Articles from March, 2012

One of Oni Studio’s most elite Boudoir Packages, Lilith’s Lair, actually takes place at a luxury hotel of customer’s choice. This kind of location not only has a pampered, classy feel, but it also provides such a wide variety of scenes and settings that it makes a four hour shoot fly by in no time. This package includes hair and makeup services, and all your favorite shots in specially designed Press Printed Book.

Around Whidbey Island area there are not that many luxury hotels to choose from. When I select the hotel I look at things like decor and color combinations, space, light and of course accessibility. So whenever I am out I always keep my eyes open for a new location for future photo shoots.

During one of my last trips to Port Townsend, Washington, I visited The Palace Hotel. It’s located on Water Street, which is the main street of downtown area. Hiding among other Victorian style buildings of 19th century, the hotel is easy to pass by, but the moment I walked inside I fell in love with it. Especially after learning more about the history of the hotel I knew for sure this was going to be one of the most popular locations for Lilith’s Lair.

Every room is decorated in Victorian style and since it used to be a brothel, every room is named after the girl that used to serve in it. Each room is different, unique to the girl’s personality and has a lot of antique furniture and decorations. In hallways and common areas guests can find lounge chairs and fainting couches, beautiful paintings and an old working piano.

“There is something about the Palace Hotel that is unlike other old buildings. We hear about these old places of ill repute and imagine the wretched lives of desperate women. But The Palace leaves no residue of creepiness. Instead, I had a sense of friendship, companionship, and respect which surprised me.
On my way out the door, I talked with one of the women who cares for the hotel, and she said she sees ghosts all the time (she said I reminded her of one of them!). She said she was at first struck by how regal the spirits seemed, the girls seemed to exude a radiant love which one wouldn’t expect from a lowly prostitute. It felt, to me, that within the walls of The Palace, men and women found refuge from the hardships and judgements of society… if those walls could talk…” ~Aliza Finley


The Palace Hotel – A Step Back in Time

The Palace Hotel occupies the Captain Tibbals Building. This classic three-story brick building was constructed in 1889 for $28,000 by Henry L. Tibbals, a retired sea captain. Built in the Richardson Romanesque style, the building’s arched windows appear to extend for two stories through the use of twin columns that bracket each window bay on the building’s facade. The Captain Tibbals Building is a beautiful example of Port Townsend’s turn-of-the-century architectural past.

From 1925 to 1933, the upper two floors of the building were known as the Palace Hotel, affectionately nicknamed “the Palace of Sweets” as they were operated as a brothel and hotel. During this time, the Madame of the house, Marie, occupied the corner suite on the second floor. Her room was richly decorated with plush red wallpaper and deep green woodwork, much as it is today. It had the only fireplace in the building, but it lacked a private bath as there was only one on each of the upper floors. On the third floor there were four, small interior rooms which were lighted from the large stairwell skylight, but had no outside windows. While this type of interior room was quiet common in the building of this era, in the Palace Hotel they served as “cribs” for the “girls”. Following an early morning raid by the sheriff in the mid ~1930′s, the brothel was eventually closed and Marie and the “girls” soon left town. Such is the colorful past of this beautiful building.

Since being renovated, the building has been home to the Palace Hotel. The hotel occupies the second and third floors, with a lovely restaurant and several specialty retailers located on the main level. The hotel features 15 charming guest rooms and suites, each still bearing the name of one of the “girls”. Each room is uniquely furnished with antiques and collectibles, in keeping with the Victorian character of the building. Most have private baths and several have mini-kitchen facilities. With soaring windows and 14-foot ceilings, each guest room retains the flavor of century-old quality and architectural character so rarely found today.

“When I walked through the halls and explored the different rooms, I tried to envision what life would have been like when The Palace was in its prime. Knowing what the hotel had been originally established for, it took me while to accept how profuse and how fast American society and culture has progressed since the brothel was shut down. I found that the experience stimulated senses that only museums and haunted mansions could evoke. Being in a place so lavish with history and so well-preserved deceived me of any change or advancement in the outside world. The website may have photographs of all the rooms and the lobbies, but pictures cannot compensate for the Timequake that knocks you back to the Victorian Era when you walk through that front door. I would highly recommend visiting this place, even if it’s just a walk through. Nothing beats aesthetic satisfaction like The Palace.” ~Alicia Christianson

To introduce and showcase my amazing finding I wanted to do a mega shoot with a variety of models and looks. Hotel’s manager, Gary, was very supportive and accommodating. When I was telling him about all the crazy ideas I had for the location, he was open to it and granted me access to anything I needed. Next I booked my models. Few of the faces you will recognize, since I’ve worked with them before, and others I actually met on the day of the shoot. My idea was to convey that Victorian era feeling in a modern way and all the girls played their part beautifully.

On day one of the shoot Ashley, from MakeUp Your Mind, and I took an early ferry to Port Townsend and hurried to unload all the equipment and prep the sets before the first model arrived. I was so glad to have Ashley there. She did an amazing job on making the girl look flawless, and as always helped me carry lights around and move things out of the way. Thanks Ashley!

That day we did three different shoots, moving from one room to the next, running up and down hotel’s large stairwell… what an exercise! I swear I started the day in heels, but that lasted about an hour. By the end of the day I was shooting barefoot. The whole day was so much fun. My creativity was pumping, especially when I would find a vintage piece of furniture or a cool traveling trunk that I could incorporate into the set.

“I thought the Hotel was beautiful. I loved it from the minute I stepped inside. The decor was so fitting to the feel of the place. The rooms were all so individual, and the fact that it used to be a Brothel just made the place all the more intriguing. It fits so perfectly into the town of Port Townsend.” ~Lucy Luck

That night Ashley had to go home, but I actually stayed the night in one of the beautiful rooms, Miss Mona 10B, on the third floor. I relaxed in a claw-foot tub and lounged in my comfortable bed watching TV. And only then did the thought occur to me, “I wonder if this hotel is haunted?”  I didn’t want to freak myself out, so I just locked the door, put a safety chain up and went to bed. I’ll admit, I had some crazy sexual dreams that night and woke up sweating, wondering why I was so hot. However, when I got out from under the blanket, the room was ice cold! I didn’t give it much thought, but when I turned around and looked at the door, I got chills down my spine. The chain was undone and the door was wide open!!!

Now, I am not one of those people that get easily spooked or freak out, but I am careful. I know the deadbolt was engaged before I fell asleep. Something had happened during the night. Was I visited by a ghost?

When I told the staff of the hotel about my experience, they were not at all surprised. They even keep records and letters from people that had a haunted experience while staying at the Palace. I looked through that hefty volume of records. Some letters date as far back as late eighteen hundreds. Wow!

“Theres something eerily romantic about The Palace Hotel in Pt. Townsend, WA. The lavish, antique furnishings remind one about the history of this once brothel now victorianesque boutique hotel. The elegant hotel has been modernized but still boasts many of the historical elements such as claw foot bathtubs. Some offer a beautiful view of the Puget Sound and feature beautifully aged frescos on the walls. While all are elegant, each room has a different vibe and is named after the woman who once occupied them. I found myself wondering about the lives of the beautiful women who once called this place home and earned their livings servicing male suitors from inside its rooms. Victoria has captured this essence and through her camera lens takes us on a pictorial journey reminding us of days not so long past. ” ~Jen Roberts


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