1919 & 1920 Articles about Hotel El Roblar

The following articles were first run in “THE OJAI”. That newspaper is now “THE OJAI VALLEY NEWS”. The articles are reprinted here with their permission. The author(s) are unknown. Dates of editions in which each article was run are provided at the beginning of each article. The articles are about the “Hotel El Roblar” (formerly named “The Ojai Tavern”, “The Ojai Valley Inn”, “The Oaks at Ojai” and others). The 1919 drawing of the “The Ojai Tavern” (now, “Hotel El Roblar”) was added by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 1919:

THE OJAI TAVERN

Architect Mead, upon whom rests the honors and responsibility of preparing the plans for The Ojai Tavern, soon to be erected, met Wednesday with the directors of the hotel company and tendered to them the complete plans and specifications for the proposed handsome structure.

The directors have asked a few contractors for estimates of cost of construction, and it is apparent that satisfactory information along that line was gained, as the treasurer was instructed to call for the payment of 40 per cent of the stock subscribed, or so much as the law requires of such corporations prior to proceeding to carry out the enterprise.

J. J. Burke, Boyd E. Gabbert and S. D. Thacher have been named as the building committee and work will proceed without unnecessary delay.

Hur-ray!

FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 1919:

OJAI TAVERN NOW NEARING THE REALITY

On Saturday bids were opened for the construction of the new civic center hotel, soon to be erected, and to be known at the “Ojai Tavern”.

Three bids were submitted, but as yet the hotel company has not made public the figures, the matter of accepting the lowest bid having been taken under advisement.

Before another issue of “The Ojai” goes to press, we have every assurance that all details will be finally settled and the work of construction will begin early in April.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 9, 1920:

“El Roblar” is Name of New Hotel

After some six of eight months “reconnoitering, conflabbing and gestulating”, the directors of the Ojai Valley Hotel Company have finally and definitely decided on a permanent name for the civic center hotel. It is “EL ROBLAR.” the name is of Indian origin and signifies “a cluster of, or among the white oaks.”

The Ojai is pleased that this matter has finally been settled for we started out calling it “The Ojai Tavern,” then it was changed to “The Ojai Valley Inn,” but this last title did not last long, and was cast aside for the more euphonious title of “El Roblar.”

The last carload of furniture for the new hostelry arrived Wednesday and was hauled to the hotel Thursday and is now being placed in order and the official and formal opening of the hotel will take place within the next ten days or two weeks.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 30, 1920:

El Roblar Hotel Opens Its Doors

Hotel El Roblar, the valley’s new hostelry, opened its doors to the general public informally, Wednesday evening, and although not fully ready Manger Roach took care of the large number of guests that “knocked” for admission, in a very happy and pleasant manner.

The opening has been delayed far beyond calculations and plans, owing to the non-arrival of much of the furnishings, which are still “in transit”, and Mr. Roach has been forced to gather up substitutions here and there as best he could, in order to accommodate his patrons.

The supper menu for the opening evening was:

Soup, Cream of Green Peas, Olives, Celery, Roast Lamb, Fried Chicken Southern Style, Red Currant Jelly, Fruit Salad, Potatoes, Posse Duchesse, Garden Peas, Saute Bananas, Raspberry Jelly Mound, Peach Pie, Coffee, Tea, and Milk.

The date for the formal opening has not yet been set, but it will be in the near future, and will be one big evening in Ojai.

The stationery for the hotel, letterhead, envelopes, menus, etc., printed in four-colors, was executed at The Ojai printing office, and they are what critics say, “about the niftiest ever produced of their kind.”

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 1920:

NEW MANAGER FOR THE EL ROBLAR

W. A. Roach, who leased the new Ojai hostelry, “El Roblar,” before its construction, has relinquished his interests, and Chas. A. Cooke succeeds him as lessee, and has assumed its management.

Mr. Cooke has long been identified with Southern California hotel enterprises, and as directing head has been highly successful, both financially and as a popular host.

For some time he was president of the Hotel Men’s Association, and more recently was manager of El Encanto at Santa Barbara.

He has opened El Roblar under most encouraging conditions, the patronage being excellent, with many reservations listed, among them one-half of the lower floor, the occupying party to arrive soon from Santa Barbara.
———————

Beginning February 5th the following rates will prevail at the Hotel El Roblar:
Breakfast, ……………………………………………………………….$1.00
Luncheon, ……………………………………………………………….$1.50
Dinner, …………………………………………………………………….. $1.50
Special Sunday Dinner, ………………………………………..$2.00
Special Sunday eve. Supper, …………………………….$1.50

Daily and weekly rated on application.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 1920:

The Popular El Roblar Entertaining Many Guests

Among the week-end guests at the Valley’s new and popular hotel, El Roblar, were the following:

Mr. and Mrs. Edward Carrington, Mrs. Steward, William Gammell, from the Ambassador, Santa Barbara; Mr. and Mrs. William Sweet, Boston; Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Ballon, Woonsocket, R. I.; Mr. and Mrs. Harold Chase and boys of Santa Barbara; Mr. and Mrs. Chas. P. Austin of Santa Barbara; Mrs. McCrabb and Miss Norton, Seattle, Wash.; Mr. and Mrs. Francis Farnsworth, W. J. Farnsworth, Santa Barbara; Mr. and Mrs. D. Bryant Turner, Colorado Springs; and Mr. and Mrs. E. D. Wetmore, Santa Barbara; J. J. Bayler and family of Chicago.

The hotel has had a large run of patronage all this week, many of whom have engaged quarters for an indefinite time.

FRIDAY, MARCH 5, 1920:

Ojai Hotel Company Hold Annual Meeting

The first annual meeting of the stockholders of the Ojai Hotel Company, owners of the El Robalr, was held at the office of the secretary of the Company in the Ojai Realty Company’s office, Wednesday forenoon. The report of the past year’s activities and accomplishments was presented and read, and proved quite pleasing.

The men who did most of the real work in organizing the company and in the preliminary work of getting the hotel constructed, were congratulated.

The following officers and directors were elected for the ensuing year:

S. D. Thacher, president; D. A. Smith, vice president; B. E. Gabbert, secretary; E. W. Wiest, treasurer; E. L. Libby, Geo. Holsten, J. J. Burke.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 13, 1920:

El Roblar to Open Tomorrow August 14th

The many friends of the El Roblar Hotel will be pleased to learn that the new lessees, Messrs. Flander and Frank Barrington, will open that popular hostelry to the public on tomorrow noon, August 14th. A cordial invitation is extended the public to dine at the El Roblar whenever opportunity permits.



WORK TO START ON “THE OJAI TAVERN”

The following article first appeared in the FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 1919 edition of “THE OJAI” on the front page. “THE OJAI” is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown. “The Ojai Tavern” is now the “El Roblar Hotel” (formerly, “The Oaks at Ojai”).


WORK TO START ON “THE OJAI TAVERN”

A new hotel for Ojai (formerly Nordhoff) and the Ojai Valley.

The Ojai Valley hopes soon to have a hotel. In June 1917, the Foothills Hotel burned when the Ojai was swept by a disastrous fire and sixty dwellings went up in smoke.

The war prevented the rebuilding of the hotel and consideration of the matter was postponed until after the war.

However, Mr. E. D. Libbey of Toledo, Ohio, and a few of the Ojai people subscribed stock, organized the Ojai Hotel Company, and immediately proceeded to develop plans for a popular tourist and business hotel for the town of Ojai.

The architects are the San Diego firm of Mead and Requa, who built the notable “Arcade” and Pergola and Mission Towered postoffice for the town and civic center of Nordhoff, then changed to Ojai, which has just been further beautified by a most charming little Roman Catholic Church in the best Mission style.

The hotel is to be also of Mission or Spanish architecture, a unique piece of work, with low straight lines, tile roof, pergolas, arches, and very interesting and comfortable interior arrangements in the way of lobby, dining room, grill, lounging places, baths connected with every room, etc. There will be about twenty-five bed rooms, each with twin beds. The location is in the town of Ojai, convenient to the stores and business offices, and yet set refreshingly among white oaks, live oaks and sycamores.

The directors wish to have it meet the needs of the community in every way as a home for permanent guests as well as transient business visitors, and also for automobile parties and summer and winter tourists with whom the Ojai Valley has long been a favorite resort.

The directors have specially in mind to make the little hotel—to be known as The Ojai Tavern—a place with a distinctive charm of its own, in keeping with the reputation of the beautiful valley—a place that anyone catching a glimpse of with wish to investigate, and having visited, will be drawn to again and again. They are looking for the right sort of manager to undertake the development of such a unique and alluring hostelry.

The work of building will begin, it is hoped, in a very few weeks.




THE OJAI TAVERN

The following article first appeared in the “PICTORIAL EDITION OF The Ojai” (VOL. XXIX; NO. 29; August 1919). “The Ojai” is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown. The Ojai Tavern is now referred to as the Hotel El Roblar (AKA: The Oaks at Ojai).

THE OJAI TAVERN

In designing and planning The Ojai Tavern or Hotel for Ojai, the problems to be given special consideration and study were: a building thoroughly modern and up to date and meeting the requirements of the discriminating traveler; a plan and arrangement that would furnish suitable accommodations for the commercial man, the causal visitor and the tourist and also provide a pleasant, restful home for the guest who desires to extend his sojourn over weeks or months; a structure that would be sunny, warm and comfortable during the cool days of winter, airy and restful during the summer; a design conforming and harmonizing with the present civic improvements, of which it forms a part; and providing by means of treillage, pergolas and broad , plain wall surfaces the greatest facility for the growth and development of the vines, plants and shrubs so essential for maintaining the verdant charm and country atmosphere of the village.

A large comfortable, homelike lobby and outdoor sitting room is provided to tempt the guest to prolong his stay. The dining room has been made especially airy and attractive. The two sides of the room facing east and south are practically all glass looking out upon an interesting California garden and commanding a most fortunate view of the post office tower, the park, the pergolas and arcades of the main street and the wooded hills beyond. The entire east side opens, by means of French windows, onto a generous pergola-covered terrace shaded and sheltered by a large spreading live oak. This terrace will make a very popular open air dining room during the warm days of winter as well as summer. Provision, also, being made under the large Oak and Sycamore trees in the east garden to serve meals to auto parties, and other guests, to whom this picnic feature appeals. The kitchen and service department have been planned and will be equipped along the lines of the most up to date California hotels with the latest modern ranges and cooking, serving and dishwashing appliances. A most noteworthy feature is the arrangement of the plumbing fixtures in connection with the guest rooms. Each room is provided with its individual toilet and lavatory and each suite or pair of rooms has its private bath. Another feature deserving special mention is the furnishing of the tavern. No expense will be spared to make the building homelike and attractive, and the whole scheme novel, harmonious and imposing to the guests. At least six different schemes will be used in furnishing the bed rooms, providing a variety in color, furniture and hangings so as to cater the greatest measure possible to the tastes and desires of the patrons.

The building and the enclosing garden walls have been designed in the spirit of the early Spanish Colonial and California Mission architecture to fit into and form a part of the already completed civic improvement scheme. The main features are the plain modeled, plastered wall surfaces, dull vari-colored roofing tiles, quaint, overhanging balconies, interesting window lattices and grills and rustic log covered pergolas all so reminiscent of the earl Spanish inhabitants and fitting so harmoniously into its semitropical environment. A simple, yet imposing Mission arch breaks and relieves the straight lines of the enclosed garden walls and serves as the main entrance to the grounds and the tavern.

The hotel will be conducted by Mr. W. X. Roach, who has stock in and has taken a term lease on the property.

Mr. Roach, who comes directly from the Belvedere of Santa Barbara, has been with the Linnard Company for several years, having been associated with the hotel del Coronado before going to Santa Barbara, and previous to which he was with the Reed-Whipple Hotel Company of Boston.

Mr. Roach has some new, original and unique ideas and features which he will apply in the conduct of the hotel, and which will give to Ojai additional fame and prestige.

“Nordhoff vs. Ojai”

This article first appeared in the Ojai Valley News in the October 22, 1969 edition. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is Ed Wenig.

“Nordhoff vs. Ojai
by
Ed Wenig

Legend has that Mrs. A.W. Blumberg, wife of the builder of the first hotel in the Ojai Valley in 1874, insisted on naming the proposed new town “NORDHOFF” because she said, Charles Nordhoff had called attention to the valley. Husband A.W. Blumberg and promoter R.G. Surdam graciously went along with the suggestion.

Nordhoff did write much about California in a book titled “CALIFORNIA For Health, Pleasure and Residence”, but Ojai Valley was not mentioned. He also wrote for newspapers and magazines and, it is said wrote about the valley. The claim is controversial and has not been substantiated, in the view of historians of recent times.

CHARLES NORDHOFF (1830-1901)

In April 1894, Charles Nordhoff did register at the Gally Cottages, and a few days later lectured at the Congregational Church in Nordhoff on “OLD TIMES IN CALIFORNIA.” The local newspaper reported in two columns everything Nordhoff remembered, but he apparently said nothing about visiting the valley before the town was named for him.

In 1894, the people of Ojai Valley were really stirred up about the name “Nordhoff,” for the only town in the valley. The editor of “The Ojai” suggested in an editorial that the matter had been fully discussed, and that every man, woman, and child in the two valleys, resident or visitor, should be polled. The result of such an election would determine whether the question should be forever dropped, or the proper steps be taken to have the name changed.

Feelings run high

Letters literally poured into the editor of “The Ojai” for and against changing the name of the town. Feelings ran high. In a later editorial the editor gave a mild admonition that letters on the subject should be “cleanly worded communications intended for the common good.”

Those who favored changing the name NORDHOFF to OJAI argued that postal clerks throughout the nation were mistaking Nordhoff for Norwalk; that people outside of the valley were confused as to what the post office address really was; that Ojai Valley was losing the effect of much advertising by having another name associated with Ojai; that the name Ojai was unique, the only name of its kind in the whole wide world! One petition was even circulated in east Ojai Valley for the establishment of a new town in the valley to be called “Ojai”.

Those who opposed the name change explained the “Nordhoff” was the name chosen by the people who founded the town 20 years before in honor of Charles Nordhoff, New York writer and traveler, who, they said, had mentioned the Ojai Valley in a newspaper article; that “Nordhoff” had too long been attached to the location to cast it aside unceremoniously.

Twenty-three years later, without much fanfare, “The Ojai”, on March 31, 1917, carried this notice under the Headline: “Now it’s Ojai”: “This telegram from Washington is self-explanatory. H.R. MORSE, FOOTHILLS HOTEL, YOU MAY ANNOUNCE CHANGE OF NAME FROM NORDHOFF TO OJAI. BEST WISHES. (SIGNED) JAMES D. PHELAN, U. S. SENATOR.”

Footnote: Those who have read “Mutiny on the Bounty” will be interested to know that its co-author, Charles Bernard Nordhoff, who was a student at Thacher School in 1898-1899, was the grandson of the Charles Nordhoff for whom the town was named.

Charles B. Nordhoff in 1918.

The Little Brick Schoolhouse

The Little Brick Schoolhouse by Patty Fry

In 1874, Andy Van Curen circulated a petition for another school that would be closer to the newly established village. As soon as school superintendent F.S.S. Buckman approved it, Abram Blumberg started making the bricks for the structure near where the main tennis courts are today in Libbey Park. A note in a July, 1874 issue of the Ventura Signal, states, “A brick kiln will be burned on the Ojai during the summer.”

One night a mountain lion sauntered through the drying area behind Blumberg’s Nordhoff Hotel and left a paw print in a brick. Blumberg gave this keepsake to his daughter, Inez.

While the bricks were being made, the townspeople immediately erected a temporary schoolhouse on Matilija Stree west of John Montgomery’s house. Soule and Pirie offspring reported in later years that after having lessons in this crude structure for a few months, the students considered the new brick schoolhouse a “palace.”

The oblong brick schoolhouse consisted of one classroom and two anterooms. It had a sixteen-foot ceiling and four windows on each side allowed sunlight in. A drum in the center of the classroom provided necessary heat. The students sat in pairs at double desks and there was a bench in front of the teacher’s desk for reciting. Mrs. Joseph Steepleton, who had previously conducted a private school in her home, accepted the teaching position for the newly established Nordhoff School District.

The original wooden schoolhouse was moved to the top of the grade and became known as the Ojai School District. In about 1883, upper valley residents built a larger schoolhouse two miles east, reportedly on the boundary of Hobart’s and Robinson’s properties. This school operated independently until 1965.

Jerome Caldwell and F.S.S. Buckman were among those who taught at the little brick schoolhouse. Anna Seward taught there during 1884. She introduced calisthenics and music to the children. Agnes Howe was the teacher between 1885 and into the 1890s. Howe once claimed that the single room schoolhouse had more bats than children and she spearheaded an incentive program to rid the place of the bats.

In 1882, when enrollment reached sixty students, a brown bungalow was added to the brick schoolhouse.

Teachers were responsible for school maintenance. They asked the older students to sweep the floors and build fires for heat. Students carried water from nearby streams or cottages and everyone drank from a pail using a community dipper. The children liked to play stick ball, pum pum pull away and marbles for keeps. There was also great interest in baseball, riding and hiking in those days, recalled Miss Howe.

Clara Smith, a well known figure in county education, taught at the village school and served as its first principal until tragedy struck in 1892. Her fiance, Scottish-born Robert Fisher, a blacksmith by trade, died suddenly of typhoid fever on the day they were to be wed.

Clara, the daughter of community leader, Daniel Smith, first taught school in Nebraska at the age of 15. She was so devoted to education that she once walked from Nordhoff to Ventura to take a teacher’s exam. Her career progressed from teaching at most local schools, as well as some outside the county, to serving as County Director of Rural Education and Assistant Superintendent of Schools. Clara Smith retired from the school system in 1935.

Teachers weren’t in abundance during the early years, as was illustrated by an incident occurring in 1895. When Agnes Howe fell from a bicycle and sprained her ankle, the school closed for a week while she healed.

In 1889, 14-year-old Charlie Wolfe, son of Judge and Mrs. Irvin W. Wolfe, died at the school when he fell from a tree he was climbing. His twin sister had died at birth.

In 1893, Miss Beal’s primary grades had six more students than seats. It was obvious that the community had outgrown its little brick schoolhouse.

When parents initiated plans to build a bigger and better school, others reminisced about how well the brick building had served the community. Not only had it been the fountain of education for their children for twenty years, but also a church, a meeting place and a social hall.

Every new religious group used it as a place of worship while building its church. It was the very heart and soul of the village. Within those brick walls the townsfolk held their entertainment, made new friends and cemented relationships. That is where community leaders made their decisions, some of which affect our lives today.

But progress is progress and the fact was that the town had outgrown their school and a new one was built to accommodate the education of the valley children.

After the community abandoned the old schoolhouse, the brown bungalow was moved to 570 North Montgomery Street and Ezra Taylor, who ran a machine shop in town, moved his family into the brick building. It was home to the A.E. Freeman family around 1910. Mr. Freeman, a local grocer, reportedly added the second story and began the transformation that camouflaged the original brick outer walls. G.L. Chrisman bought the Freeman home in June of 1916 and the Alton Drowns lived there during the 1920s and 30s.

In 1946, Major Richard Cannon bought the former schoolhouse and opened the Cannon School there. One year later, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cataldo converted the school into the Ojai Manor Hotel and began renting seven rooms. Although these owners had altered the little brick schoolhouse beyond recognition, until the 1980s, a keen eye could detect Blumberg’s misshapen, aged bricks as foundation beneath the time-honored facade at 210 Matilija Street. The old bricks are still visible on the inside kitchen wall.

The Lavender Inn

In the 1980s, Mary Nelson removed the old Old Manor Hotel and opened it as a bed and breakfast. In 1999, the old schoolhouse, once again beautifully remodeled, has resumed as a bed and breakfast under the name, The Moon’s Nest Inn [now The Lavender Inn].


The above is excerpted from Patty Fry’s book¬†The Ojai Valley: An Illustrated History.¬†In 2017 the book was updated by Elise DePudyt and Craig Walker. It is available in the museum’s store and through Amazon.com.