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Historically Chic

Learn how a local couple transformed a silent-movie theater into a much-talked-about boutique hotel.

By Katrina Paz
Photography courtesy of Rest

Buildings Reborn

It could have been Singapore, but in the end it was the tiny town of Plymouth in the Sierra foothills.

Actually, it was the nearby community of Volcano where Mark and Tracey Berkner first moved and took over a small inn in the early 2000s. They’d both worked for Marriott and had ample experience opening properties. They’d also both come to a fork in their careers: Launch a new Marriott in Singapore, or make their mark in a quiet hamlet in Amador County.

Amador County won, of course, and they went on to open Taste Restaurant and Wine Bar in Plymouth in 2006. Not long after that, they purchased some apartment buildings a few doors down on Plymouth’s historic Main Street. Due to the downturn in the economy, it took eight years for the Berkners to bring their boutique inn to life, but they finally opened the doors to Rest in 2016.

Chic Hotel

The hotel was originally two buildings that are now restored and connected.

What is now one seamlessly flowing property was originally two buildings—a restaurant and a silent-picture house, both built in the 1920s, that were eventually turned into apartments. The Rest renovation began with the deconstruction of nearly the entire site. The Berkners worked closely with the architect to restore and connect the structures via the lobby and a windowed skywalk at the back of the hotel.

During the reconstruction they found several remnants of the building’s past life, including the movie marquee and an old horseshoe. The horseshoe followed them throughout the construction, moving from wing to wing as the project progressed. It now hangs prominently in the main hallway.

Interior of hotel

The interior includes whimsical and historic touches.

Setting the Tone

Guests wandering in find themselves in more of a posh living room than a hotel lobby, with an array of antique suitcases and sliding barn doors that conceal a formal office area. Many of the materials were found either on-site or at a nearby ranch, solidifying the inn’s nod to the region’s history.

The Berkners wanted to maintain a “lodgey-kind of homey feel” while blending in modern amenities. An open layout with abundant natural light harmonizes with the whimsically adorned historical touches. One of the most interesting and understated: siding from the original café structure that features the signatures of several locals. Visitors have come in to see where their great-grandparents, -aunts and -uncles once signed.

“This is what we call our graffiti wall,” Tracey says. “Graffiti in the 1930s was (apparently) done in pencil, first and last names and cursive. It’s really fun to be able to show the history in that way.”

The countertops and décor incorporate old doors and locally milled wood to create accents. Chairs, however, are cozy and contemporary, while horseshoes, cowbells, and mason jars juxtapose naturally with a modern chandelier, flat screen TV, coloring books for grown-ups and a selection of board games.

Graffiti wall

The graffiti wall from the 1930s.

Sitting areas are found nestled throughout the inn, each showcasing unique artifacts, including luggage, globes or old wooden macaroni crates from Stockton. Examine the wall hangings in the hallway and you’ll discover that they’re actually grape-drying mats with the faint imprint of grapes from a local winery.

Leading up to the skywalk is a collage of picture frames in an open staircase. The use of colors (a vibrant red stands out on a blue-hued accent wall) and the overlaying design creates a sculpture in itself. The sunlit walkway overlooks the courtyard while a display of fairy lights placed on a cargo trunk help illuminate the evening hours.

From Picture House to Hotel

The remnants of this old mining town still linger here. The façade, while faded, hasn’t really changed much in the past century, and if it’s up to the Berkners, the town’s history will always be an integral part of their inn.

The silent-movie house that once stood here still has a place in the soul of the town. The original marquee discovered under the building during the construction phase is being refurbished and will no doubt be delicately and perfectly placed among the eclectic collection of aesthetic artifacts. Until then, Tracey Berkner can see the movie seats that once filled the one-room cinema on a neighbor’s porch across the street. She’s also met a local resident whose grandmother, as a girl, played the piano during the silent movies. According to Tracey, the girl was paid in sheet music, sheet music the Berkners hope to one day display in honor of days gone by, but not to be forgotten.

“We’re just the stewards of the history,” she says. “We’re going to make sure that things are here another 100 years and we want to share the history with our guests. Eventually we might be part of that history, but as long as it makes the community better, that’s the benefit for us.”

A Place to Rest

None of the 16 guestrooms are quite alike, all with slightly different accessories and color schemes. Tracey selected earth tones while staying true to the local geography. Colors range from Golden Hills (“some people call it brown, I call it golden”) to London Burgundy, in homage to the local wines.

“We wanted a combination with the fabrics to be rustic, earthy tones, so that they weren’t too feminine, because this town has a rough and tumble history and it has an agricultural history,” she says. “We didn’t want it too fancy, it almost has a masculine look to it.”

Guests during wine hour

The wine “hour” often drifts well into the evening.

Tracey also added a bit of her own personality to each room. Admitting she has a sarcastic sense of humor, she disseminated her eclectic collection of books throughout all the rooms. The tomes range from “Politically Correct Bedtime Stories” and MAD Magazine to “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” and Nancy Drew, as well as the entire Zane Grey series.

A Place to Gather

The multi-level courtyard (which was once an alleyway) off the lobby provides gathering areas where guests often find themselves sampling the wines they purchased during their afternoon outings. A fire pit for cooler evenings and summertime s’mores sits in one corner. A tranquil fountain creates a serene atmosphere while bamboo and old-growth zinfandel vines, reminiscent of driftwood, mingle naturally.

Guest room

Each guest room is distinct and true to local geography.

A garden area provides added space for socializing and relaxing. Local wineries are the site of numerous weddings throughout the summer, so the Berkners find themselves planning and catering rehearsal dinners and special events. A farm table made of rustic wood is pulled out for such gatherings, and guests dine under the sky and strands of twinkling Edison lights.

The inn hosts a wine hour every evening, though most evenings the “hour” lasts well into the night. “It kind of turns into a mini-party, people lingering, sharing their bottles of wine,” says Tracey. “Everyone’s sitting in a circle making their new best friends.”

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