Glen Tavern Inn Santa Paula, California
The hotel was built in 1911 and is known for its colorful history. At the time the Inn was built, Santa Paula was growing and prospering as an oil town, and was headquarters to Union Oil. The Tudor-Craftsman hotel was designed by famed architects Burns and Hunt and funded by a consortium of twenty-five wealthy townsmen each of whom wanted one thousand dollars for its construction. It was erected directly opposite the train depot to provide accommodations to the many newcomers lured to the area by the burgeoning oil and citrus industries, and to provide a gathering place for Santa Paula's growing high society circles.
During Prohibition, the Inn retained something of its Wild West origins as the third floor - at that time an open space not yet built out into separate guestrooms - was utilized as a speakeasy, brothel and gambling parlor. Many legends stem from this era, including tales of murdered prostitutes and shootouts between unruly gamblers. These stories, though mostly unconfirmed, persist with a life of their own as part of the hotel’s rich lore.
In the 1930s, Hollywood discovered the valley hamlet of Santa Paula. Its ruggedly picturesque vistas and hills – improbably close to the sprawl of Los Angeles - provided a setting for numerous Westerns. During this era, the Glen Tavern Inn hosted such notables as Carol Lombard, John Wayne, Houdini and canine thespian, Rin Tin Tin, who boasted his own suite long before “pet-friendly” entered the hospitality lexicon.
Eventually, as oil money and old Hollywood moved on Santa Paula traded fortune, glamour and vice for the quieter constancy of agriculture and small town life Americana. The train depot became defunct, and likewise economic development bypassed the town. For the next half century the hotel endured a marginal existence, alternating owners and uses many times as it slowly sank into flop-house decrepitude until it was eventually rescued by developers with intentions of restoring its original grandeur.