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1916, Eyes

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1924, Man
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1935, When Man
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1936, The Mine
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(Former) Barbara Worth Hotel

524 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA


For photos and information about other Barbara Worth facilities click:

   Like the Barbara Worth Hotel in San Diego and the Barbara Worth Cafe in Jacumba, the Barbara Worth Hotel in Santa Barbara never compared with the world-class Barbara Worth Hotel in El Centro. It probably had no connection with Harold Bell Wright other than using the name of the heroine from his 1912 novel, "The Winning of Barbara Worth." But we will have to say this for it: unlike the other two hotels by the same name, this one is still standing.

   The 1920-1924 Santa Barbara City Records (the earliest in the library) show a Hotel Rex located at 524-1/2 State Street, in the heart of Old Town. It's proprietor (owner) was L. L. Hinchee. As can be seen in the photo above, there are two entrances. In the early 1920's, one was for the hotel, the other entrance (524) was for the Empire Dye Works.

   On Monday morning, June 29, 1925, Santa Barbara was rocked by a powerful earthquake (6.3 on the Richter scale) that destroyed much of the business district and left the Hotel Rex "ruined completely." The city began a massive rebuilding project. Evidently the hotel was among the first to be rebuilt, because the 1925 City Record book shows the Hotel Barbara Worth at 524a State Street. The Empire Dye Works still occupied 524, as it did for many more years. G. A. Berg is listed as proprietor from 1925 to 1936. Kenneth Ahlman (born June 26, 1890 Goteburg, Sweden; died May 10, 1977 Santa Barbara, CA, USA, married Elin) is listed as proprietor from 1937 to 1966.

   NOTE: The Barbara Worth Hotel should not be confused with the Barbara Hotel, also in the 500 block, but on the other side of State Street from the Barbara Worth Hotel.

   The name change did not keep the earthquakes away. In reporting on the 1952 Kern County, California earthquake on the White Wolf fault at the south end of the San Joaquin Valley, the Santa Barbara News Press (Monday, Jul. 21, 1952), stated, "At the Barbara Worth Hotel building in the 500 block of State Street, one wall was so severely damaged it probably will have to be torn down and replaced." A genealogy site on the web states, "Ahlman, Kenneth- married Elin. Elin's parents where Swedish and owned and ran the Barbara Worth Hotel in Santa Barbara." That report says that Elin and Kenneth had two children who are still living in Santa Barbara, Florence and Ray.)

   The 1967 Santa Barbara City Record book shows that in that year the hotel was sold and the name was changed to the Garvey Hotel. The other entrance was now for The Bargain Center--Used Clothes.

  In 1977, James Williams comments, "The Barbara Worth Hotel, which was described by a long-time resident of lower State [Street] as having been 'really nice,' changed hands and was renamed the Garvey Hotel in 1968. Today the Garvey can no longer be seen as an elegant hotel."

Today (2003) the former Barbara Worth Hotel building, including the part once occupied by a dye works and a used clothing store, is a recruiting center for the late L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology. A host at the entrance told me all the former hotel rooms are now "counseling rooms," which means, according to a sign on the outside of the building, "Dianetics."  As I understand it, that is sort of a New Age palm reading, followed by expensive pop-psychology, life-improvement classes. Adherents claim it is a religion. The red awnings on the right side of the building cover an outdoor news stand, which was not open the day I shot these photos (March 8, 2003).

More Photos of the Barbara Worth Hotel in Santa Barbara

 

 

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This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright 2000-May, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 05/26/11