Smith’s Hotel

 Smith’s was a nationally known resort complex located in the mountains. It was one of the largest and most elaborate establishments of its kind during an era when the entire region prospered as a tourist destination. From the 1940s to the 1980s, the hotel was a popular vacation destination for many upper-middle-class families.

In 1944 in the resort was purchased by a couple for $70,000. The original owners had built the hotel in the early 1920s. After making an additional $100,000 in renovations, the 473-room hotel opened as Smith’s Hotel and Country Club. The resort became known for the wealthy patrons it attracted, competing against the larger establishments in the area. Without the advantage of having a golf course, the owners concentrated on the finest food and big names in entertainment to attract tourists. The hotel also welcomed its share of celebrity guests such as Hollywood starlet Jayne Mansfield and boxer Jack Dempsey. Not only did the area attract families and celebrities, but Italian and Jewish gangsters as well. During the 1940s the bodies of their numerous victims would turn up in a lake less than two miles east of the hotel. By the 1950s, the mobsters had shifted their focus to other areas. During the 1950s and 1960s, the resort became one of the mountains signature hotels, among the three most popular in the area. It was a luxurious establishment known for being family-friendly. The Smith’s Hotel lured their guests with the slogan “There’s More of Everything” and “A bit of California at your doorstep. The hotel would open in April each year and close in early November for the season. In 1978, the one of the owners died. In 1985, the resort began constructing residences for families seeking second homes in the mountains, living on the grounds of once great hotels and, for an additional fee, enjoying their athletic and entertainment amenities. Model luxury townhouses opened in early December of that year with cathedral ceilings and fireplaces. In 1988, the remaining owner was forced to file for bankruptcy protection. In 1997, the resort was converted into the 396-unit condominiums. In March 2012, the city had threatened to condemn the condominium due to numerous violations including inoperable sprinklers, fire alarms, and fire doors, but the owners promised to fix the issues. Because of the fire safety issues, security personnel were ordered to patrol the grounds every 30 minutes in the event that a fire started. On Saturday, April 14, 2012, a guard on routine patrol noticed a wood-burning smell near an old boiler room at 5:05 p.m. but could not locate any smoke. A tenant smelled something burning at 5:20 p.m. and observed smoke rising from the main building but it was not deemed serious enough to call authorities. Around 6:00 p.m., the guard who initially smelled smoke unlocked the boiler room after reports of more smoke, he observed heavy smoke and flames coming from the room at this time. The sizable fire with 20 to 30-foot high flames eventually drew over 43 fire companies and 300 firefighters in what is believed to be the largest fire in areas history. The blaze swept through the century-old wooden-frame structure destroying seven of the nine buildings of the complex aided by adjoining hallways between buildings and fueled by propane tank explosions. Over 100 residents were evacuated with no one seriously injured. After that incident the historical hotels time came to an end. The remaining buildings now sit abandoned with no future use in sight.

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