Monday, January 28, 2013

Pasadena's Huntington Hotel

A Southern California Treasure 

Once a year all of the shareholder's in my firm convene for a retreat. This year I suggested the Huntington in Pasadena. I knew it was quiet, had perfect spaces to sit and chat, and would be close enough for me to slip off for a tour of Greene and Greene's Arts and Crafts masterwork The Gamble House.

The Huntington proved to be a perfect hotel for us to gather, consider the future and just collect our thoughts. It is a one-of-a-kind property with an amazing pedigree.

In 1905 Henry E. Huntington, A. Kingsley Macomber, and William R. Staats began development of what would eventually become Pasadena's prestigious Oak Knoll Neighborhood. As it turns out the "knoll" was actually a 150' high ridge formed by the Raymond Fault. A year later San Francisco's disastrous earthquake and fire provoked the need to begin to understand California's delicate geology.

Henry E. Huntington
Henry E. Huntington is a story unto himself. Henry was the nephew of Colis P. Huntington. Colis, along with Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins, were the builder's of America's first transcontinental railroad.

Henry owned his own rail empire, the Pacific Electric Railway, which by 1910 offered comprehensive 24/7 streetcar service knitting together LA's patchwork of emerging neighborhood's and suburbs with 1300 miles of track. Huntington's name is found all over Southern California from the Huntington Library (where he is buried) to Huntington Beach.

When uncle Colis died in 1900 Henry took over Colis' shipyard and drydocks in Newport News VA. In 1913 he scandalized San Francisco society by marrying his uncle Colis' widow Arabella. Arabella became the richest woman in America. Arabella, with her son Archer, became legendary art collector's and benefactors.

The Hotel
In 1906 General Wentworth, a Civil War veteran, selected a prominent 23 acre site in Henry Huntington's emerging Oak Knoll neighborhood to construct a grand Spanish Mission Revival style winter resort which he unabashedly christened "The Wentworth". The hotel opened in February 1907, failed after one season, closed and was mothballed.

In 1911 Henry Huntington (perhaps weary of having the empty hotel as a neighbor?) purchased and began renovating the vacant Wentworth. In 1914 Huntington's posh redesigned Italianate style "Huntington" (again no ego...) hotel was opened. Four years later in 1918 Huntington (nearing 70) sold the hotel. He died in 1927.

The Huntington thrived throughout the 1920's in service to rich winter visitors. In 1926 it opened as a year-round resort complete with California's first olympic sized outdoor swimming pool.

The Pasadena Huntington Hotel

After many years under the ownership and direction of Stephen Royce, The Huntington was purchased in 1954 by the Sheraton Corporation. By 1985 the unreinforced concrete main hotel (sitting upon a fault) was deemed unsafe and closed. The original Huntington was demolished in 1988.

The Main Reception Lobby

The Ritz-Carlton Chain spent a little over 2 years constructing an earthquake-resistant replica of the original Huntington which it opened in 1991.

The Art Bridge Links the Hotel with Lanai Rooms, Pool and Tennis Courts 

In 2008 the Huntington was purchased by Langham Hotel's (China) becoming their first North American property.

The Langham's Japanese Gardens

The Royce Dining Room

The Pool and Lanai Rooms

Well Appointed Quiet Rooms

The Best Amenity Box Ever 

The Huntington features a great fitness center and spa. It offers full conference and ballroom facilities. Every room has a truly amazing amenity box, great stationary and a copy of Alice in Wonderland (with odd cover art.)

So lets sum it up. The hotel offers quiet, elegant rooms with perfect beds and large marble bathrooms. The hotel grounds and location are unmatched. Staff is friendly and efficient. Prices, by LA standards, are a bargain when compared to the breathtaking $600+ nightly rates now routinely charged by 5-star hotels in LA.

It is an easy zip downtown, yet the hotel is close to Pasadena's wonderful restaurants. The adjoining Oak Knoll neighborhood is perfect for walking or riding a bike.

Regrettably, the free internet is rubbish (real internet adds about $13 / night to your bill). Also, there is no self parking (add another $25 / night to your bill for the valet). Also, the hotel does show signs of wear. Lampshades are broken, chandelier crystals are missing, carpet seams in rooms and halls are frayed. In both of my recent visits the tub drain in each room left me standing in water.

I hate that.

Overall, though, I love the Huntington. It is a quiet, romantic and elegant address in Southern California.

As an aside, since taking over the Huntington, the Langham chain has opened the Langham Boston (the old Le Meridian) in Boston's old federal reserve bank.

Update: The Langham has also created the Langham Chicago by repurposing Mies Van Der Rohe's iconic 52-story 330 North Wabash building. 

Roadboy's Travels ©2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Scenes From the 2013 Barrett Jackson

Like the annual return of the swallows to Capistrano each January petrol-heads from all over the world arrive by car, commercial airline and private jet by the thousands to Arizona. They come to experience Arizona's five collector car auctions.

They know there will be glorious cars at Gooding & Co., Russo and Steele, R&M, Bonhams and the big kahuna, the Barrett Jackson. 

This year Ferrari's drew the record bids. The highest being gaveled at Gooding & Co for a 1958 250 GT California Spider fetching $8.25 Million. Right behind it at the RM Arizona Biltmore Auction a 1960 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione commanded $8.14 Million.

For me however I love the "event" of the Barrett Jackson Auction. In fact, it is the only event each year that can lure me to North Scottsdale.

For the uninitiated North Scottsdale unofficially serves as Arizona's color coordinated containment area for self indulgent golf enthusaists and their surgically augmented third wives. They all live comfortably in supersized pink McMansions in uber secure walled desert enclaves.

Yeah, I'm petty. It's my blog. Get over it.

In years past I've always gone on "High Dollar" Saturday (when the best of the best are gaveled over to new owners.) This year I broke tradition, took a vacation day, and went on a tuesday. I found Tuesday to be pleasantly crowded, but not overcrowded. It was also much less expensive than Saturday.

My visit is always pretty methodical. I start in the kitsch tent where I laugh at the "I have no taste" booths selling old slot machines, huge massage chairs, arctic fishing trips, garish jewelry, scary ninja knives, some hideous clothing, and (my soft spot) restored neon gas station signs and antique gas pumps.

I then move on to the west side of the main hall to gawk at the Salon cars (the rarest cars expected to draw the highest bids.) After that I spend most of the day wandering through the six or seven huge (down the hill) tents admiring all of the various cars, scooters, and boats.

One of the Many Staging Tents

Along the way I stop and select a highly caloric (and exquisitely satisfying) lunch.

About 4 pm I make my way back to the auction hall and witness the rarest and most amazing rolling history in the world as it moves across the auction block.

The Auction Tent

Bid runners in suits and ties run up and down the aisles on the floor, on stage, and in the sky boxes to assist (and cajole) bidders in their quest to buy a car. Traditionally Saturday from 4-7 PM is when the finest cars pass the auctioneer at the rate of 5 minutes each.

This year Fatty Arbuckles 1919 Pierce Arrow, Clark Gable's gullwing Benz 300SL, the original Batmobile, Virgil Exner's Chrysler/Ghia Diablo concept car (an inspiration for the soon to be designed Jaguar E-Type/XKE?), and a truly magnificent Delahaye filled the Salon tent.

Sadly, there were also the usual (and hopelssly boring) 70's era muscle cars...... Yawn!

Enough with my blah, blah. Here's some pictures.

Some of This Years Neon

The 1949 Delahaye
(Sold for $1,210,000)

The 1955 Chrysler / Ghia Diablo Concept Car 
(Sold for $1,375,000)

Fatty Arbuckle's 1919 Pierce Arrow
The Most Expensive Auto in the World at That Time
High Bid Was $1,100,000
Unsold - Reserve Was Not Met

Exhaust Detail 1955 Hudson Italia
(Sold for $396,000)

George Barris' Orignal Batmobile
(Sold for $4,620,000)

Clark Gable's 1955 Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing
(Sold for $2,035,000) 

The 1967 Scooby Doo VW 21 Window Custom Bus
(Sold for $110,000)

The 1939 Bentley Royale Custom
Sporting a Lalique Crystal Hood Ornament 
(Sold for $374,000)

I Love Hood Ornaments 
(Sorry Can't Remember What This One Belonged To)

The Elegant LaSalle Hood Ornament

Randy Grubb's "Decopod" Art Scooter
(Sold for $25,300)

For Roadboy's photos from 2010 and 2012 (I didn't post for 2011):

2013 was a truly wonderful year at "The Auction".

Roadboy's Travels © 2013


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Welcome 2013!

Over 30,000 Roadboy Hits!

Well I start 2013 passing a happy new milestone. Roadboy's Travels now consistently averages well over 1,000 hits a month with a total that has zipped past 30,000 hits (since the summer of 2009 when blogger added its little hit counter.)

So what is ahead in 2013 for Roadboy? 

Well I'm tossing around a whole bunch of ideas. Maybe Istanbul and/or the Greek Isles. There would be the advantage here to stop in and visit a friend's archeological investigation site in Cypress.

I'd sure like to see the cloud forest and volcanoes of Costa Rica. Then there is Machu Pichu.... 

I pine for a visit to Buenos Aires with a side trip to Mendoza to sample those awesome Malbecs! And, of course, there is Iguazu Falls. And, while in the neighborhood, Hmmm, Patagonia.

I would very much like to visit my roots in Ireland and Scotland. And it has been a long time since I visited beautiful Vienna....

Any offer to return to England, Spain and/or Portugal would be greatly appreciated. France or Italy? Just ask, I'm packed already.

Maybe a cruise? Lately I've seen some cruise deals that price out cheaper than staying home....

In between I've got a whole slew of business related trips on tap for 2013 (yahoo! racking up those frequent flier points!)

There's an exciting project on Alabama's exquisite Gulf Coast. I will be taking many trips to the DC area - with some welcome detours to stately Richmond VA! That suggests a side trip to a new EOC / 911 center well underway in the Tidewater.

There will be (I sure hope) a trip (or three) to the City of Big Shoulders! Sweetening the deal is the fact that Chicago now hosts a stage edition of The Book of Mormon.

I will be welcoming new clients in California in four different locations up and down the Golden State.

And, of course, I won't forget my friends in beautiful and wonderfully caffeinated Seattle!

In 2013 our elegant and highly sustainable new police and fire HQ in Salt Lake City will cease being a construction site and become the well deserved home for many of the heroes we refer to as "first responders" serving Salt Lake City!

So some trips to SLC are in store.

A Winter Sunset Over North Central Phoenix!

Yes indeed, so much to do and only 12 months given to us in each calendar year!

So, from my little mid-century rancher in the Valley of the Sun, Roadboy says "Here's to 2013!" 

Oh the places we will go!

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Seeing the World

Feeding My Designer Eyewear Fetish

Update 9-2013
OK so I bought a pair of Warby Parker sunglasses. Quality is exceptional. Price was $150 for the glasses (frames and lenses)! The frames I wanted were a special edition and when I attempted to place my order on the internet the site kept locking up. 

I completed the purchase on the phone. The call resulted in being informed that a feature the internet requires was unnecessary for sunglasses (saved me $50)! Follow-up service was great. My advice is give these folks a try.  

Original Post.....
I love to travel and see the world. And to see the world I wear increasingly complex prescription eyewear. 

When I was young I wore contacts. They didn't steam up in the extreme cold and I could complement them with cool sunglasses. For reasons too boring to discuss I cannot wear contacts anymore, so I tend to obsess about my glasses. 

Anyway, in earlier posts I mentioned Ottica Carraro a shop in Venice that meticulously designs, crafts (in Italy) and sells its acetate and rubber eyewear at remarkable prices.

Websurfing tonight, I came across Warby Parker a domestic company that sells exceptionally well designed acetate and titanium eyewear with lenses for ridiculously low prices.*

So click....Warby Parker

And think about it, with the $400 you save over designer frames, you are halfway to a trip somewhere! 

Here's to seeing more of the world in 2013!

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

*Alas   :-(   I see Warby Parker's glasses are actually made in China.