National Hotel -- Jamestown hotel has a longtime guest
Sierra Lodestar 12/19/10

Foothill Flavors

The National’s Christmas Ghost

By Antoinette May Herndon

Move over Scrooge. Yours are not the only spectral visitors. The National Hotel in Jamestown has a Christmas ghost too. They call her “floating Flo.”

It’s not surprising that a hotel with a history like the National’s would attract ghosts. Built in 1859, the hotel was among the first permanent structures in a rough and tumble Gold Rush town where most people lived in tents or shanties.

In continual operation since its opening, the National has enjoyed a lively history. The hotel was raided several times during the Prohibition years for, despite the seizures and fines, they continued to serve liquor. Prostitution was rampant into the late 1930’s and slot machines were only removed in 1949.

It’s surprising there aren’t a lot more ghosts . . . and perhaps there are. But let’s get back to our original.

More than 100 years ago, Flo, 19 and pretty, checked into the National Hotel with a story to tell. She had been raised by her grandmother, a wealthy New Yorker. Following her grandmother’s death, the young heiress was en route by train to San Francisco to live with relatives when she met Henry. A handsome young lawyer, Henry was employed by a group of mining investors in San Francisco.

It was love at first sight for both of them, Flo confided to the other hotel guests. By the time they reached California, Henry had proposed marriage, but knowing that Flo’s family would be outraged, the couple decided to meet six weeks later in Jamestown where Henry was to travel on business. They planned to be married then.

So, after a short stay with her family, Flo secretly boarded the train for a trip through the rolling foothills. In a state of happy anticipation, she arrived in Jamestown and again registered at the National Hotel. A few days before Christmas, Henry arrived and Flo hired a seamstress to sew an exquisite

lace-trimmed wedding gown.

Naturally, the Victorian couple stayed in separate rooms at the hotel, but each morning they met for breakfast to plan their wedding. On Christmas day Henry presented Flo with a diamond ring.

The following day Flo sat in the dining room waiting for her fiance to come down when a shot rang out. According to some accounts, what happened was a crime, although no one was ever caught or prosecuted; but others insisted that it was a tragic accident involving a town drunk who stumbled into the doorway and shot Henry as he descended the stairs. Whatever the case, Flo found her fiance at the bottom lying in a pool of blood next to the opened door. `The hotel staff heard uncontrollable sobs throughout that day and night, and the next night and the one after that. Then, on New Year’s Eve. There was silence. Alarmed, the manager entered Flo’s room to find her seated by the open window dressed in her wedding gown. She was dead. “Heart failure,” the doctor diagnosed, but those who’d come to know Flo felt certain that her heart had not failed—it had been broken.

That night, revelers passing by the hotel were startled by a “woman in white” floating at an upstairs window.

There are those who believe that Flo still floats. But, as sad as those long ago events were, tragedy does not seem to be part of Flo’s modern- day persona. The owners and staff of the National Hotel are certain that their resident ghost is a bit of a mischief-maker. They call her “Flo” and insist that she is friendly and playful.

Chefs have reported pans tumbling off shelves, spoons and ladles suddenly swinging wildly from wall hooks. Guests tell of entering their rooms to find the heater unexpectedly on and the room warm, yet feel an icy blast of air brush past them into the hallway.

Flo appears to favor the rooms in the front of the building, though she has been

spotted in the early morning downstairs, floating through the dining room and right through the walls.

Guest rooms are provided with notebooks and visitors are encouraged to share experiences and comments. There have been written accounts of doors slamming, lights turning on and off, clothes being taken out of suitcases and dumped on floors, and a woman sobbing in the hallway in the middle of the night. Many a former skeptic has left the National with a whole new mind set.

After more than 100 years, one wonders what keeps Flo floating. Isn’t it time to check out of the National? Apparently not. Perhaps the now familiar surroundings with their cherished memories of plans made during that holiday season so long are ago, are just too dear to leave behind.

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VITALS: National Hotel, 18183 Main Street, Jamestown. Phone: 984-3446. The hotel restaurant is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Credit cards accepted. Reservations advised. The National has received Triple A’s 3-Diamond Dining Award for more than 30 years. The historic inn still uses the original back bar and has a working cash register dating from 1881. The rooms are decorated in classic Victorian style: four-poster beds, antique everything. The dining room is warm and comfortable. Lots of charming old paintings and photographs, a sense of history everywhere. Movie buffs may recognize some of the scenery in Jamestown. The classic movie, “High Noon,” starring Gary Cooper, was filmed there.


“Flo,” a friendly ghost, has been spotted floating past these walls at the National Hotel in Jamestown.

A local family watches hopefully for a Flo sighting.

Some say Flo’s tender memories of Christmas Past has kept her at the National Hotel in Jamestown for more than 100 years.

Holiday decorations have been a tradition at the National Hotel since 1859.

“Flo,” the National Hotel’s resident ghos.