Summer vacations are in full swing. Many people will be traveling to seaside, mountain and lake resorts. It made me stop and think about the fact that Pasadena was once a primary winter resort city.
Very often during the sale of Real Estate in Pasadena, CA, I have the opportunity to share with those involved in the transaction a little history of the “Rose City”. Established by the Indiana Colony in the late 19th century, it was officially incorporated in 1886. A tradition begun on New Year’s Day in 1890 became the first ‘Rose Parade”. Initially sponsored by the Valley Hunt Club, it became an official event of the Tournament of Roses in 1898. Pasadena grew and prospered as a winter resort destination. Wealthy families from the east and mid-west built large and stately homes where they could spend the winter months away from the cold.
Many hotels were built to accommodate visitors as well, in the elegant, late Victorian style. Of those, only two thirds of the Hotel Green, remains standing. The original hotel consisted of three buildings. The original hotel on the east side of Raymond Avenue was destroyed in 1935. The Central Annex was added in 1897 on the west side of Raymond, which became known as Castle Green, now condominiums. The Wooster Block which runs along Green Street to Fair Oaks, was the last building added and is now a senior living center.
The early 20th century ushered in the rage for all things Mediterranean in architecture and modern hotels became Spanish and Italianate in design. In 1914, Henry Huntington opened The Huntington Hotel, a greatly expanded and luxurious Spanish Mission designed building that had begun life as the failed Wentworth Hotel in 1907. It eventually covered more than 20 acres and boasted California’s first outdoor Olympic sized pool as well as 27 private Bungalows. It remains one of the area’s finest hotels and resorts, having been completely reconstructed and retrofitted in 1989 as the Ritz Carlton –Huntington Hotel. In 2008 it passed in the management of Langham Hotels International and is now known as the Langham Huntington Hotel.
Just across town on the Arroyo, near many of the toney winter ‘Cottages’ of wealthy Easterners and Mid-Westerners, the Vista Del Arroyo Hotel was built in the Spanish revival style in two sections. The first was built in 1920 and the second in 1930. During the 1930’s this property, with its multiple tennis courts, fountains and an Olympic sized pool, was the site of dazzling social events and a favorite weekend getaway of the Hollywood Elite. The pool was actually a location for the 1940 film “My Favorite Wife” starring Cary Grant, Randolph Scott and Irene Dunn. With the advent of the 2nd World War and the continued depression, the complex was acquired by the U.S. War Department and became the McCornack General Hospital in 1943 to treat wounded servicemen. The hospital closed in 1949, housing numerous federal agencies between 1951 and 1974. It sat derelict until being named to the National Register of Historic places in 1981 finally being restored and becoming home to the southern seat of the 9th District Court of Appeals, which it remains today. Once a month there are guided tours of the building.
Between 1903 and 1937 The Maryland Hotel was a favorite destination of winter residents. It was comprised of nine different larger Mediterranean styled buildings that were scattered over the better part of a city block between Colorado and Walnut (Union did not cut through until City Hall and the Civic Center were developed) and twenty odd bungalows, all surrounded by extensive lush gardens. The Westin Pasadena now occupies the spot where part of the complex stood. The hotel closed in 1937 and was sold to the Broadway Department Stores in 1946, who demolished some of the remaining hotel to build a new store. The Western Assets Building now sits on the site of that store at Los Robles and Colorado. All that remains of the original complex is a portion of the original wall along Euclid with faded Script signage announcing Maryland Hotel and one of the original larger buildings at the corner of Union and Euclid Streets, known for years as the Maryland Hotel Apartments. They are now condominiums.
The last remaining hotel from the ‘Golden Age of California Architecture” is the Hotel Constance, built by Constance V Perry in 1926. This seven story structure contained 164 rooms and was built of reinforced concrete with decorative friezes in a decidedly more Italianate style. Decorative metal work above the doors and street level windows added to this distinctive effect. The hotel remained in use for many years, becoming more dilapidated with each passing decade. It eventually became a senior housing facility for low income people which it remained until it was purchased by an investment group and renovation begun in 2011. It is now an upscale, boutique hotel and retains much of the original ornate decorative interior detail.
In closing, it’s interesting that of the great Pasadena resort destinations from the “Golden Age of California Architecture”, only two remain, in concept, exactly how they began life. The Langham Huntington Hotel remains a bastion of ‘Quiet good taste’ and continues to offer luxury accommodations, epicurean delights, spa treatments and athletic facilities to an affluent clientele. The Hotel Constance is once again a hip, urban boutique hotel with the trendy BluRoom Cocktail lounge and the gastronomically acclaimed restaurant, Perry’s. Both of these hotels have come full circle and are two of the first recommendations I make to Real Estate clients, new to Pasadena!