is a hotel that has all the modern conveniences and luxury and still retains it’s old time feel and charm. The new National Hotel from the outside has a complete facelift that respects the history of the building. The hotel features 36 luxury rooms and suites. All of the rooms have heated floors in the bathrooms, custom made Turkish towels, luxury linens, free wi fi, free local calls, hair dryers, flat screened tvs, dvd players with complementary dvd rentals, ipad/phone charger clock radios and more. Mornings at the National Hotel include coffee, tea, seasonal fruit, fresh pastries and juice for their guests. In the evening the hotel will have social time for guests with complimentary wine tasting from local wineries, beer, soft drinks, light appetizers and music. On special nights there will be story telling in the lobby and other entertainment. The holidays will feature special decorations and events. Currently the hotel and deli are open with the restaurant and bar to open soon.
The deli has open seating inside and balcony seating outside overlooking the patio below with a fountain and the creek. The deli has specialty sandwiches, make your own sandwiches, meatloaf, lasagne, fresh salads, homemade chicken tenders,pastries, espresso drinks and more.
The road to rebuilding the National Hotel was one filled with surprises. Many people say that the right people showed up at the right time. And, it all starts with the dream of one man, Stan Lukowicz. “I’m so pleased with how it turned out and I’m glad that the people in Amador County can come and enjoy it. It’s the nicest place in Amador County and there is no equal. I just want people to enjoy it. Come see it, feel it, touch it and then come back and see it get better.” He continues, “Amador County has been good to me, I’ve made many friends here. It’s a great place to live. People are friendly, they’re generous, we’re lucky to live in a community like this.”
When asked why he took on this project, Lukowicz says, “I’m not doing this to make more money. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do. I overspent and I could have saved, but I would not have the result that I have.” He adds, “We hope to attract customers to come to our community and spend their money. We want to share our rich history. I have saved and preserved so many pictures and artifacts over the past twenty years.”
From the beginning of the project, Lukowicz chose to hire local contractors, workers, suppliers and vendors. He shares, “I chose Nick Seidler to be the General Contractor and he did a good job.” Nick and Patty Seidler handle the maintenance for Mother Lode Real Investors, Lukowicz and Spinetti’s company. In the beginning of the project, Seidler juggled both the maintenance of properties and the rebuilding of the National Hotel, not realizing just how big the project would become. Nick says, “the job took on a life of it’s own. We poured hundreds of feet of new concrete footing and dozens of concrete piers. That’s what holds up the structure of the building. There were places where the building was literally ready to fall down and would be beyond repair.” He continues, “It cost Stan a ton of money to fix this building and did it with a smile on his face.”
This renovation required a team of people to pull it together. Seidler says, “We pulled a bunch of brain power together to decide how the renovation would work. Stan and his family, my wife Patty, Angela Mastagni and so many others. Rooms were reconfigured, the only interior walls that are still standing are the corridor walls and some bearing walls. The rest are new.” Nick is happy with the results, “I think it turned out beautiful. I’m proud of everyone and all of the hard work that went in to it. But the one person that is the key is Stan. This project needed time and money and Stan gave it. There aren’t many people that would have done that. Stan did not want to cut corners, He wanted it done right.”
One of the key people in the renovation is Angela Mastagni. A friend of Lukowicz for over 30 years, Mastagni has planned and designed several personal parties for him and he was very happy with her work. One day, Lukowicz met her for lunch and said, “I have a surprise for you. I just bought a hotel and I need someone to decorate it.” She was very happy. Mastagni says, “because I love decorating, I took on the project. I remember thinking many times, when do we get to start decorating?” Mastagni selected every thing from the bare walls out. “We had structural problems that required more work than originally anticipated. It was a team effort all around.” She enjoyed working on the National Hotel. “It was a great project to be a part of. Nick and Patty Seidler, they are amazing talented people. They brought the crew together. Patty restored original furniture that helped to drive the vision for decorating.” She continues, “Stan wanted an older hotel with modern luxury. I spent months researching colors, wallpaper and decor. I am amazed by the results. I look around and I just think that this was the best time of my life. I had a great time.” Lukowicz has an extensive collection of furniture, decor, artwork, paintings and collectibles that he gathered over many years. Mastagni says, “When you are at the hotel, so much of it is Stan’s, it almost like you are a guest in his home.”
Mastagni’s tour of the hotel begins with the lobby. The front doors are adorned with cut glass that creates light reflecting prisms all throughout the space. She says, “I love to create vision with light reflections.” There is a player piano that came from Mastagni’s own home. The front desk features wood from the original bar, restored by Patty Seidler. To the left is a small room that was the original phone booth for the hotel and now features period telephones. Walking down hallways includes creaking and occasional sloping. “We didn’t fix everything to be perfect.” Mastagni says, “It still has the feel of an old building. It’s part of the charm.” Each room is unique and different. Some rooms have jacuzzis, some have fireplaces, private balconies and some have adjoining rooms. The antique furniture is mixed with reproductions.
The hotel has a brand new elevator. Mastagni explains, “The making of this elevator was an amazing journey. It was an experience for all of us.” On every floor there is a buffet cabinet for serving breakfast to guests. They have two handicapped equipped ADA approved rooms. The John Wayne room is aptly named because he stayed there while he was making a movie.
Over the years many dignitaries and famous people have stayed at the National Hotel, including California governors, a number of presidents and movie stars such as John Wayne and John Ford as well as historical figure Black Bart. It was built in 1862, replacing the Louisiana House est.1849, after a devastating fire destroyed many buildings in Jackson. The National Hotel in Jackson is widely believed to be the longest continuously operated hotel in the gold country, perhaps even the state. It has had many owners over the past 150 years and undergone many changes and additions.
As the new hotel neared it’s opening date, the jobs that were becoming available were very sought after. “We are happy to be able to provide these local jobs. We start out our people above the going rate and have the best staff possible.” Says Stan Lukowicz. He searched for an experienced manager to run the establishment and found Patricia Weinsheimer. With an impressive history in luxury and boutique hotels, Weinsheimer is very happy with her new position. “This job for me felt like something that was meant to be. I relocated back to this area after a twelve year absence and I was hired to manage the National Hotel in less than a month.” She continues, “I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I knew I was following a dream. This place is so many people’s dreams, from Stan the owner to each and every employee, the National Hotel is many dreams come true.”
When she was hired Lukowicz gave her simple instructions, Weinsheimer shares, “Stan told me, when people walk in, I want them to feel like they have stepped back in time to the 1860′s.’” She is working hard to fulfill that directive to the smallest detail. The staff will be dressed in period costume, many of which are custom made for the hotel. She shares, “over 70% of the furniture and accessories are from the original hotel, restored by Patty Seidler.” She has glowing tributes to everyone who worked on the hotel, “Angela did an amazing job merging the old with the new, she was meticulous about everything. She’s just one of those people who gets the job done.” Says Weinsheimer. She also believes that
“Stan brings out the extraordinary in people.” She shares, “Stan Lukowicz is the quintessential American story. Stan is a wild west story himself. He risked and gambled to make this happen.”
Another goal that Lukowicz has for his hotel is to have great food. For that he brought in Chef, Matt McKnight. “From the first moment I got here, I fell in love with the place, the look, the beauty and the history.” McKnight was wooed away from a stable successful casino in Lincoln. Lukowicz shares,”I respect Matt because he took a big risk to quit a good job to make this change. I think he’s going to do a great job here.” And, McKnight has many plans for the future. “I’m excited about the possibilities to bring great food to Jackson. A whole new level of dining, something new that people haven’t experienced before. We will be bringing a creativity that you wouldn’t normally find in a steakhouse.” Currently McKnight is cooking for the deli, training his new staff and preparing to open the new restaurant, Stanley’s Steakhouse and the new bar.
Is the National Hotel haunted? Many say that, yes, it is. Stories have circulated for many years. The new hotel has designated two rooms for ghost hunters, since they have a rich history of sightings. Current staff and workers have reported doors opening and closing on their own, the sound of children, a dog walking down the hall with his collar jangling. While there is no proof of other worldly happenings, the stories continue. Dennis Coons, worked at the hotel before it’s renovation, he worked on the crew of the renovation and is now the Head of Maintenance for the hotel. He shares one of his ghost stories from the old hotel, “One night after the bar closed, I felt a dog lean against me. The bartender heard a dogs tags jingle.” He has also heard children while in an enclosed room. Coons has personal history at the hotel. “I met my wife while I was a bouncer. I really like this job. We have a lot of good people who work here. I plan to stay as long as they’ll let me.”
The National Hotel is located at 2 Water Street in the heart of Jackson California. The phone number is 223-0500 and the website is www.nationalhoteljackson.com. You can also follow them on Facebook.
FOOTNOTE: The photo at the top of the page was featured in the Sacramento Magazine. This article was also used in a book that will soon be published by Image West.