158 Rooms, 53 Bells, and 2 Commanders in Chief

Santa Nella Hotel/Conference Center Honors Two US Presidents

Hotel Mission De Oro is one of those unusual points of interest in Central California.  

The architecture tries to capture the feel of a California Spanish mission with long sections of rooms, isolated spaces for reflection, and a bell tower.

 The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The bell tower is nine stories high, and has over fifty bells.  

There is no public access to the tower’s upper levels.  

But it is impressive to the drivers passing by on Interstate 5 as well as to the visitors on the Hotel grounds.

I did not count the number of bells in the tower, but a travel website did.  

That website says there are fifty-three bells and that none of them ring.

Unfortunately, there is no public access to the inside of the nine-story bell tower, but thanks to the Hotel’s Director of Sales Shannon Cook, there is a photograph.  

To think of the vista one could experience from any window in that tower.

 Inside the bell tower at The Hotel Mission De Oro.  Photo courtesy Shannon Cook, Director of Sales.

Inside the bell tower at The Hotel Mission De Oro.  Photo courtesy Shannon Cook, Director of Sales.

Amidst the sprawling grounds of the hotel, conference, and restaurant facility there is a tribute to two former U.S. Presidents.

Facing the complex from the back of a reflecting pool is the statue of Dwight D. Eisenhower.  A plaque beneath the bust of the thirty-fourth President commends Ike’s major domestic achievement:  the launch of the Interstate Highway system that includes Interstate Five.

 The likeness of the thirty-fourth President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower on the grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The likeness of the thirty-fourth President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower on the grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The back of the Eisenhower statue faces the interstate highway.  

About thirty feet away from the Eisenhower representation is another reflecting pool and another statue.  This one is in honor of John F. Kennedy.

 A statue of John F. Kennedy at The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

A statue of John F. Kennedy at The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The plaque beneath JFK’s bust cites the start of the San Luis Reservoir project in 1962.  

Kennedy traveled to the site of the Reservoir in August of 1962.

The Reservoir has provided flood protection for the area since formally opening in 1967, five years after the President’s visit.  

The Reservoir is just a few miles from The Hotel Mission De Oro.

The Kennedy statue faces the interstate.  

 The sprawling grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The sprawling grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Hotel opened in 1975 and was acquired by a new owner four years ago.  Chris Rufer, the owner of the Morning Star Corporation, began renovations shortly after buying The Hotel Mission De Oro.  

A dining venue called the Kitchen at the Mission opened in July of 2017.  It is open every day for all three meals.

Mission Lounge is next door to the Kitchen at the Mission.  The bar has comfortable chairs, eighteen brands of beer on tap, and live music on weekends.  It opened in September 2017.

 The Mission Lounge opened next door to the Kitchen at the Mission in 2-17.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Mission Lounge opened next door to the Kitchen at the Mission in 2-17.  Photo by Steve Newvine

According to Shannon Cook, there is more work taking place in the near future.

 “Renovations include more landscaping, creating a new wine cellar to hold two-thousand bottles of wine, and building a sound wall on the Interstate Five side to block the sound of traffic are in the works.”  

Other renovations will include work on the guest rooms, completion of the work on meeting and event space, and the addition of a gift shop.

The Hotel is actively marketing the facility for social and business events.  With one-hundred, fifty-eight hotel rooms, it can handle larger meetings and parties.

“I love introducing people to our newly renovated hotel,” Shannon says.  “We have lots going on. It’s very exciting.”

De Oro means “of gold” in English.  

The name likely connects the hotel to the discovery of gold in California back in the mid-1800s.

I stopped in to see the place after hearing some radio ads promoting the restaurant.  While I was impressed by seeing the bell tower up close, I kept going back to those statues of Kennedy and Eisenhower.  

They were two presidents and two structures that changed life in the Central Valley: Eisenhower and Interstate 5,  Kennedy and the San Luis Reservoir.

The men and the structures are connected on the grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

He writes about the fiftieth-fifth anniversary of President Kennedy’s visit to the San Luis Reservoir in 2017 and other points of interest in his book California Back Roads, available at Lulu.com