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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

11/6 - Historic Hotels

This week, Slow Living Radio goes on location to explore the preservation of historic hotels as we visit the iconic Ojai Valley Inn & Spa during the Historic Hotels of America Conference.  First, we'll talk with Thierry Roch, executive director for Historic Hotels of America, part of the Preferred Hotels Group.  We'll learn about the mission of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its role in the restoration and re-purposing of America's great legacy properties into some of the country's classic hotels.  Next, we'll discover the history and magic of the conference's host property, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, as we visit with managing director Pete Ells, executive chef Chad Minton, and director of spa Gloria Ah Sam.

Theirry Roch, Executive Director
Historic Hotels of America ®

Since joining HHA in July of 1999, Roch has directed the growth of the organization from 128 member hotels (representing 24,000+ rooms) to more than 220 members (representing over 36,000 rooms).

Previously, Roch served as vice president of corporate and industry affairs at the American Hotel & Motel Association in Washington, D.C. 

He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and graduated from the United States Chamber of Commerce Institutes for Organizational Management program, an association management professionalization program.

Historic Hotels of America is a brand of Preferred Hotel Group.

About Historic Hotels of America

Historic Hotels of America was founded in 1989 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with 32 charter members. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old and listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or recognized as having historic significance.

Members of National Trust Historic Hotels of America represent the heritage and development of America. One of the earliest hotels, Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is a former Carmelite Convent dating to 1651. Another, The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, dates to 1773 and was originally established as a stagecoach stop.

A program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation®, Historic Hotels of America® identifies quality hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and ambiance. Historic Hotels of America preserves the authenticity of America’s most prominent lodging addresses and offer visitors a remarkable travel experience to savor, celebrate and share. Member hotels are promoted nationally and internationally to those who prefer historic settings for their leisure and business travel.

Rooms at any of the member hotels can be reserved by visiting or calling 800.678.8946. Reservations made through Historic Hotels of America support the National Trust, a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America's communities. For more information, visit the National Trust's website at -

Pete Ells, Managing Director

In 1923, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa began as a private country club and golf course built to harmonize the unspoiled beauty of the rural paradise just half an hour's drive out of Santa Barbara. Today, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa retains its sense of place nestled into the beauty of the valley hills, and staying true to the people who first built it.

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa offers an abundance of luxurious amenities and special services to make each guest's stay enjoyable and worry-free.
The Ojai Valley runs along an unusual mountain range. Each day at sunset, the fading sunlight creates brilliant shades of pink for several minutes. Most intensely reflected over the rocky ridge of the Topa Topa Mountain range, this spectacular phenomenon creates a mystical beauty and signals the end of another day in this spiritual valley.

The Chronology of Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

In 1923, Edward D. Libbey's dream for his beloved Ojai Valley began to take shape as his private country club and golf course were built to harmonize with the unspoiled beauty of this rural paradise.  Mr. Libbey died in 1925 and never saw his hotel built, however, the architectural plans were safely archived.
In 1934, architect Austin Pierpont added 22 guest rooms per the original drawings of architect Wallace Neff. These rooms are now known as the Wallace Neff Historical Rooms.
In 1942, a different kind of glory distinguished the Ojai Valley Country Club when it was transformed into Camp Oak for a military training center for a battalion of 1,000 Army troops. Two years later, the Army turned the base over to the United States Navy for a rest and recuperation facility. When the government finally auctioned off the last of the Quonset huts and barracks, the property was returned to private ownership.
Don Burger, along with some influential investors, purchased the Ojai Valley Country Club in 1947 and the resort was reopened as Ojai Valley Inn and Country Club. This began the Glamour Era of the Inn, and Hollywood's brightest stars sought the tranquil pleasures of the resort.
Golf was a pleasure that brought many celebrities to the resort
In 1985, the Crown family of Chicago purchased the property and completed a $50 million dollar renovation, followed by another renovation in 2003.  And in 1997, the Spa Ojai was completed under the direction of architect Bill Mahan. The resort became known as Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.
Early 2006, with the opening of the Artist Cottage and Apothecary, this major renovation was completed. The legendary Ojai resort debuted 308 guest rooms and suites, a new lobby and entrance, new golf shop, new restaurants, and new ballrooms and meeting spaces, while preserving its original charming architecture and unique sense of place.
The resort was first awarded the coveted Five Diamond Award for excellence in the hospitality industry and has achieved this distinguished accolade annually since 2006.
Throughout the years, hosting many celebrities, musicians, dignitaries and politicians, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa retains its sense of place staying true to the people who first built it. Amid an unsurpassed natural landscape with diverse appeal to families, couples, golf getaways, girlfriend getaways and multi-generational guests, the Inn remains one of the finest resorts in North America.

Chad Minton,
Executive Chef, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
Chef Minton has been recognized by the Los Angeles Times, Santa Barbara News Press, 805 Living magazine, and a bevy of others.
Minton's passion for our environment and local community is evident in his lifestyle. Minton tends to the herb garden and many of the vegetables and tomatoes on Maravilla's menu are from the Inn's garden. He's a regular at the Sunday Ojai Farmer's Market and is an advocate of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Food Watch Program, a strong supporter of sustainable seafood practices.

 Gloria Ah Sam, Director of Spa

A Moroccan fountain, 50-foot bell tower and inviting outdoor fireplace welcome you to the charm and ambiance of the Spa Village courtyard. Surrounded by the inspiring Topa Topa Mountains of Southern California, the 31,000 square-foot resort Spa is the focal point of this serene resort village which includes two pools, a fully-equipped workout room, Mind and Body Studio, Spa Boutique and Artist Cottage & Apothecary.
At the Artist Cottage and Apothecary, guests will learn from local artists to work creatively in a variety of media, including oils, pastels, watercolor, precious metal jewelry making and silk scarf painting just to name a few activities.

Apothecary - Aroma Custom Blending
An experience that will awaken your senses, the custom blending class will rely on your unconscious to create your own uniquely personal scent. Enjoy your scent as a classic perfume or have your apothecary specialist blend it into a customized product line.

Personal Mandala
At times of transition or when seeking clarity, Ojai provides a Personal Mandala session. Drawing a Mandala (Sanskrit word for center and circle) is a creative path to self-discovery and an introspective way to look back and dream forward. An insightful feedback reading reveals a deeper meaning to what lies on the paper.

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