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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

The Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa

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.