GARBERVILLE, Calif. — If you cross the Highway 101 bridge over the Eel River in Humboldt County, it’s hard to miss the Tudor-style building with the rose garden roundabout. The lavish building tucked in the middle of the redwood forest is the Benbow Inn.
Historian and co-owner of the Benbow Inn, Teresa Porter, says the 65-room hotel was built to catch the eye of passing motorists and even attracted some well-known historical figures.
“They hosted the League of Nations, they had President Herbert Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt,” said Porter.
The Benbow Inn was built by nine of the Benbow family's talented brothers and sisters in 1926. Despite the building's elegant architecture and upscale accommodation, the Benbow family was far from wealthy.
“Really poor, dirt poor as kids, like they actually didn’t have a floor,” Porter said.
What the kids did have was a set of unique skills. Some were artists, engineers and inventors, but their greatest skill of all was their gift of persuasion. After winning the pocketbooks of numerous investors, the Benbows got to work.
The hotel was supposed to be built in three stages, but the Benbows were forced to stop construction on the third wing of the hotel during the Great Depression. They nearly lost the place but managed to keep it open and word of the building’s amenities and views spread across the nation.
The Benbows ran the hotel until they sold it 1962. A number of owners maintained the property. In 1983, the Benbow Inn received a listing in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Teresa, her husband John Porter and their business partner Jack MacDonald purchased the hotel in 1994 and started digging up historic family relics and artwork.
“The Benbow family graciously shared many items they had with us,” said Porter.
After fully renovating the building, the Porters completed the unfinished third wing of the hotel and decorated the rooms with art, photographs and inventions made by Benbow children.
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