Our Laguna: Grand Old Lady's renovation celebrated

The Grand Old Lady of Laguna has no need for a facelift, but recently the Hotel Laguna's interior underwent an "up-do."

Georgia Andersen presided over the Oct. 13 rededication of the hotel to celebrate the extensive remodeling of its interior. The event was an homage to the history of the hotel and to her husband, Claes Andersen, who died in August 2010.

"This is really a momentous occasion for me," Andersen said. "Claes and I moved [to Laguna] in 1985. We were so happy to be here. We had the first grand opening of the hotel then. I feel he is here today and he is happy that the hotel is beautiful again."

The impetus for the renovation was the damage done in the December deluge to the second-floor ceilings, which had to be repaired, and walls that had to be repainted. Andersen decided the hotel deserved more than a few cans of paint.

"Twenty–one rooms were renovated," said Heinz Hofmann, hotel chief operating officer since June and a longtime friend of the Andersen's, as well as a veteran of the hospitality industry.

"New carpeting has been laid in all 65 rooms and new draperies hung in two-thirds of the rooms," Hofmann said.

The hotel's historic ties to the city's arts community are reflected in the art selected for guest rooms — 40-by-50-inch photographs plucked from the Pageant of the Masters archives. The idea was suggested by Andersen's close friend Evalyn Daniel-Putnam, an art consultant. Artist Roark Gourley and Festival of Arts Promotions Director Sharbie Higuchi assisted in the acquisitions, which were approved by the festival board.

Guest stairs and hallways have also been re-carpeted, and new baseboards were installed.

"We revamped the entire lobby," Hofmann said.

A treasured hotel guestbook from 1931 is prominently displayed under glass in the lobby. On holidays, the pages will be flipped to the appropriate date. Such names as Charles Lindbergh and Errol Flynn, both known to have dined and imbibed at the hotel, might pop up.

Other guests at the hotel in the 1930s included Myrna Loy, the Nora in the "Nick and Nora" Charles comedies — crossword puzzle aficionados might be more familiar with the Charles' dog, Asta; Faye Wray, King Kong's first inamorata; Joan Fontaine, star of "Rebecca;" and John Barrymore, grandfather of Drew Barrymore.

Humphrey Bogart used the hotel as a hideaway during his marriage to actress Mayo Methot and later brought the young Lauren Bacall with him.

The promenade from the lobby to the oceanfront Claes Ovation restaurant, which has also been refurbished, is lined with historical photographs.

Awnings and fire escapes were the only exterior elements to be refurbished, Hofmann said.

Rededication of the hotel was toasted in wine and champagne in the renovated lobby. Tours of two redecorated rooms were offered.

Mayor Toni Iseman and council members Verna Rollinger and Kelly Boyd cut the ribbon looped across the front door at the rededication, before slipping off to "Lagunatics" rehearsals.

"When we see the Grand Old Lady of Laguna Beach, we know we are home," said Iseman.

A hotel has been on the site since 1889, a beacon for residents and tourists being lured to Laguna while the rest of South County was building bunkhouses for vaqueros.

It was built by Henry Goff, for which Goff Street and Island are named, and bought by Joseph Yock for $600.

Yock also bought the defunct Arch Beach hotel — the first hotel in Laguna — cut it into three pieces and hauled it to Main Beach to create a 30-bedroom, two-bath establishment. It burned down before the paint was completely dry, according to Laguna Beach historian Karen Wilson Turnbull, author of "Cottages & Castles."

The hotel was rebuilt and was occupied until 1928, when it was demolished to make way for the present hotel dedicated in 1930. The only thing missing is the neon sign atop the roof, taken down due to a city ordinance passed in 1966, Bill Farnham wrote in "Laguna Yesteryears: The Famous Hotel."

Guests at the rededication included Dennis Junka, custodian of the imposing red bow used for grand-opening ceremonies.

And: Cathy and Chamber of Commerce board member Larry Nokes, chamber Ambassador Roseann Nitti, Peppertree Lane manager Katy Moss, architect Marshall Ininns, Playhouse Managing Director Karen Wood, Heisler Building owners Pam and Sam Goldstein, Laguna Beach Live! founder Cindy Prewitt and 2010 City Council candidate Emanuel Patrascu, who said he is not contemplating running again at this time.

Also: Laguna Beach Concert Band founder Carol Reynolds, a hobbling Sande St. John, Rose Hancock, John Hoover, Ed Drollinger, Vera Martinez, and Rebecca and Charles Brady, who reported that Noosa, Australia, is a dead-ringer for Laguna Beach and has its own Hotel Laguna.


Local artist home from Avon Walk

Sawdust exhibitor Eleanor Henry is back in town after participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Manhattan for the fifth year.

Team Henry also included her youngest granddaughter, Mariah, who teaches in New York. They walked in memory of Henry's youngest son, Kevin, her two brothers-in-law and several friends.

"I walked 20 of the 40 miles," Henry said. "We each made our minimum of $18,000 in donations, but donations are still being accepted."

Checks — no cash — may be sent to Avon Foundation for Women, P.O. Box 742509, Cincinnati, OH 45274-2509. Participant number 181943 should be written on the checks. The name and address of the donor are required for tax purposes.

"While I was in New York I visited Occupy Wall Street," said Henry. "There was no amplified sound, so when a speaker said about three lines, it was repeated by protesters in front and relayed all the way back. It sounded like echoes.

"It was the most organized protest I have ever been to."

And Henry has been to more than a few. She has protested against wars, at the Nevada A-Bomb test site and cancer.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (949) 302-1469 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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