It was six a.m. when I awoke in my room at The
Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa (800-241-3333)
in Pasadena. I had slept well, on a king size
feather bed with fretty linen sheets. But I was
wide awake and the cool morning air was invigorating.
Though I look more like a Buddha than an ascetic,
I had gotten up early for a yoga class in the
hotel's fitness center. The Huntington sits high
on a knoll above Pasadena. From my room I watched
the lights of the city flicker away with the dawn.
On the hotel's Club Floor, a tuxedoed host was
readying breakfast and coffee and the morning
papers for especially pampered guests. This was
a special place, dedicated to luxury and service.
And as I watched the groundskeepers already hard
at work maintaining the hotel's splendid gardens
where not a leaf seemed out of place, I thought
that perhaps the only thing out of place here
on this morning or any morning were the bizarre
contortions of guests like myself in a yoga class.
The Ritz-Carlton Huntington is set in the midst
of Pasadena affluence. Its neighbors are the grandest
of homes and estates. Everything in the Huntington
speaks of elegance and luxury. But luxury is in
the details - the terry cloth robes and nightly
turn-down chocolates in each room, tea served
with lemons wrapped in gauze and ribbon.
The Huntington is an old hotel with a history
of having hosted the most prominent guests in
the world - and yet, it is very new.
At the turn of the last century, Marshall Wentworth,
who became a general during the Civil War by age
twenty and went on to become a renowned hotelier,
sought to fulfill a dream, to build his own grand
hotel on an "Oak Knoll" in Pasadena.
But his construction and financing were delayed
because of the greater demand for money and labor
to rebuild San Francisco after its 1906 earthquake
and shortly after the Hotel Wentworth's doors
opened in 1907, bankruptcy closed them.
Henry Huntington, scion of railroad tycoons and
founder of Los Angeles' Red Car Pacific Electric
Railway, bought the hotel, gave it his name, and
completed Wentworth's dream. The hotel today still
maintains his original vision. It is a stately
u-shaped quasi-Spanish concrete structure with
392 guest rooms.
The Huntington passed through several owners until
1985 when an earthquake required closure of the
main building. The hotel seemed doomed. There
were debates and votes and finally the owners
with the support of the city elected to demolish
the old building - and then restore its original
architecture. In 1991, the hotel reopened as The
Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa, a blend
of turn-of-the-century artistic design, detail,
and craftsmanship and twenty-first century comforts.
Besides the main building, there are also seven
vintage cottages scattered about the hotel's twenty-three
acres, each uniquely decorated. These cottages
have been sought out by frequent guests like the
McNally's of Rand-McNally atlases and President
Gerald Ford. There are also 37 special rooms on
the seventh and eighth floors. These are the Club
floors, reached only with separate elevator keys,
affording access to a club lounge with personal
concierge service, complimentary beverages, and
five wonderful food presentations daily, including
evening cocktails and sushi, and late evening
chocolates and cordials.
Any guest can use the spa and fitness center and
there are are two wonderful restaurants, the Grill
and the Terrace. There is a traditional afternoon
tea with classical entertainment in the Lobby
Lounge Thursday through Sunday. And cocktails
are served in the bar with nightly piano entertainment.
More than 23,000 square feet of meeting rooms
include the magnificient Viennese and Georgian
ballrooms. These party rooms have a history and
a special elegance with grand chandeliers, arched
carved wood ceilings, stained glass windows, classic
oil paintings, and armoires displaying fine china.
Special events are common events at the Ritz-Carlton.
Besides an assortment of spa packages and romantic
getaways, there are culinary classes, childrens'
entertainments, and Christmas, New Years, and
Rose Bowl events. Minutes away, Pasadena offers
its cultural attractions - the Norton Simon Museum,
the Huntington Library, Museum, and Botanical
Gardens, and Old Town Pasadena. And Pasadena is
rife with fine restaurants and antique shops,
and the Rose Bowl holds it mammoth swap meet on
the second Sunday of every month.
The Huntington in Pasadena is one of thirty-eight
Ritz-Carltons worldwide. They are all luxury hotels
where service is a credo. The Ritz-Carlton Huntington
is a place that invites you exercise your whim.
It is a place to get away and forget everything,
or choose anything. Even yoga at six a.m.