Friday, June 22, 2012

Hotel Edinburgh the Legacy

Hotel Edinburgh leaves legacy for fire protection in Beaumont

For more than a century, the weathered brochure for the Hotel Edinburgh has survived in a throwaway, often paperless world.

It was neatly tucked away in the belongings of former Beaumont mayor Guy Bogart (1883-1957.)
Now, the pocket-size, four-page brochure is being preserved for posterity by the San Gorgonio Pass Historical Society.

As you look at those pages, it’s like entering a time machine and hurtling back to the dawn of cityhood. (In 1887, the three-story Victorian-style building opened as the Beaumont Hotel, but later closed, according to a book by local historian Elmer Wallace Holmes. In 1907, the ornate-looking building reopened as the Hotel Edinburgh and came to a fiery end in Aug. 1909 — about three years before cityhood.) The old hotel was located where the El Rancho Restaurant and Best Western Rancho Motel are on Beaumont Avenue

Grand hotel

Early 20th century accounts tell us that steam engines puffed their way into town and disgorged a sea of passengers at the train depot. Many stayed at Hotel Edinburgh, with its big, inviting front porch, and its tall towers with shuttered windows where guests could survey the landscape. The hotel guests were drawn by advertisements in out-of-town newspapers and by sales pitches delivered in packed rooms in downtown Los Angeles.

They came to Beaumont searching for a much-touted agricultural paradise—a place in the sun where land and water was cheap and plentiful.

By gently turning the page, we glimpse a hospitality industry that helped settle the Pass. It was a time before Highway 99 and motor courts. It was a time before the freeway and modern hotels with their Wi-Fi, Jacuzzis and complimentary breakfasts.

It was an era when Hotel Edinburgh guests could stay for a week and enjoy three-meals-a-day for a mere $9-to-$15 weekly. “Unsurpassed For Health, Rest And Recreation,” proprietor David Cochrane proclaimed in the age-old brochure.

The guest brochure also touted wintry, snow-capped mountains that were said to have “views as beautiful as anything in Switzerland.” It was a place with the “most healthful” climate in the state, and grounds that boasted tennis and croquet courts.

Rising from the ashes

But like many early hotels in the 20th Century, the Edinburgh was not destined to survive. The Victorian structure cost $40,000 to build, according to Holmes.  A calamitous fire destroyed the grande dame of Beaumont hotels before cityhood. (The cause of the fire has been lost to history.) But the red hot flames couldn’t stop the hotel from making one last contribution.

Newspapers in the early 1900s recount how many incorporation supporters rallied the town after watching the Edinburgh go up in flames. The town needed more fire protection, so neighbors banded together, and the notion of a fire department was one of the priorities on their minds when supporters campaigned for cityhood. On Nov. 18, 1912, local townsfolk voted for incorporation—the charred memory of the Edinburgh Hotel still fresh in their minds.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ringing up the past for the future

In the old days, you could ring up your neighbors in a jiffy to chat about the latest goings on in town.
More than seventy years ago, local numbers had just three digits instead of today’s seven, and Beaumont’s portion of the phone book was a whopping 2 ½ pages long.
Many farmers, ranchers, and merchants knew important numbers by heart and often dialed:
• 844 for Dr. Howard A. Wood
• 656 for M & M Market
• 501 for Armstrong Dairy.
• 832 for Cox Seed and Feed
• 332 for Stewart Ranch
• 363 for Union Ice Co.
• 722 for Zook Hospital
Calling up history
As we flip through the 1939 Telephone Directory that belonged to former mayor Guy Bogart, it reveals a snapshot in time. He underlined important numbers like Annis Drug Co., the Justice of the Peace, City Hall, and names like F.S. Hirsch, Bill Hale, and W.C. Sutter. This harkens to a bygone era in Beaumont, when agriculture was king and you could set your watch by the passenger trains arriving at the depot.
(Bogart’s vintage telephone book, preserved by the San Gorgonio Pass Historical Society, is a window into the days before push-button phones, texting, voice mail, and Skype. In those days, you dialed 696 for the Fire and Police departments and 01 for long distance. The pamphlet-sized directory with 71 pages covered a dozen communities, including Banning, Beaumont, Elsinore, Hemet, Moreno, Murrieta, Palm Springs, Perris, San Jacinto, Temecula and Twenty-Nine Palms.)
Party lines and Person-to-Person
Inside the phone book, there’s a half-page advertisement on the back cover for typewriters. For $5, you could rent one for two months. Or if you’re horse needed shoeing, you could call a blacksmith in neighboring Banning.
Back in a time when there were “Party Lines,” and “Person-to-Person” calls, staying in touch cost a lot more. In the late 1930s, a three-minute daytime call between Beaumont and Los Angeles cost 70 cents, including federal tax. (With a “party line,” several families shared the same line. A “Person-to-Person” call was where the operator dialed a number, asked for a specific person and you were connected only if that person answered.)
And while this might seem like a long time ago, especially today when the phone book for just the Pass itself stretches to more than 400 pages, it’s a reminder about where we’ve been and where we’re headed. In our region, progress and even better days are always just ahead.