The Benbow Historic Inn, a Garberville resort in the redwoods, was designed by architect Albert Farr, who was most noted for The Wolf House — the home he designed for author Jack London in Glen Ellen, CA. Farr was commissioned by the Benbow family to create the cornerstone for the resort community they intended to build in their 1,290 acre valley.
The Benbow Family
The "Hotel Benbow" (as it was originally called) opened to the public in July of 1926. Built by the Benbow family — nine talented brothers and sisters who also constructed the Benbow Dam, Power Company, and later, the Golf Course and RV Park, the hotel became a popular destination for motoring tourists traveling up the newly-completed Redwood Highway.
The combination of seclusion and elegant hospitality also served as quite an attraction for the early Hollywood elite. Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Alan Ladd, Charles Laughton, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Joan Fontaine, Basil Rathbone were all patrons of the Inn. Dignitaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and Lord Halifax also enjoyed the Benbow hospitality. Guests enjoyed all the amenities of fine dining and luxurious rooms, along with the best of the great outdoors: riding stables, golf course, hiking trails, swimming, boating and fishing in the Eel river.
Years of Transition
The Great Depression had a hard impact on the early years of the Inn, but the Benbow family was able to keep the hotel open and its reputation for quality intact. The family eventually sold the hotel in 1962. The Inn's success fluctuated through several owners until Patsy and Chuck Watts purchased the hotel in 1978. The Wattses lovingly restored the Inn, and through their efforts, the Benbow Historic Inn was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1983. It was under their ownership that the Inn was first awarded a four-diamond rating by AAA, making it the only full-service four-diamond property in Northern California at that time.
John and Teresa Porter and Jack Macdonald purchased the Inn in 1994, bringing over fifty years of innkeeping experience with them. They have continued to upgrade and restore the Benbow Historic Inn, maintaining the four-diamond designation, winning the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 15 consecutive years, creating a wondrous month-long Christmas Celebration, and adding even more services for the comfort of their guests.