The Mason Chronicles (4)
Posted by T. Drew Mashburn on May 13, 2106
Pierpont Hotel one of Ojai’s finest Buildings
by David Mason
“In 1892, the Overlook, three and one-half miles up the valley, became a resort for tourists. It commands a splendid view of the entire lower valley, and accommodates about fifty guests. The buildings ate attractive and substantial, the gardens well kept, and everything complete for the entertainment of guests. This place speaks volumes for the untiring energy of Dr. and Mrs. Pierpont.”
— The Ojai, October 8, 1904
In the late 1800s, the Ojai Valley was becoming a popular destination for many families wanting to leave the cold winters in the East. Many were making the valley their permanent home, while others were utilizing the few hotels that were rapidly being built.
Dr. Ernest Pierpont, a doctor from Chicago, retired to Ojai with his family in 1890. The Pierponts purchased 40 acres of land and had planted one of the first orchards in the valley. Pierpont and his wife, Josephine, designed and built their large home on the ranch property, which bordered the road leading to The Thacher School.
In 1892, Sherman Thacher, who operated a preparatory school for boys, asked the Pierponts if they might have any rooms that could be used by the parents of his students that might be visiting from out of town. The Pierponts decided to allow the parents to stay at their lovely home. Thacher did not encourage the parents to remain long, as he preferred having a free hand in molding his pupils; thus, the Pierponts’ beautiful East End home became a successful hotel.
The hotel was a large, irregular-shaped, two-and-a-half story building, constructed of native stone on the first floor and wood shingles on the second. The main feature of the building was its massive gambrel roof over the stucco and half-timbered façade that was interrupted by a row of multi-panel windows.
The recessed front porch had a native stone wall, tapered stone columns and wood posts with brackets. The charming small-paned windows opening onto the porch were recessed into the stone wall with massive lintels of cast stone.
The beautiful hotel was one of the finest buildings in the Ojai Valley. During that time, Ojai was becoming a mecca for those seeking health resorts and the Overlook, the Pierponts’ hotel with its surrounding cottages, had gained a fine reputation as the place to stay.
By 1904, the popularity of the Pierponts’ hotel was attracting the rich and famous, including Mrs. James A. Garfield, the wife of the slain president of the United States, who would spend a number of winters relaxing in the holtel’s safe environment, which also testified to its charms by her desire to return to the hotel and the beautiful Ojai Valley for years.
For more than 100 years, the gracious and beautiful Pierpont building had brought comfort and joy to many. It will be long remembered with love and respect as one of the really special places that had helped to shape the Ojai Valley’s distinction.
In 1904, the Los Angeles Times referred to the Ojai Valley as, “A place of fashionable resorts — many people have come here who have enjoyed the best things of the city and the world.”
Indeed, one of the interesting things in our life is the joy of recalling the beautiful buildings that are no longer with us, and spending a longer moment enjoying those that still surround us.
The above column originally appeared in the Ojai Valley News on November 28, 2001. Republished with permission.