04 October 2015

the 1917 Santa Maria Inn

Early this summer we received a wedding invitation from two very good friends who were getting married in central California in September. It was exciting to know we'd be able to attend, and also that we'd be visiting a part of our huge state that I hadn't spent time in before. 

I couldn't help but start to look right away for a place to stay near the ceremony location that was up our alley. With a kidney shaped pool, neon sign out front + preferably with "motor lodge" in the name. It didn't take long for the fact that it's not 1940 to kick in + for me to realize that many of the quaint motels of the past are a little less savory these days (no offense, Barstow, but I am looking right at you). 

I left the lodging decision up to my husband, who got us a room at the historic (and likely haunted) Santa Maria Inn. As Santa Maria is about half way between Los Angeles + San Francisco, the Santa Maria Inn, built in 1917, became a well known destination for celebrities traveling back and forth. It was the perfect place for us to stay.

A couple weeks after booking our room at the Santa Maria, I was scanning postcards from a recent haul + I came across the one below. What a coincidence! By the time this postcard was sent in 1958 the Santa Maria Inn was no longer on the main road through town, as it had been rerouted a short distance away to accommodate the increase in travelers through the area. Despite this major impact, the Inn remained a desired destination point.

Nearly 60 years later, the umbrellas may be gone but the pool and nearby gardens remain.

The Santa Maria Inn has long embraced its history, which is a key contributor to its continued success. There is memorabilia from the history of the Inn in the lobby and sitting area, everything from newspaper clippings to room keys and countless photographs. Rooms in the "old" section of the Inn -- as opposed to the "new" tower that was built in the 1980s -- that Hollywood stars were known to stay in have a gold star with their names engraved on the door above the room number. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, W.R. Hearst and Marion Davies, Katharine Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple... the list is endless. We stayed in Clark Gable and Carole Lombard's room, a lovely corner room on the second floor with a wonderful little balcony. It was perfect. I am so glad such a special occasion provided us the chance to have a weekend away at a place I know we'll visit again someday.

(A quick aside for anyone interested in Hollywood history: the spectacular podcast You Must Remember This did a series of episodes about stars during World War II. The Carole Lombard and Clark Gable episode is absolutely not to be missed, click HERE to have a listen) 

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