On February 24, 2008, the Glen Tavern Inn, now an international destination, was awarded Certificates of Special Recognition from the United States Senate, United States Congress and the California State Assembly for the successful restoration project.

Hospice Home Tour: Historic Glen Tavern Inn again has a story to tell

April 15, 2009
Santa Paula News
Hospice Home Tour: Historic Glen Tavern Inn again has a story to tell History is not always exciting or even interesting, but much like select enduring events and characters of the past there are some structures that have much more of a story to tell.In fact, it’s considerably easier for a structure with the proper care to retain shape and character, entities elusive to significant events and those famous names that history is made of.The Glen Tavern is such a structure and the combined beauty, character, history and yes, personality, of the Inn make it the only Ventura County hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places ... and after almost 100 years, still a sought-after destination.Come Saturday, April 25 the Glen Tavern Inn, 134 N. Mill St., will be the destination for a historical tour, ice cream sundaes, “Art on the Lawn” and a mini-plant sale at the Santa Clara Valley Hospice/Home Support Group’s 26th Annual Homes & Gardens of Santa Paula Tour.From unique homes to magnificent domiciles to gorgeous gardens to the opportunity of winning custom gift baskets, new and exciting pleasures await you at the Tour, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. According to George Martinez, general manager of the Inn, “It’s a boutique hotel restored with a lot of love,” by owners Rosanna and Tom Jennett.“The Inn is old, it’s new; it’s rustic charm meets contemporary fun ... it’s a fabulously unique place.”Built in 1911, the Inn’s colorful history reflects the history surrounding it.In the early 1900s Santa Paula grew and prospered as the booming oil town that was the birthplace of Union Oil ... and the city was already well on its way to becoming the “The Citrus Capital of the World.”Designed by famed architects Burns and Hunt in the Tudor-Craftsman style, the Inn was funded by a consortium of 25 wealthy townsmen who invested $1,000 each.The result was the three-story hotel erected in 1911 directly opposite the still standing train Depot - the oldest such wooden railroad stop in the county - to provide accommodations to the many newcomers lured to the area.The investors also created a venue for gatherings and functions of Santa Paula’s growing high-society circles.During Prohibition, the Inn retained something of its Wild West spirit as the third-floor - 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.Although many of these stories and others like them are not confirmed, they persist with an “If these walls could only talk” life of their own and remain an integral part of the hotel’s rich lore.Many of the stories surrounding the Glen Tavern Inn are not it doubt: during the 1920s it was a favorite stopping place for Hollywood stars for either work stays - appearances in the epics and westerns filmed throughout the Santa Clara River Valley - or vacations.From Mary Pickford to Rin-Tin-Tin to Clark Gable to Carol Lombard to Charlie Chaplin to the world’s most famous magician Harry Houdini, for decades many famous names were jotted down in the Glen Tavern Inn guest book.Martinez has done extensive reading on the Inn’s history and its famous guests including Steve McQueen, who like Houdini, Chaplin and even Rin-Tin-Tin kept rooms at the inn.In fact, Martinez said the Houdini Room is the hotel’s penthouse, perfect for entertaining at the granite topped bar with seating for four, watching the two plasma wall-mounted televisions or soaking in the suite’s own Jacuzzi.The Houdini Room is the largest of the inn’s 41 suites and guest rooms and the hotel now offers everything from murder mystery weekends to full wedding services and accommodations.Before it’s revitalization hard times fell on the inn, which changed hands numerous times as oil money and old Hollywood moved on and 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 as it slowly sank into flophouse decrepitude.The Jennetts purchased the inn and started the ambitious renovation in 2005, just when it seemed that history itself would forget the hotel, somehow still clinging to its dignity and memories of former glory while waiting to be rescued.
By 2007 the Glen Tavern Inn was back, reopened as a full service hotel and restaurant that largely reclaimed its faded status as a center for social life.Most observers hold that the renovation successfully preserved the inn’s historical attributes alongside the addition of more modern amenities. It also revived its fabled glamour, and offers visitors a chance to relive the gilded days of excess and adventure at a place where spirited revelers and restless spirits seem to co-mingle quite amicably.Mid-renovation, in April 2006, the hotel sustained a fire but fortunately it was saved ... the Jennetts soldiered on, rebuilding the burned third floor and repairing other damage.On February 24, 2008, the Glen Tavern Inn, now an international destination, was awarded Certificates of Special Recognition from the United States Senate, United States Congress and the California State Assembly for the successful restoration project.Guests at times tell Martinez that they didn’t know the Glen Tavern Inn existed, while others say they didn’t realize the grand hotel is again open.“I always get ‘what was it built for?’ “ a question Martinez noted is as easy to answer as the enjoyment he gets from relaxing with a cocktail in the grand lobby with its finely crafted fireplace.“The energy,” said Rosanna Jennett, “has transformed itself,” not only the structure of the elegant Glen Tavern Inn but also its reputation and use.“It’s taken on a new life of its own,” a life she added, “you have to come in to experience ... “ the Inn.It is fitting on many levels that the motto of the again proud Glen Tavern Inn - home also to the Ironhorse Restaurant - is “Where the Past Comes to Life.”This year’s Tour also includes the new hillside home (540 Glade Dr.) custom designed by noted plant growers Dianne and Dudley Davis; a stately Victorian influenced Craftsman (825 Santa Paula/Ojai Road) full of surprises owned by Billie Ann Moore; and a vintage home with a modern remodel (481 N. 6th St.) demonstrating the talents of owners and interior design/architectural team of Susan and John Kulwiec.Tickets cost only $15 in advance and $20 at the door on Tour Day.The Plant Sale - featuring the bright contributions of Do Right’s Nursery Growers and Otto & Sons Roses - will be held on the wide expanse of lawn at the Inn, one of only three Ventura County buildings listed on the National Historic Registry. Also featured is the “Art on the Lawn” exhibit and sale.All tour proceeds benefit the always-free services provided by the non-profit Santa Clara Valley Hospice/Home Support Group.Advance tickets are available in Santa Paula: Santa Paula Times (944 E. Main St.), Chamber of Commerce, (South Paseo, 926 E. Main, Unit C), John Nichols Gallery (916 E. Main St.), Glen Tavern Inn (134 N. Mill St.), Heritage Hardware (Vons Shopping Center, 568 W. Main St.), Hospice Office (133 N. Mill St.).In Fillmore: Mirage (508 Santa Clara St.).In Ventura: Lautzenhauser’s Hallmark, (Montalvo Square 1730 S. Victoria).Advance tickets at $15 each are also available by mail: make checks payable to SCV Hospice/Home Support Group, PO Box 365, Santa Paula, CA 93061. Please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.Call the SCVHHSG office at 525-1333 for more information.

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