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
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
Hotel China --
There are at least two styles of Barbara Worth
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"
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
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
The 8-1/4" x 5-3/4" platter to the right was made in
1932. Courtesy Susan Downs
"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.
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.
Ring China This 10.5-inch dinner plate was made by
Iroquois China and has a date code, J1, probably January, 1914.
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.
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.
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.
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
is probably not
published." On reverse says, "Jonroth, 'Barbara Ware,'
Painted in Germany for Valley School Supply Co., El Centro, Calif."
90d. Hotel Spoon (This one is 4-1/2
90e. Hotel Spoon
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.
92c. Matchbook: An Allied Hotel,
completely Air Conditioned.
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.
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.
95.Envelopes and Stationary
Thanks to Bob Lewis for sharing the fours letterheads and
95b. Stationary One more variety
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.
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
Worth Hotel Key Early key style with composite tag. eb
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.)
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"