Historic California hotels undergo renovations

The 200-room Mar Monte, a conversion of the historic 1930s Vista Mar Monte, sits across the street from East Beach in Santa Barbara, Calif. Photo credit: Hyatt Hotels Corp.

In California, three historic hotels have been renovated, with one recent reopening joining a national soft brand. 

Santa Barbara

The Mar Monte Hotel has opened in Santa Barbara as part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt. The 200-room hotel, a conversion of the historic 1930s Vista Mar Monte, sits across the street from East Beach, near downtown. 

Along with the rebranding, the hotel underwent an extensive renovation, with interiors overseen by Los Angeles-based design firm Beleco. Exposed beam ceilings and arches are complemented by feature chandeliers, terra cotta flooring and a large-scale ceramic tile art installation behind the reception desk, bringing Spanish-style elements into the space in a muted earthy color palette.

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The property’s 200 guestrooms and suites were designed with soft hues, natural textures and textile-inspired carpeting. The hotel also has two restaurants and 15,000 square feet of meeting and event space for up to 270 guests. Indoor, outdoor and beach venues include two ballrooms within The Cabrillo Pavilion, The Yard, and The Living Room and Oceanfront Terrace. 

Available for full buyouts, Palmoro House is a standalone retreat to relax and recharge with 24 guestrooms, located within walking distance of the main hotel.

With the addition of Mar Monte, the 4-year-old Unbound Collection by Hyatt soft brand now has 21 hotels globally.

Glass Valley

Located in California’s historic Gold Rush country, the ​Holbrooke Hotel has stood as a landmark along Grass Valley’s Main Street since 1862, serving as a reminder of the city’s colorful origins as a gold mining boom town. In its heyday, the hotel hosted five U.S. presidents and notables like Mark Twain and Lola Montez. 

The 28-room hotel is being updated and will reopen in September following a renovation led by a team of local designers, craftsmen, and builders. Acme Hospitality has spearheaded the renovation and will operate the hotel.

During the transformation of the Holbrooke, which has been more than two years in the making, the project team, helmed by lead designer Anne L’Esperance, uncovered and restored numerous details that had been neglected during the hotel’s long history, including vintage lighting fixtures and underground tunnels used for transporting gold through town. The entire first floor—including the lobby, bar and restaurant space—now flows together, accentuated by refinished stone and brickwork, hardwood flooring, and a fresh white paint palette on the walls. The original bar has been restored while maintaining its original character and the restaurant will open onto a fully redone outdoor patio featuring an outdoor fire pit. A lobby-adjacent event space can accommodate up to 90 people, while the outdoor patio can accommodate gatherings of up to 100 people.

On the second floor, home to the main hotel’s 17 guestrooms, hand-painted mural were created by local artists Sarah Coleman and Brianna French celebrating native flora. Many of the bathrooms have restored claw-foot tubs that were original to the property, while others offer new white-tiled walk-in showers accented with period-appropriate brass plumbing fixtures. The adjacent 11-room Purcell House, which sits on a corner of the property, also is being restored and will allow groups to stay together under one roof.

The Holbrooke is home to the Golden Gate Saloon, originally constructed in 1852. Now helmed by Chef Zachary Ahrenholtz, the Golden Gate will reopen with a new look and a new menu inspired by the early days of California, with an emphasis on smoked meats and Mexican-style accompaniments. A speakeasy called the Iron Door will open in the basement of the hotel and offer custom-crafted cocktails.

The same team working on the restoration of the Holbrooke is also renovating the nearby ​National Exchange Hotel​, a historic property in nearby Nevada City. The National Exchange, which dates back to 1856, is expected to reopen in late 2020.