Are you a West Coast history buff? You can learn so much more about the history of an area by immersing yourself in it. California is home to many top-rated cities… San Francisco even ranked #9 on US News 12 Best Historic Destinations in the USA!
When you think of the Golden State, you may think of Hollywood, sunny skies, and rocky beaches, or the Golden Gate Bridge but there’s so many more stories you haven’t heard. From majors to millionaires, each of our historic bed and breakfasts in California has been shaped by prominent people and events during their time.
Staying at one of them is an excellent way to authentically experience the area’s history. Plus, the innkeepers are great sources for local and historical information!
Here’s 9 of the best historic bed and breakfasts in California.
1. Stay in the Heart of the Historic District
Where: Churchill Manor in Napa, California
Edward Churchill built Churchill Manor in 1889 on the original street in Napa and near two other stately mansions. Shortly after building his own mansion, Churchill built a second directly behind it for his son. Today these four mansions, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places, represent the aristocratic lifestyle of Napa in the 1890s and 1900s.
The beauty of the past combined with the comforts of the present. Today you can enjoy the massive solid redwood pocket doors, leaded and beveled glass doors, and redwood-fluted Corinthian columns as part of the lasting history of the Churchill manor. Enjoy your stay at the Manor by selecting one of the 10 guestrooms, each named after Napa Valley wine growing region. The rooms offer guests all of the finest amenities expected of a luxury hotel while also immersing guests in the history of the area and property.
2. Get Friendly With The City’s Founder.
Where: Brannan Cottage Inn in Calistoga, California
Back in 1860, the founder of Calistoga and the state’s first millionaire, Samuel Brannan, built the grand 1862 hot springs resort. In its day, the resort was spectacular, featuring 14 cottages, a skating pavilion, a hot springs bathhouse, a restaurant, and even a dance hall!
Today, the lovely Brannan Cottage Inn is all that remains of the impressive resort. Now an award-winning inn, this was one of the first buildings in the city to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
History is still alive at the Brannan Cottage Inn. While the inn has been meticulously restored, its past is still present in the architectural details on its exterior and interior. On the outside, its unique, gabled roof, gingerbread scrollwork, and wraparound porch were all chosen by Samuel Brannan himself.
The architectural details combined with warm hospitality make the Brannan Cottage an ideal place for romantic getaways. It is also just steps from some of the city’s best restaurants, wineries, museums, art galleries, and most popular attractions.
3. Mingle Like The Mayor.
Where: Old Monterey Inn Bed and Breakfast in Monterey, California
Back in 1929, a local attorney named Carmel Martin built the Old Monterey Inn Bed and Breakfast. At the time, Martin was also the first elected Mayor of Monterey and one of the most prominent men in the area!
There’s no doubt the city of Monterey would not be what it is today without Martin’s vision. If you were a guest of his home back in the late 1920s, you would have been involved in serious conversations about shaping the development of Monterey!
What’s interesting about the Old Monterey Inn is its unusual architecture. Monterey is known to have a heavy Spanish influence. However, the Old Monterey Inn is far from traditional Spanish architecture. Instead, it features an English Tudor design with beautiful English gardens!
Historic Charm With Modern Amenities
In 1979, the owners at the time converted the private residence into a bed and breakfast! Today, owners Katy and Lawrence Havlick work hard to preserve the original details of this historical bed and breakfast. Whenever they do repairs and renovations, they save as much scrap material to repurpose it somewhere else. When the Havlicks purchase new materials, they choose age appropriate parts or they age them to match.
Life was different back in 1929. And while certain original details are important, others needed an upgrade. Since they took over, two small additions were added, along with air conditioning and jetted tubs in the suites!
4. Stay At The Storyteller.
Where: Simpson House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Santa Barbara, California
Nine years after the end of the Civil war, Robert Simpson built the main house of the Simpson House Inn Bed and Breakfast for his family in 1874. If you traveled to the private home in the late 1800s, it would be by sea or a 36-hour stagecoach ride from Santa Barbara or San Francisco!
If this B&B could talk, it would have endless stories to tell. It’s seen the arrival of electricity, the railroad, and a handful of affluent owners including E.P. Dunn, the proprietor of the prestigious Arlington Hotel! The hotel was a winter hideaway for the wealthy, but it didn’t survive the major earthquake in 1925. Fortunately, the Simpson House did.
Uncovering a Victorian Gem
In 1976, Glyn and Linda Davies purchased the home and began restoring it to its original beauty. They scraped layers of paint off the oak floors, installed new windows, added a foundation, and revived the original 100-year-old trees on the property!
In 1985, the Davies opened the Simpson House Inn as a bed and breakfast. The B&B has several major distinctions: a Structure of Merit award from the city for its unique architecture and setting and a Historic Landmark designation since 1992. Today, it’s considered one of the best preserved and restored California homes of its era!
5. Discover The Dunbars.
Where: Dunbar House, 1880 Bed and Breakfast in Murphys, California
In 1880, Willis Dunbar built the Dunbar House as one of two identical homes for his new bride. The Dunbars were a prominent family who owned a highly profitable lumber mill in California!
Dunbar built two identical homes so that his bride would have a place to go during the harsh winter and another to live during the summer without having to learn different floor plans and cupboards! Today, the Dunbar House that remains is the original summer home. Since then, the Dunbar House has worn many hats; it’s been a book and antique shop and a bed and breakfast twice!
When you visit the Dunbar House today, you’ll notice two different architecture styles: Italianate and New England! You might think the home was built in two different sections but a quick look at the floor joists and the beams in the basement say otherwise.
Something Old, Something New
Today, owners Rich and Arline Taborek strive to maintain the original beauty of the Dunbar House. When the purchased the property, all of the wood floors were painted. Rich and his sons used a blow torch to uncover the original hardwood floors, which were in excellent condition!
They did the same with the cornices, which were originally painted blue. Today, all of the cornices are the original blue color, thanks to the hard work of Rich and his sons!
During renovations, the Taboreks made several interesting discoveries. They found sketches of Willis Dunbar, original wallpaper, and a calendar from 1893! Protected for years by a glob of plaster, the calendar now hangs in perfect condition in the kitchen. The kitchen is Arline’s haven when she creates culinary delights personalized for each and every guest!
6. Eat Well, Be Well.
Where: Inn on Randolph in Napa, California
In 1860, builder Henry Fowler constructed the main house of the Inn on Randolph. The property later sold to a widow, who used its main floor as a home-healthcare center from 1895-1990. The center specialized in midwifery!
In 1990, the new owners converted the home into the Inn on Randolph. Since then, several major upgrades were made. The bed and breakfast now has a new state of the art, gluten-free kitchen, heated bathroom floors, spa tubs, and gas fireplaces!
Despite its modern amenities, the history is still alive at the Inn on Randolph. In the sitting room, you’ll find the original deeds that transferred the property over the years. The Inn on Randolph also has some of its original details intact including its hardwood floors, doorknobs, windows, and closets!
Great Wine and Delicious Food
The Inn on Randolph knows you can’t visit California without enjoying incredible food and wine. Dedicated to offering exceptional customer service, the inn has exclusive partnerships with wineries in Napa, which means guests enjoy fine wine and dining experiences. The Inn on Randolph also serves healthy, gluten-free dishes that will exceed the expectations of any eater!
Don’t believe us? Try these Gluten Free Chocolate Chunk Cookies from the Inn on Randolph. From its breakfast to its bath products, everything is gluten-free at the Inn on Randolph!
7. Raise A Glass To History.
Where: Inn on First in Napa, California
In 1905, architect Luther Turton completed the building of what would be the Inn on First years later. Turton was a prominent man in Napa whose portfolio includes several important buildings today like the Wine Spectator, where they conduct all blind taste tests for California wines, and Napa’s first library, the Goodman Library.
Turton built the home of the Inn on First for the Griffith family. In 2003, new owners opened it under the name of The Daughter’s Inn, but it didn’t last long. Today’s current owners, Jim Gunther and Jamie Cherry purchased the property four years later and immediately changed its name to the Inn on First.
New Upgrades Make For New Experiences
Since the beginning, Gunther and Cherry made it their mission to transform the Inn on First into an environment-friendly place. Today, the bed and breakfast is green-certified by the state of California! The dynamic duo also added gas fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, and fresh and modern room lighting, furniture, and decor to every room.
Despite its new upgrades, the Inn on First does stay true to its roots in several ways. First, you’ll find a nice mix of antique furniture blended in with the new hip decor. And second, Gunther and Cherry preserved the original details of the property like the white woodwork, the sliding doors, and the fireplace!
Each time you visit the Inn on First, you’ll find a unique lodging experience. To ensure no guest ever has the same breakfast, Gunther has created 140 recipes that he rotates seasonally! One thing that does remain the same is exceptional customer service. Cherry personally provides guided winery tours exclusively for guests of the inn!
8. Relax at the one people read about.
Where: Inn at Occidental of Sonoma Wine Country in Occidental, California
In the 1990s, author Amie Hill wrote about the Inn at Occidental in the book A Historical and Anecdotal Tour of the Small (but Fascinating) Village of Occidental, California. She tells the tale of a home that met many fascinating people!
In 1876, the Meeker Bros built the Inn at Occidental as a private residence. It was part of M.C. Meeker’s early town building project. But the inn wasn’t immediately lived in by a family. Instead, a soda-bottling company used it as its headquarters until the early 1900s! Then, it was rented out as living quarters.
Builder Charlie Tonka converted the property into an inn around 1980. But it didn’t open at that time due to financial issues. Eight years later, the new owners Justina and Howard Selinger transformed the property into the Heart’s Desire Inn!
Dreams Become A Reality
In 2003, Jerry and Tina Wolsborn bought the inn and began fulfilling their lifelong dream of owning a bed and breakfast. Upgrading the property, while still respecting its history, is an ongoing project for the Wolsborns!
And their hard work has paid off! In 2005, the California heritage Council recognized the Inn at Occidental for the preservation efforts of its owners.
But that’s not all. Over the years, Jerry and Tina have had the pleasure of hosting some Hollywood stars at the Inn at Occidental! Just to name a few, Chris Pine, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Nick Offerman, and Tom Waits have all paid the Inn at Occidental a visit.
9. Escape to the Garden Oasis.
Where: Mill Rose Inn Bed and Breakfast in Half Moon Bay, California
Built in the early 1900s, the Mill Rose Inn Bed and Breakfast was once a simple rectangular building that served as a single family residence. There weren’t any street lights, sidewalks, or paved roads at the time and the home even lacked a foundation!
In 1978, the current owners, Eve and Terry Baldwin, purchased the home and began major renovations. The Baldwins modernized the home by adding a foundation, rebuilding the front porch, and replacing the roof! They kept the history of the house intact by choosing rustic siding that was specially milled to match the original.
When the Baldwins set out to improve the Mill Rose Inn, they tried to visualize what made it unique. It’s location, just off Main street, means it’s close to all of the happenings in Half Moon Bay but also invisible if you’re seeking a hideaway. The climate is also another plus, which helped Terry and Eve transform the property into a lovely escape!
Growing The Gardens Becomes A Passion
Half Moon Bay has a Mediterranean climate that’s perfect for growing a variety of plants. Terry and Eve spent endless hours working on the gardens of the Mill Rose Inn and nurturing the natural beauty of the area. Their shared love of plants set in motion what would become an incredible garden oasis for guests just off Main street!
Tending the gardens was a natural step for the Baldwins. Terry has a degree in landscaping and worked as a landscape contractor before the couple invested in the Mill Rose Inn. Eve studied ornamental horticulture and wanted to open a plant store in San Francisco in the 1960s. She never opened a store because the Baldwins did something better: bought Mill Rose Inn!
After nearly 40 years of hard work, the Mill Rose Inn’s gardens flourish today. No matter what season, there’s always something colorful going on in the gardens at the Mill Rose Inn! Roses, hydrangeas, orchids, perennials, sweet peas, lilies, dahlias, shrubs, ferns, and banana plants are just a few of the plants you’ll find. It’s likely you’ll spot hummingbirds who also enjoy the lush plants and vibrant flowers!
Which historic bed and breakfast would you like to visit in California? Let us know in the comments.