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X.  Barbara Worth Hotel (El Centro) Collectibles  

For photos and information about other Barbara Worth facilities click:

     The Barbara Worth Hotel, or Hotel Barbara Worth (both names were used), was a world class hotel, located on the corner of Seventh and Main streets in El Centro, California. Harold Bell Wright and his family posed for the murals painted on the lobby walls, and he participated in social events there.  And, of course, the name was taken from Harold Bell Wright's best-selling novel, The Winning of Barbara Worth. There are many photos of this hotel on this website in the Postcards section. Construction of the hotel began in 1914, the hotel opened May 8, 1915, and it burned to the ground January 21, 1962 in spite of the fact that the Gehring Travel Guide of 1934 said the hotel was "fireproof."  Apparently the exterior cement walls of the hotel were fireproof because they survived the fire and stood for several years after the interior floors and walls were completely destroyed, along with the roof.
  Photo courtesy of Jerry Brown, who comments: "I only have one photo of the fire. That is our brother George's old '54 Mercury parked by the fire hoses."
James Ball generously sent a home movie of the Barbara Worth Hotel during and after the fire.


James says, "The fire footage was shot at night with my father's 16mm [camera] with no light, and is not very good. All you see [for the first 15 seconds] is flames. But the daytime footage is pretty good and shows fire investigators and police walking around, even some old cars drive by. Then it ends with a shot of the big sign on top of the burned-out hotel. My father passed away in 1966 but my mother is still alive and told me about the fire. We were there on vacation. I was there but was only 5 years old and barely remember the fire."

Early editions of the hotel's own 20-page booklet, describing the murals on the walls of the hotel, said the hotel was "constructed of solid reinforced concrete, fireproof throughout ...."  Later editions omitted this claim. Because of the fire, there are few memorabilia in existence today, except for items that were intended to be mailed or carried away, such as postcards.  Stationary (envelopes and letterheads) and matchbooks are harder to find, and China, silverware, and keys are rare. Please let me know of any other memorabilia from the hotel that you are aware of.

The Gehring Travel Guide mentioned above notes that the hotel's rooms were priced in 1934 at $2 to $8, the most expensive listed for El Centro. The same guide says the Barbara Worth Hotel had 225 rooms, making it the largest in El Centro.  The population of El Centro at the time was listed as 8434. Other features: sample rooms, dining room, garage facilities, banquet facilities, ball room, fireproof, lobby telegraph office, own valet service, barber shop and circulating ice water.  Features included in the guidebook but NOT listed for the Barbara Worth Hotel include: bath in every room, residential apartments, club hotel, cafeteria, coffee shop, free parking, servidor [bellhop] service, radio in every room, private golf course, winter sports, and water sports.

Hotel China -- There are at least two styles of Barbara Worth Hotel China.  One style, which I have called "Frames and Cactus" has framed pictures of Barbara around the perimeter and fancy perimeter decorations that include Saguaro and other cactus. This China was used in the Barbara Worth Hotel in El Centro from 1928 to 1963, and perhaps earlier.  Scorched pieces of this style, 90a below, were pulled from the ashes after the hotel burned to the ground in 1962.  Several pieces of this China may be seen in the Pioneers Museum in El Centro.  Most pieces of this pattern that have a brand name and date code on the back were manufactured in 1928 by the Syracuse China/Onondaga Pottery Company (O. P. Co.).  There is no evidence that this style of Barbara Worth China was used anywhere outside this hotel.  It should be noted that the Pioneers Museum collection also includes several pieces of this style of China that have no brand name and a different date code.  This may suggest that the hotel purchased a large inventory of this style of China in 1928, but when they replaced pieces in later years, they sometimes bought them from a different manufacturer. It should also be noted that this style of China is quite rare outside the museum, probably because nearly the entire inventory was destroyed in the fire. Pieces that come on the market occasionally are usually small enough to have been concealed and slipped out of the hotel. (Syracuse started their letter code with "A"in 1920. The number represents the month, so "A-1" would be January, 1920, "I-2" would be February, 1928, etc. AA is 1946, BB is 1947, etc.)

"Frames and Cactus" China

90a. "Frames and Cactus" China -- The fire-damaged set of hotel China on the right is one of several sets displayed in the Pioneer's Museum in El Centro.  The only pictures of Barbara Worth are around the perimeter.  The date codes on the back of the plates indicate that most were made by Syracuse in 1928.  The 7" plate, below left, is owned by Bob Lewis, and was made in 1928.  The 4-1/4" berry bowl, below, right four photos, was also made in 1928.  But the plate below that was made in 1932. How they got out of the hotel before the fire is anyone's guess. Click to see larger photos bwmatc04.jpg (14300 bytes)
bw7plate.jpg (15705 bytes)

The 8-1/4" x 5-3/4" platter to the right was made in 1932. Courtesy Susan Downs

bwbowl01.jpg (5402 bytes)

bwbowl02.jpg (6139 bytes)

bwbowl03.jpg (6091 bytes)

bwbowl04.jpg (3783 bytes)


"Green Rings" China

There is another style of Barbara Worth China--which I have called "Green Ring" China. Pieces of this style of China have also been recovered from the ruins of the Barbara Worth Hotel in El Centro.  I believe this style of China was used in the Hotel from 1915 to 1928.  In earlier versions of this web page I stated that none of this style, 90b below, was found in the ashes of the hotel.  But a visitor to the site, Steven Yates, who grew up in El Centro, sent the information and photos below:

   "In the early 1990's I returned to El Centro, after leaving it for years. I love digging for old things and happened across the dump site for the Barbara Worth Hotel, after they demolished it. I found there, and still have, "Green Ring" coffee cups that I dug at that time from the site, complete with burn marks, with Barbara Worth on them. The lip of the coffee cup is thin, 3/16-inch, with Barbara Worth on it and the green ring. And I have another cup that is 1/4-inch with the green ring with no Barbara Worth picture on it, but burned. Except for the picture, it's exactly the same as the Barbara Worth cup. My reason for this email is to verify that the green ring pattern (china) was present in El Centro in the Barbara Worth Hotel when it burned down. It's sitting in front of me as I write this." --Thank you, Steve.

Click to enlarge Steve's Photos:

  All pieces of the green ring China that I have seen were made by the Iroquois China Company and they have a date code. I have found no authoritative key to the code, but there is good reason to believe it is earlier than the Frames and Cactus China, not later.  Furthermore, the Iroquois China Company operated in Syracuse, New York, from 1905 to 1969. It seems reasonable to suppose their code started with "A" in 1905--or within a couple years of that date. If that is the case, the plates shown below marked "J" and "K" were manufactured in 1914 and 1915--the years the hotel was being built and opened. But since the Hotel china on this site shows an Iroquois back stamp that is supposed to have been first used "about" 1917, we may have to assume the "A" started in 1906 or 1907, meaning china with the "J" mark was made in 1915-16.

We know this China was used in the Barbara Worth Hotel in El Centro. It may also have been used in other Barbara Worth Hotels or eating establishments such as the Barbara Worth Hotel in San Diego, The Barbara Worth Hotel in Santa Barbara, the Barbara Worth Cafe in Jacumba, the Barbara Worth Country Club near Holtville, or all of the above.  Considerations: 1) Even detailed advertising for the Barbara Worth Hotel in San Diego does not mention a restaurant, 2) the Barbara Worth Cafe in Jacumba DID use China with a photo of Barbara Worth in the center, but the son of the owner, who spent many hours washing dishes there, thinks the logo was slightly different from the one pictured here, and he thinks the ring around the perimeter was gold colored, 3) there is no record that the country club ever had china like this--or any Barbara Worth China, 4) The Barbara Worth Hotel in Santa Barbara does not seem to have had a restaurant.

90b-1.    Green Ring China  This 10.5-inch dinner plate was made by Iroquois China and has a date code, J1, probably January, 1914. platebarb.jpg (13721 bytes) hotelplate1.jpg (20634 bytes)



90b-2.  Here is a 7" plate in this style.  The back mark on this plate is identical to the plate above except the code is K3, probably March, 1915.  A plate identification book I consulted says Iroquois started using the curved name ABOUT 1917.  Before that the name "Iroquois" was straight. bwplate7inch.jpg (8687 bytes) iroquoisk3.jpg (3411 bytes)
90b-3.  Here are three photos of a 12" relish server in the Green Ring style.  This was made by a different manufacturer and the picture of Barbara is a little different. bwplatedivided1.jpg (11390 bytes) bwplatedivided2.jpg (9132 bytes) bwplatedivided3.jpg (16265 bytes)
90b-4.  Pictured at right is a 10-1/2"  Salesman's sample restaurant plate made by Syracuse/O.P.Co.   The "34" inside a diamond on the back indicates the plate was produced in 1914, the year the Barbara Worth Hotel in El Centro was constructed. opplate1.jpg (32970 bytes) opplate3.jpg (57928 bytes) opplate8.jpg (52280 bytes)

At the very least, this plate demonstrates that the Green Ring Barbara Worth China pattern existed in 1914.  At first glance it might seem the later pattern is also on this plate, but a closer examination shows the color Barbara Worth design has nothing in common with the later pattern, except that it is of Barbara Worth and is in color.  It appears that several hotels and restaurants submitted art work to the plate company and asked them for a sample of what the product would look like.  For the Barbara Worth Hotel, the Hotel Multnomah, and Mills, the plate manufacturer offered more than one style of artwork.  Perhaps the Hotel Barbara Worth owners chose the one-color pattern in 1914--and ordered it from another company, Iroquois!  But in 1928 the owners chose a modification of the color version, and ordered it from Syracuse/O. P. Co. And maybe not.


Other Hotel Collectibles


90c.  Souvenir Bowl -- This bowl is probably not related to the Barbara Worth Hotel, but was evidently sold in souvenir shops in the Imperial Valley, and could have been sold in the hotel gift shop.  Jane Sharpe, who sent the photo at right, says, "My grandmother (born in 1903) lived in Imperial Valley when she was a child. I guess she could have purchased the bowl, or my great grandmother did and gave it to my grandmother. My grandmother would have been 8 when the book was published." On reverse says, "Jonroth, 'Barbara Ware,' Painted in Germany for Valley School Supply Co., El Centro, Calif." "Mr. Wright's Studio in the Desert where The Winning of Barbara Worth was Written." bowl.jpg (35532 bytes)
90d. Hotel Spoon (This one is 4-1/2 inches long.)   bwspoon03.jpg (16867 bytes)
90e. Hotel Spoon bwspoon1.jpg (82061 bytes) bwspoon2.jpg (70761 bytes)
90f. Silver Soldered Pitcher.  Donated by Quentin Burke, Robert Lewis, Dave Hadsell and Gerry Chudleigh to the Pioneer Museum in El Centro California, 2001. bwpitcher01.jpg (57750 bytes) bwpitcher02.jpg (61317 bytes)

bwpitchermark.jpg (57403 bytes)

91a.    Booklet--This 20-page booklet includes photos of all the murals on the hotel walls with lengthy descriptions and background information.  The booklet pictured here is an early edition, probably about 1923-25.  The booklet was sold in an envelope so it could be mailed to friends back home. Click Here to see all 20 pages and all murals. hotelbookenv.jpg (39601 bytes)
hotelbookfrnt.jpg (65356 bytes) hotelbookbk.jpg (62463 bytes)
92a.    Matchbook
92b. Matchbook
92c. Matchbook: An Allied Hotel, completely Air Conditioned.
92d. Matchbook bwmatch1.jpg (27750 bytes)
92e. Matchbook

93.    Brochure

Measures 14" x 9 1/4" when open.  Not dated.  The "European Plan," meant the prices included the room only.  Meals were purchased separately.  Some hotels at the time offered the "American Plan," in which the room rates included meals.

bwbro1.jpg (21550 bytes) bwbro2.jpg (24580 bytes) bwbro3.jpg (28618 bytes)
94.    Menus  -- This menu from the Barbara Worth Hotel is in the collection of the Smiley Library in Redlands, California.  Apparently the hotel had extra covers printed for their murals booklets and used these cover as menu covers.  The actual menu (the list of food and prices) was printed on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper, folded in the middle, and laced into the menu cover. Shown here is (from left) front, back and lunch menu.


94b. Beverage List, Hotel Barbara Worth, El Centro, California. 5" wide by 9-1/2" high. bwbevlist.jpg (48042 bytes)
95.    Envelopes and Stationary   

Thanks to Bob Lewis for sharing the fours letterheads and envelope below.

hbwenvelope.jpg (11663 bytes)
bwstationary1.jpg (16662 bytes) bwstationary2.jpg (15028 bytes) bwstationary3.jpg (12848 bytes) bwstationary4.jpg (11893 bytes) bw-envelope.jpg (16574 bytes)
95b.  Stationary  One more variety       bwstationary5.jpg (14326 bytes)
95c. Blotter bwblotter.jpg (28305 bytes)
96.  Barbara Worth Hotel paper drinking cups were recently found in El Centro and are displayed in the museum there.   


97.  Barbara Worth Hotel Key -- in Pioneers Museum in El Centro, California. bwkey.jpg (6659 bytes)
97b.  Barbara Worth Hotel Key  (Front and Back)  This appears to be an earlier key style than the key above with the leather tag. eb bwkey2.jpg (11059 bytes) bwkey1.jpg (11052 bytes)
97c. Barbara Worth Hotel Key  Early key style with composite tag. eb
98. Barbara Worth Hotel Shoeshine cloth (bag) eb bwshoeshine.jpg (23737 bytes)
99. Barbara Worth Hotel First Day of Issue Cover  (USPS--"An envelope with a newly issued postage stamp and a cancellation showing the date the postage stamp was first sold."  These were, and are, issued only from the post office or offices at the location commemorated on the cover--in this case, El Centro, CA.) bw1stdaycover.jpg (38779 bytes)
99.1 Barbara Worth Hotel Luggage Label. "De La Palma de La Mano de Dios -- Barbara Worth Hotel in the Famous Imperial Valley, El Centro, California. 4" by 4"
99.2 Barbara Worth Hotel Business Card eb bwhotelbusinesscardb.jpg (12172 bytes)
99.3 Hotel Barbara Worth Soap eb

Your Questions and Suggestions are Welcome. Click here for Email Address.

This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright 2000-February, 2014 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 02/10/14