Our History

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.

Hollywood Hideaway

antique photo of Eel River in GarbervilleHome to the Stars On The Range

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 with 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, including extensive room and terrace renovations. The Benbow Family had planned on building the Inn in three phases, two of which were completed in the 1920’s. The third wing they were never able to complete due to the 1929 stock market crash followed by the great depression. None of the subsequent owners dealt with this third phase until the Porters & Mr. Macdonald finally were able to get permits to add the newly completed expansion. This major improvement has made the Benbow Historic Inn ADA compliant with a new 5 stop elevator, lower lobby check-in area, two meeting rooms, new public restrooms. New cocktail lounge, two new kitchens and ten new guest rooms, with three being ADA accessible. All completed in March of 2018.

Under the current ownership, the Inn has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 15 consecutive years and recently was awarded TripAdvisors’ Certificate of Excellence. The owners have also created a wondrous month-long Christmas Celebration and a wide array of year-round events—adding more activities and options for their guests.