The Royal Raymond
1886 to 1895 (consumed by fire on Easter Sunday)
Over 130 years ago Walter Raymond chose a hilltop in South Pasadena to build the first major resort hotel in San Gabriel Valley. The advantage of this location in the 1880s was its picturesque view of the San Gabriel Mountains (then called “Sierra Madre”) which appears unchanged today.
“The Royal Raymond” was an impressive sight upon completion in 1886. The stately Empire-style Victorian hotel was a massive wood structure with dozens of brick chimney stacks poking up like fingers through its distinctive mansard roof. The main building was two hundred and eighty-seven feet long, facing the south.
Raymond’s Boston-based travel agency Raymond and Whitcomb referred to the surrounding area as a “paradise on Earth.”
When visitors first arrived at their winter destination here, they were not disappointed: the nearby village-like City of South Pasadena, local citrus groves, quaint farmhouses, and majestic mountains (a scenic backdrop to almost every view of the valley).
One Eastern newspaper described the Royal Raymond: “The sick and the well of all lands will gather in this hotel. Weary divines, flying for rest from Eastern pulpits, lawyers and judges, worn out in many halls of justice, orators, lecturers, poets, editors, men and women noted in the forum, on the platform, with the pen, soldiers who have won laurels with the sword, grave senators and wily politicians, all will pace the long halls of this palatial hotel, and gaze from its broad veranda on mountain, small town and the ten thousand bright orchard and vineyard-girt homes.”
The “First Story” floor plan illustrates one of the most impressive features of the hotel. In 1887, the book “Marvels of Enterprise” describes the Royal Raymond veranda as follows: “A veranda, fifteen feet wide, extends around nearly the whole structure, affording a continuous promenade of a quarter mile.”
The Raymond also became a popular destination for wealthy East Coast visitors wishing to escape the harsh winter. On most days, the weather was mild. The snowcapped mountains were a welcome reminder of the land they left behind buried in snow.
Aging Civil War veterans visited the San Gabriel Valley in search of new opportunity. General William Tecumseh Sherman was a guest of the Royal Raymond and summed up his experience by saying: “It is the loveliest spot of earth I have ever visited.” General George Stoneman’s 400-acre estate “Los Robles” (The Oaks) bordered the hotel in present-day San Marino.
Visitors with health problems came for a warmer and drier climate to aid their healing process and to fight off life-threatening disease. Some never returned home. They traveled cross-country over several days with a terminal condition for a more comfortable place to spend their remaining days on Earth. A place we call home today.